Looking Back on Study Abroad - One Year Later
Josie, Fall 2022, Florence
September 11, 2023

It is hard to believe that it has already been a year since I packed my things and flew to Florence, Italy for a semester abroad. Going in, I had so much uncertainty about my ability to adjust to a different culture, converse in another language, and make connections with locals. However, I also had a deep excitement that carried me forward despite my nerves. Having never previously left the country, I shipped off for four months–and I figured everything out as I went!

As I reflect on my time abroad, the one thing that I am happiest about was my ability to live in the moment and take in new experiences. It is super easy to fall into a routine for years on end in life without stopping to appreciate the world around you. Think back to when you were a freshman in college. In those first few months, everything is exciting and worth paying attention to. You may have dressed up for the first day of class, gone to all of the campus-run events, and took time to explore all of the buildings on campus. As the semesters go on, you start taking these experiences for granted, and they become part of everyday life. Studying abroad is one way to bring novelty into your university experience while also connecting with a completely different culture or even multiple cultures!

My friend Tevka and I at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I am motivated by my sheer excitement for life that I held with me while studying abroad. I frequently tried new foods and said yes to new experiences because I viewed them as “one-in-a-lifetime experiences.” And they definitely were! But is also important to remember that all of life is full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and experiences because we only have one life! For things as big as trying to teach English in Italy after graduation to things as small as taking a picture on the first day of class, I try to stay excited by life and make sure to take in the moment. Life doesn’t last forever, and neither does study abroad, but it’s the collection of all of those beautiful, fleeting moments that make everything worth it.

One of my favorite memories from my time abroad was a nature tour of Iceland where I got to meet Fluga (translates to “fly”), a horse named after her unmatched energy to zip around!

If I could go back in time and speak to my past self who was anxiously preparing to study abroad, I would tell her to take everything day by day. We are so quick to put off things like having new adventures or spending time with our loved ones for the prospect of making our lives better in the future. However, the little moments we take for granted are some of the things we end up holding the most dear. Some of my favorite “little moments” like ordering gelato delivery with my roommates, walking past the Florentine Duomo on my way to class, and taking long train rides are things that I now remember fondly. It can be harder to find those moments at home, but it is just as important to stay curious about the world around you. I cannot wait to continue my explorations and hope to help others as they embark on their own journeys!

My first day in Florence as well as my first Italian cappuccino!

Written by: Josie Sobecks, Fall 2022 Florence Student from The University of South Carolina.

Josie wrote this blog for the USC Education Abroad Office’s Blog and gave permission to share them here.

You can find her post with the USC Education Abroad Office here

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