Jacket With European Patches

Is Study Abroad Really Worth It?

Studying abroad tends to be one of the most talked-about and often sought after experiences for college students. Some people have known since freshman year of high school that they want to go abroad, while others may have been forced into it last minute by their school’s major requirements (aka me). Either way, the decision to study abroad is an amazing one, filled with one of a kind memories, but it is also one that requires a hefty amount of money, time and comfort zone breaking. So, if you’re anything like I was, you may be asking yourself, will this really be worth it? 

Well, there’s no need to drag the question out, the answer I can give only from my personal journey is that, yes, it will be. Of course, just like any other major experiences, there will be good times, hard times, unforgettable times and uncomfortable times. There are pros and cons to living abroad, no matter where you are or who you’re with, but what matters is what you can gain from looking back at the journey as a whole. So, when I look back on my own time spent in Florence, Italy, I can break up those experiences into the best times, and the not so best times. 

Best Time: The Traveling 

A major and rather obvious plus of studying abroad is traveling around to other countries. This is especially easy if you’re studying in a European country, as I was actually shocked at how convenient and cheap it was to travel all throughout Europe. In a four-month time span I was successfully able to visit six other countries and 18 cities. There was usually plenty of time for independent travel on the weekends, with easy access to transportation like planes and trains that take you almost anywhere you need to go. Getting to see and be a part of some of the most beautiful places which I thought I would only ever know through movies and photos was undeniably the highlight of my trip. 

 

Not So Best Time:  Adjusting to a New Way of Life

I don’t want anyone to think this was a solely negative part of my experience, however, I don’t think I was fully prepared for how hard the transition could be. At first, I couldn’t help but see this new and exciting city solely through rose-colored glasses. Though once the head fog had lifted, I began to see the difficulties I couldn’t before. One difficulty being the sidewalks in Florence are small, so small two people can hardly walk on them at the same time. For a fast walker like me, this meant constantly dodging people, traffic and endless mopeds. Don’t even get me started about when it would rain and the sidewalks would turn into bumper umbrellas. Really, it was all the little things that began to add up, such as the completely different pharmacy structures, the lack of credit card acceptance, the fact that restaurants nearly never split the check, and the lack of open store hours. Looking back I can see each of these differences was powerful learning experiences for me, but a few months in a foreign country couldn't break 20 years of American habits quite like I thought it could. 

 

Best Time: Meeting New People

I went into this trip only knowing one out of three of my roommates and came out making new friendships with all three. Getting to travel to foreign places, try delicious new restaurants and experience breathtaking views with this group of people allowed me to share and create lasting bonds. For someone who isn’t always the most outgoing, one of my biggest worries when deciding to study abroad was if I would meet new people, or make new friendships or who I would go on trips with? Though as it would turn out, one of my biggest worries entering this journey ended up being one of the best parts of the whole experience. 

 

Not So Best Time: Living On an Italian Schedule 

Something I discovered very early on is that Italian's never seem to be in any kind of rush. During my first couple of weeks in Italy, there was no air conditioning in our apartment, and we hadn’t received any fans from our landlord yet. I had never been so hot in my entire life, and each time a day was scheduled for our fans to be delivered no one showed for two weeks. In America, we’re used to getting what we want when we want it, but an Italian schedule is far more laid back. Some people love this slower and more relaxed way of life, but it was just one of those things I could never fully adjust to.  

 

Best Time: The Independence 

At first, the amount of independence studying abroad allows can seem a bit intimidating as well as overwhelming. Though once I got used to the freedom of exploring a whole new city, traveling to other countries on weekends and making real decisions without the involvement of parents, I was hooked. Being forced to face language barriers and break my very tightly packed comfort zone every day, allowed me to feel like I could face anything that was thrown my way, both then and now. 

 

Not So Best Time: Homesickness

Overall, I’ve never really been one to get homesick, and for the most part, I never felt overly homesick while studying abroad either. Though, there were times, especially toward the end of my trip where I would miss the little things, like hearing the ugly accents of my hometown or jumping in my car and driving somewhere, instead of walking 25 minutes across the city. Even with these occasional cravings for little pieces of home, I would have to remind myself that I have the rest of my life to live at home, but possibly only one shot at living in my 20s in a foreign country with friends. 

 

So, to recap the choice to study abroad is a weighted one filled with high expectations and reasonable concerns. The experience won’t always be filled with rainbows and fairy dust, but the times that are, make the decision so worth it.