Studying abroad, a story of how a man became a boy….Just kidding, it’s not that deep, these are the 12 things that I learned while studying abroad.
1. Experiencing a variety of cultures makes me ask more questions about the world. Did you know that the United States is not the center of the universe? If you would have asked me this question three months ago my head would’ve exploded in disbelief.
2. I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have been in one too many situations that have had an awkward rating of 9000/10. However, I now realize that the world is filled with awkward moments, especially when you are in a country that doesn’t speak your language.
3. Volunteering is a great way to get a truly unique perspective of the culture that you are immersing yourself in. I taught english at a middle school in town and the experience was groundbreaking. The kids in my class were amazing, they would jump and shout at the sound of my name! I would jump and shout at seeing them too! It was just a lot of jumping and shouting!
4. Every second in another country is a blessing. I would not be here if it wasn’t for my family or friends. My experience in Florence has made me realize how much I value the loyalty of those that are closest to me.
5. Making new friends is easier than you think. I learned that if you just let go, smile, and laugh at all things you find funny, then people are naturally attracted to your energy. At home I am a lot more conservative when it comes to how I act in public, I am super concerned with being professional. Although I still care about being professional, it’s much more fun to be light hearted and caring.
6. I learned to not expect to have hot water all the time, or even just water in general. Here in Florence the buildings are older, so expect to have some troubles with your basic living necessities. However, don’t be deterred, it’s all part of the experience. Besides, would you rather not have a hot shower in Italy or not have a hot shower in the US. Big difference.
7. Not having a phone for 3 months is not the end of the world. Yes my phone broke, could I take pictures? No. Could I use instagram? No. Could I use facebook, technically yes (because I have a laptop, but I logged on less often). However did this mean the end of all intelligent life as I know it? No. At first when I lost my phone I was freaking out like any other college student. However, when I knew I couldn’t get a new one I came to terms with my reality. I was either going to let the loss ruin my experience or I was going to figure out how to deal with it. I chose the latter. Since then I have been realizing that I care more about the environment that I am in. I am more present in my interactions, and I savor the moment. Overall, not having a phone was probably one of the best things that could’ve happened to me during this trip.
8. I learned to buy high fashion walking sneakers. I had no idea I was going to walk so much, If did I would have bought some sneakers. Also, do not wear running shoes unless you are working out, you will stick out like a sore thumb in Florence and most of Europe. Buy some old school New Balances and dress in darker layers, overall this will help you blend.
9. I learned to stay awake. It is easy to sleep a lot during your time abroad, you’re traveling a lot, going out, meeting new people, doing homework etc. However, try to limit your hours of sleeping, unless you need the hours for school. The reason I say this is the following: for most us we may only get to travel as a college student once, so make every moment count.
10. It’s okay to choose the people you hang out with. I love my roommates, but after traveling with them for a week I needed a break to meet new people. This may seem rude to some, but as human beings we have the right to choose the people that we surround ourselves with. Staying true to these values has made this experience more memorable.
11. I learned to stay young. As a senior graduating next semester adulthood is creeping up on me. However, this semester has taught me that even as I become an adult, the most important thing is that I stay young at heart. If I do this, I will be staying truest to my authentic self.
12. Finally I learned that studying abroad in Florence is the best choice that I have ever made in my life. Pick a place and go, do the work to get there, but most of all live.
Alvaro is a current student at Colorado State University studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Fall 2015 term.