Weeks of planning and anticipation, the packing, the nerves, the hopes, and fears, it was all apart of the process. It was the summer after my Junior year in college that my roommate and I decided to study abroad in Florence, Italy.
Leaving Home is Scary
Saying goodbye to my parents at LAX was hard. I would be gone for four weeks. The plane rides were long and exhausting. Arriving in Italy, I expected to feel different. I almost forced the excitement of being in a new country because that’s how I was supposed to feel, right? I thought there was something wrong with me because the only thing I felt was homesick.
My roommate had an anxiety attack on the plane and cried the entire way to our apartment. Once we arrived, the taxi driver gave us our bags and left us on a street in Florence, Italy. We didn’t know where we were, we didn’t have cell phones that worked, and we didn’t speak Italian. I had never felt so far away from home or so lost in my entire life.
I constantly wondered why I couldn’t be like the other students on the trip, who were enjoying every moment, and never wanted to leave. You keep asking yourself if traveling isn't for you because you're clearly not adjusting like everyone else. It makes you question yourself in a way you've never had to before.
You Really Do Find Yourself
One day, when we were walking into our apartment, my roommate said, “I don’t understand how people travel to find themselves because I’m so lost here.”
Her words were so relatable. I found myself trying to make the most of my time there, but also counting down the days until I would be back in California. It wasn’t until the plane landed at LAX, and I was back home, that I fully began to appreciate the memories I made: the times where I wasn’t trying so hard, but just living.
Traveling is Hard
Some people claimed it was because there wasn't anything back home that I was trying to escape from; others just got confused. Traveling is very hard, and it will test you in ways you never thought possible. However, it will also give you a new found confidence you never knew existed.
No matter how much you plan, things are going to go wrong. Hotel rooms will overbook, you will get on the wrong train, a gypsy will try to coerce you into giving them money, and you might get pickpocketed if you look too much like a tourist.
The fear you get instilled with before getting on the plane is intense. How on earth are you supposed to enjoy your travels if there are so many things to be scared of? However, that seems to be the point. It's all apart of what you're supposed to learn, and what you find you can overcome.
Studying Abroad is Expensive
If you study abroad with your school, they will most likely provide scholarships that you can apply for, to help ease the cost. They will give you an outlined plan of the expenses, and what to expect in regards to normal tuition fees, airfare, food, and spending money.
I'm here to tell you that your school is most likely wrong. In all likelihood, your school has majorly underestimated the cost of your trip. They never seem to include necessities like toilet paper, or voltage converters, or bar tabs, which can add up quickly. The cost of souvenirs for your family get brushed over along with weekend trips you plan without your school.
Remembering how much money you are spending to travel the world can really add pressure to your trip. You will feel the need to see everything there is to see in order to feel like your travel investment was worth it. You'll constantly be wondering if you're doing enough.
Studying Abroad is Worth it!
I still think back to that night on the steps of the Santa Croce church eating pizza and laughing. I remember the moment I saw the Colosseum for the first time and the genuine awestruck feeling that came over me. I remember our gondola ride in Venice, and our boat ride to the Blue Grotto. I still laugh at how we almost fell in the water during the tour of Capri.
I can still hear the Italian music that the street performers used to play as I walked to my apartment after class. I remember feeling like a local when I would carry my books to that old Italian classroom, or when I would order gelato and practice my Italian. Everyone that we met was so much nicer than we thought they would be. I remember the hikes, and sunsets, and beautiful views. I remember the wine that we drank our last night together as a group, as we overlooked the Arno and all of Florence.
Yes, traveling abroad is hard, and expensive, and scary, but it’s so worth it. I realized how independent I could be, and how much I figured out by myself. I gained more confidence in my ability to travel and learned that things are going to go wrong, and that’s okay. You gain confidence in your ability to problem solve. When I was in Italy, someone told me that traveling makes you appreciate home. That is definitely true, but I also feel like that Italian apartment, the one I called home for four weeks that summer, will always have a special place in my heart.