As a freshman in college, I was fortunate enough to spend J-term studying abroad in Venice. I took an Italian language course to fulfill my language requirement for graduation. Obviously, I expected to have an amazing time. What I didn’t expect was how much my study abroad experience would change me as a person. I learned so many life lessons that I know will stick with me as I continue to grow as a person, and these are lessons that everyone could benefit from in their lives.
- Choose the Experience
The first item on my list of lessons is to choose the experience over anything else. It’s understandable that students need to travel on a budget, but if you have the means, go!
Go to that museum, take the train to another city and eat that cultural meal. Souvenirs and shopping are nice, but it’s the memories that you’ll remember from the actions you took, not the items you bought. Sure, items can have sentimental value, but your memories will be worth more than any item ever will be.
- Talk to Strangers
I know we’re taught not to talk to strangers, and for good reason. It’s important to keep yourself safe. But as a society as a whole, we are so confined to our cell phones and technology that we forget what it’s like to have an in-person connection with someone.
When I studied abroad in Venice, I met people from all over the world: I met people from Italy, Spain, Argentina and Israel, to name a few. I may not talk to them now (although I do still have them on social media), but I enjoyed their company and conversation at the time. Nothing can replace the value of a genuine human connection.
- Be Adaptable
It’s hard trying to navigate a foreign country with no cellular data (which means no GPS), a different currency and in most cases a limited understanding of the language if you decide to study in a non-English speaking country. That’s why it’s so important to be adaptable.
The airport might lose your luggage, you might get lost in a new city or you could miss your train. When your plan doesn’t go the way you thought it would, you have to be able to adapt and change your plans. Life throws us things that we don’t see coming. We must be flexible and adaptable in order to handle these curveballs.
- Make the Most of Everything
I could’ve chosen to sleep in or stay glued to my phone. But I decided to make the most of I time abroad. We took weekend trips to other cities in Italy. I was up every morning at 7:30 to start my day, and I don’t regret it even a little bit.
My friends and I spent our down time exploring Venice (and doing our homework of course!) Use your time wisely; make the most of the time you have, especially with the people you love and cherish.
We only have so much time on this earth so stop spending hours upon hours scrolling through your social media feeds.
- Try Something New
If you’re studying abroad, you probably already have this one down. You’re away from home, you’re experiencing a new culture and you’re seeing the world.
Continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Order a dish that you wouldn’t normally order, don’t eat at the same restaurant every night and travel on the weekends to other cities. Switch it up a little bit.
You may be pleasantly surprised when you decide to try something new, and if it doesn’t go as planned, at least you have something to learn from.
When I enrolled in my study abroad program, I didn’t know a single other student. I had only gone through one semester of college and had just gone through a bad break up. But those three weeks in Italy changed me, and I will forever be grateful for my experience abroad. My only regret is not studying abroad for an entire semester.