The Four Great Lessons I Brought Back to America

This past Spring, I studied in Florence, Italy followed by a month-long trip through Europe with one of my best friends. And while I feel so very lucky to have had the opportunity to see the world and open my eyes to other cultures and languages, it was not always easy. I learned so many lessons about life and about myself in a short time and those are the things I want to share.

 

  1. Pause. My roommate and I spent most weekends traveling throughout Italy and our style was more “go with the flow” than either of us had ever been with anything else in our life. We would look up how to get somewhere and often take the first option which led to an interesting bus ride in Naples and a walk on a cliff-side highway. Most of our choices were made on the spot and when looked back on, maybe not the best options. So to this I say, pause. Take a minute and think before you make travel plans, before you say something you’ll regret or before you let yourself become overwhelmed by stress and schoolwork. Pause and let yourself breath.
  2. Let it go.  While abroad, both of my grandmothers, who were my only babysitters growing up and huge influences in shaping the woman I am, were both placed in nursing homes. I say this not for an “aw” effect but because of the lesson that came from it. I am known to love control more than the average person, and I crave the ability to fix all the problems in my personal life. I spent a lot of time stressing over the fact that I could not go home to be with two of the women who were so influential in my life. I hated that I couldn’t go home the weekend after my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer or after my other grandmother had hip surgery. And it was in those moments where I finally learned how to let go. Now don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with letting go over little things, but I have found a new sense of openness to what life throws my way. I have found that I will never have complete control of my life and that I must learn to roll with it.
  3. Disconnect every once in awhile. For 5 months, I lived on wifi. For 4 months, my phone had a Italian sim card meaning my data was off and for the last month I lived with my phone on airplane mode. Now Wifi is pretty accessible in Europe but it doesn’t mean it’s always good nor does it mean it was always where I needed it.  Many times I went hours without using my phone except for its camera purposes, and it felt great. Yes, there were times where I missed being connected, but after being back for a few months I miss the days where I couldn’t use my phone for hours on end.
  4. Perfect is not real and real is what matters. At the end of the day, I had a great semester and amazing memories but not every day was perfect. Things happened that were not magical and I had days where I missed home more than I ever have before. I made great friends but I also missed the people from my school who had made college what I knew it to be. Some days I didn’t want to leave my apartment and my anxiety made choices for me that it never had before.  Even the rough days taught me something, and for that I am grateful. I don’t think studying abroad should be perfect because nothing ever is. If it had been a magical, perfect thing it wouldn’t have felt real or fulfilling.