Throughout my entire life, everything I had done and every decision I had made, I always asked myself what other people would think. It wouldn’t matter what I wanted or what I thought I needed; the fear of disappointing others had controlled and consumed me for as long as I can remember. If I’m being completely honest, I had always dreamt about going to college, but in the back of my mind, I never thought I would survive long enough to go. For a long time now, I have been struggling with both anxiety and depression, and I only sought out help less than 2-years ago. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but if I had given up, I wouldn’t have been able to study abroad, and that alone has made it well worth it.
I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but I didn’t know if it could even be an option. As a biochemistry major, you don’t hear about many of your classmates going abroad because of the challenging course load, so I didn’t know if it was even allowed. I also didn’t think that I could possibly afford it since paying for college, my apartment, and the daily necessities was hard enough. On top of all of this, I didn’t know if I would be capable of making it through the entire semester abroad since I had been struggling with my mental health. But, with the help of so many people, I was thankfully able to make it work. I ignored all the people who doubted me going, and I listened to my counselors who explained to me that it was 100% possible to study abroad, my mom, who supported me throughout the entire process, and my therapist who made me realize that I needed to do this for myself.
Before coming abroad, I thought I’d be ready to go home after a week, but that turned out very wrong. I have found myself truly falling in love with Florence and all of the new people I have been able to meet. Being on my own for so long, I’ve learned an extraordinary amount such as about new cultures, different lifestyles, and most importantly about myself. I’ve even learned that eating alone at a restaurant is completely normal, and going up to strangers to ask for directions isn’t as scary as I used to make it out to be. This opportunity has taught me how to walk with my head held high, how to spend time with myself, how to be assertive, and it has given me the confidence and courage to be myself. Even though I’m broke, miss my family sometimes, and know how stressed I’ll be when I have to go back to work, I would choose this experience over all of that any and every time.
I’m not saying that studying abroad is always glamorous and that everything you see on social media is true. Studying abroad can be very challenging at times, but you can’t get the amazing things that studying abroad has to offer without being willing to be challenged. In my opinion, if you have the chance to study abroad or even just travel, you should take it. Sometimes taking that risk and leaving the bubble that you are so comfortable in can change your life and the way you see the world. There are so many opportunities and programs that if you were to just look or ask questions, you would find something amazing for yourself. I was lucky enough to pick a program with SAI and I want to thank them. I couldn’t imagine doing this experience without them, they are all truly amazing people who care about what they do.
Written by: Halie, Fall 2023 Florence student from Washington State University