1. Remember your goals
Why did you choose to come to this country? What were you looking to discover? I find it helpful to continually remind myself of my original goals. Are there any goals that you have yet to complete? Each day, you are able to make the choice to work towards them.
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler
2. Be proud to be here
You and your family worked hard to make this opportunity possible. Remember to appreciate it every day, because not everyone is able to experience a semester abroad. Your experience here is what you make of it.
“He is able who thinks he is able.” — Buddha
3. Live Presently
You don’t know when your next opportunity to travel Europe will come. It could be a few months from now, or it could be years. It can be hard to grasp this concept when you are feeling homesick, but you will be home before you know it. Enjoy your time here while you can. It’s not everyday that you walk through cobblestone streets that are centuries old. The cheap, yet delectable, pasta dishes are not at every street corner in the States like they are here in Florence.
“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.” – Francis Bacon
4. Don’t forget your budget!
Though it is easy to make excuses to spend money on something that is truly authentic, it is also possible to have authentic experience on a budget. It can even be fun to see where you can go, and what you can do within a price range. Pay attention to the days that museums have free entrance and seek out the student discounts.
“Don’t use a lot where a little will do.” — Proverb
5. There is something to be discovered everywhere
Take an inventory of where you have been, both in and out of your host city and country. As you plan the rest of your weekend trips, keep in mind that you don’t have to go far to experience a different culture. Within Italy there are several regions that all have something different to learn and experience.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
6. Detach from your phone
Is it an authentic experience if your only goal in your travels is to get the Instagram photo? You can miss the big picture if you see everything through a 4-inch phone screen. You may meet someone new, or see something you would have missed, if you stop looking at your phone. I encourage you to go somewhere or do something alone or with friends, while leaving your phone behind or in a pocket.
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” – Simone Weil
7. Have compassion for everyone
I have learned that everyone has his or her own story. If you spark up a conversation with a stranger, you may be introduced to a very different perspective. Keep an open mind, for everyone is different and has something valuable to share.
“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.” – Jr. H. Jackson Brown
8. Jump over the hurdle and you will become stronger
Even when times feel tough, you will get through the struggle and will become a better rounded person because of it. Seek the learning experience in everything. Be a friend’s support and help them see the positive in a situation.
“Everything in life comes to you as a teacher. Pay attention. Learn quickly.” – A Cherokee Saying
9. Go with the flow
Although the culture may be different than yours, and things may not be done in the way you are used to, continue to have patience. Instead of getting frustrated with the differences, learn from them. The differences are what make each and every culture beautiful. You do not have enough time while studying abroad to be stressed.
“Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.” – Tony Robbins
Madeline is a current student at College of Charleston studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Fall 2015 term.