How Study Abroad Has Changed My Life In Just One Month

This fall quarter, I get the wonderful opportunity to study in Florence, Italy. Here, I am learning Italian (finishing my language requirement) and taking an awesome class about Italian food and wine. I have been here for a little over a month now, and I can honestly say that in the short time I have been here, this experience has changed my life immeasurably.

People have this image that abroad is this perfect, beautiful semester with barely any school and truly nothing to worry about. I’ll be honest, I was naïve in thinking my experience might hopefully be somewhat like this. But abroad is not easy - especially in the beginning. My first week here I was maybe the most stressed out I had ever been in my life. I was so homesick - not for my family as much (I go to school far from home so I’ve gotten used to it), but for the American lifestyle. Learning to live among a different culture is a beautiful feat, but assimilating is hard. We had to start using different products than we were used to at home; getting around, using our phones and paying at stores was different, and we had not even started class yet, so communicating was incredibly difficult. It all just took some adjusting, but when you are 4000 miles from home and in a place where you barely know anyone or anything, a positive mindset can be difficult to maintain in the moment. But after a couple of weeks, I started to make my home here. And honestly, I could not have done it without my friends.

Yes, I am abroad with two of my best friends, and we live together. I know some people prefer to go abroad alone and have a more immersive experience, but I cannot imagine not being here with them. Han, Cass and I helped each other through every rough patch we have faced, including homesickness, street harassment and stolen phones. Plus, I have also made a lot of friends. The three of us are in different classes, so I have gotten to meet so many people from the different UCs. Going through this has made not only this experience even better, but it has also strengthened our friendship, as well as allowed me to cultivate new ones.

Besides learning a new language, a new way of life and growing my friendships, abroad has also given me what I consider to be the best gift: the gift of adventure. In just five weeks, I have gotten to explore eight new cities. I have gotten to grocery shop at the world’s largest food market. I have taken a boat out and gone island hopping off the coast of Croatia. I have celebrated Oktoberfest, gone swimming off the Amalfi Coast, gone shopping in Milan, explored a famous vineyard and winery in the Chianti region of Tuscany and eaten gelato from the winner of the world’s best gelato shop. Abroad has taught me not only the importance of travel and adventuring beyond your comfort zone, but it has taught me how imperative this notion is in order to further find and grow yourself. I feel like I am more confident, more independent and most importantly, more brave than I was just a month ago.

This experience thus far has taught me how strong I can be in situations that cause me fear or discomfort. It has taught me to be smarter. It has taught me so much about other cultures and the happenings of the world. But most importantly, it has taught me how lucky I am. I wake up every day so insanely grateful for everything I get to see, do and learn. I have never been so happy! I am learning to love this earth more and more every day, and because of that, I do not think I have ever been so positively perceptive. I cannot believe I still have almost three months of my time here left. I cannot wait to see how else I am tested to grow.