8 Things I Learned Studying Abroad

Over the summer I spent six weeks in Italy learning about the language, culture and food, but I also learned about myself.

RED WINE IS GOOD

Before actually tasting real wine, I swore I only liked white wine and that was the end of that; nope, I was never going to change my mind. Then Chianti came into my life and made me rethink things. And you can’t pair everything with white wine, so red wine has its place too!

There’s a whole other world out there

I’ve been out of the country twice before, but only for shorter periods of time. These six weeks I learned that there are tons of other things out there. Whether it is people, buildings, animals or anything else. The architecture in Cincinnati is extremely different from the architecture in Italy. We visited this one neighborhood in Rome that looked like a fish out of water, and it was gorgeous. The buildings were carved and each one had different animal aesthetics. Just one small neighborhood in Rome made me realize the excitement of getting out of your comfort zone and exploring new things.

I can live in a different country and not spiral back into my parent’s house when I come back

If anything, this trip helped me learn that, while I love my parents and family and like visiting them, I can go a longer period of time without seeing them. I was blessed to be able to go to college about 45 minutes away from my hometown so I can see my family (AND DOG) more often than others might. This was a good and bad thing: bad because I was still dependent on them. After this study abroad, I knew that if I didn’t need to see them every weekend, I’d still be all right.

It’s okay to try food you have never heard of, probably can’t pronounce, or just don’t like.

95% of the time you may not like it, but the other 5% is life changing. I can think of at least five foods and drinks I swore I would hate that ended up being not too bad. Even if you have heard of them and never had the desire to try, there are some amazing foods out there just waiting for you. Calamari (especially in Venice), anchovies (though I can’t take credit for trying them, my Swedish friend I met did), red wine, eggplant (you need to cook it correctly though, but when you do it's magical) and lemons. I used to hate lemons, but there’s this thing called a lemon crepe that you NEED to try, because it will definitely change your mind about lemons.

Smoked Provola – it’s called provonello in the states – cheese is the best in the world.

Catch it at Jungle Jims off I-275 and your life will change. It’s much more fresh in Italy and probably better, but since I can’t afford to buy a plane ticket just to eat cheese

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—as much as I wish I could—Jungle Jims is a much more affordable option.

Learning a different language is attainable, but it takes practice

Before I actually immersed myself in the culture and dedicated the time during my study abroad, I didn’t think I could become partially fluent in a language. Granted, I’m not completely fluent, but I’m much more confident in my language skills. With some more practice, I could be fluent one day, and make my Italian ancestors proud.I can make new friends in a different country

One of the major things I was nervous about when I was accepted into my study abroad program was making friends. In the two study abroad trips I’ve gone to (one in the Yucatan and one in Italy) both had classes to attend in the semester before. In those classes everyone was kind of shy – myself included. How was I going to live with people I hardly knew for six weeks? The culture shock of being in a different country brought everyone out of their shells a bit and allowed us to get to know each other and become friends. My roommates and I became good friends by the second day we were there and remain close friends to this day! Not only did I make friends from Cincinnati, but we met people from all around the globe like Iceland and Sweden.

I learned that I’d be okay

One thing I’m glad I can take away from studying in Sienna, Florence, Naples, Rome, Cinque Terre and more, is that I will be okay. No matter which situations or problems come into my life, I will be able to handle it. Having this knowledge has helped me start off my semester in Cincinnati in a much better way before. If I can earn a 4.0 in another country where I hardly knew the language, then I can handle classes at home. Studying abroad gave me the confidence to get through college and graduate. It gave me hope that there are more travels in my future, and enabled me to trust myself.