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What I Learned After Living in Italy for Four Months

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northeastern chapter.

The beginning of my college experience was unlike most. I moved to another continent, a place I had never been with a language I did not know, into an apartment with four other people. Essentially, us “N.U.in” students got dropped off in a new place and suddenly had a lot more freedoms than in the United States. 

The N.U.in program at Northeastern offers incoming students an opportunity to spend their first semester abroad in locations such as Rome, Madrid and Dublin. Northeastern also offers a “Bound” program which is a year-long. Students spend their first year abroad before returning to Boston to begin their second year. As an N.U.in student, I spent my first semester abroad in Rome.

We were adults! With no rules, independence, and distance from any consequences that would typically result from our teenaged mistakes. It took us all about a week for our situations to finally sink in. Yes, we had all of these great new places to see, people to meet and freedom to do whatever we wanted. But we also had responsibilities. We were now fully responsible for ourselves and our actions.

I think a lot of people do not realize how much the beginning of college forces you to grow up. In my opinion, that process is exacerbated by moving to a brand new country to start college. My four months in Italy in my first semester of college taught me more about myself and others than all four years of high school did. I quickly realized the importance of taking care of myself and my friends—especially in the environment that we experienced in Rome.

It can be very easy to get sucked into the fun of partying and drinking legally in Europe. My friends and I had to figure out pretty quickly how to keep each other safe in clubs. Unfortunately, getting roofied, especially from bartenders, was a huge issue. There were many occasions where a classmate would say they just wanted one drink and to dance, and they would end up passed out on a couch in the club from being slipped a drug. It was terrifying. After I saw it first hand, I became serious about drinking. I never took my hand off the top of my cup, stared at the bartender’s hands the entire time they mixed my drink, and kept my head on a swivel. I was so lucky to have close friends that were also looking out for me.

Some of the biggest lessons I took away from my time there were from the clubs and bars. Having fun and experiencing European nightlife is part of living there, but being safe is the top priority. Always make sure your people are accounted for once you leave. Always tell your friends if you are leaving with a different group; I gave my friends a few headaches from leaving randomly. Safety and controlling your drinking is what I learned is most important. Throwing up outside of clubs or memory loss from a night you wish you could remember are not things I would recommend.

The social scene and large number of other schools also studying abroad in Italy helped me to break out of my shell. It’s easy to stay in a bubble with the people from the program, but I found branching out to other schools to be so important. The connections I made with Tulane, USC, Delaware and JCU students gave me wonderful friendships all across the globe. I met some of my favorite people outside of a club because I simply decided to start a conversation. 

The N.U.in experience is unlike any other beginning to college. The places I saw, people I met and perspective I gained have helped me to grow as an individual. The transition back to campus was much more simple than it may seem, but the hardest part was leaving behind all the people I got accustomed to seeing everyday. 

Most importantly, I learned to embrace the unknown. Keeping an open mind about a country that I knew little about helped me to eventually feel right at home, both in a geographical and social sense. Trying new things or doing something sporadically was nerve wracking at first, but I had some of the best experiences when I didn’t think and instead just jumped right in; I realized how valuable that is. All around, I learned about so many of the amazing things in life. The N.U.in program gave me more than I could ever ask for. The unforgettable things I experienced and learned erased all of the nerves I had before leaving. So jump right into the uncertain; it will most likely be a positive experience or a really good learning moment.

Rachel Mahoney

Northeastern '26

Aspiring journalist that loves to write. Especially interested in forms of investigative journalism, current events, women's rights, LGBT+ rights, and open to writing other stories. I love to write stories and share them.