Many people make studying abroad look like this glamorous life of traveling to cool places, eating delicious food, and partying until the sunrises, but there’s a lot more that isn’t shown on instagram. Traveling is not always seamless, sometimes you’re just going to want Chick-fil-a, and the videos aren’t always as fun as they seem. You actually have to do school and your normal responsibilities. All of this can start to feel overwhelming and get hard to manage if you do not plan and take care of yourself.
Travel is a big part of studying abroad, it is my favorite part, but also the most stressful. It takes a lot of planning, coordinating, time, money, and energy. When planning my weekend trips my friends and I like to get together, so we can find the cheapest trains, flights, and hotels easier. I like to use google flights to find the best fares. I research the best places to go, what food they are known for, and what to do, so I can make an itinerary. I also like to research where I am going before I get there so I have knowledge of their culture, norms, and social standards. Then I like to make an itinerary for the trip. I make it short and flexible because you never know what could happen and it allows for time to explore and enjoy the new place you’re in. Some museums and places require tickets and can sell out weeks in advance so it is important to book tickets in advance.
Traveling while abroad is not the same as going on vacation because you are traveling so often and usually for short periods of time. After a long weekend of travel you are going to be exhausted. Making sure you get enough sleep and nutrients can get difficult. So, I try to get a lot of sleep and eat healthy during the weeks so when I am away I don’t have to worry as much. When you get home from a trip you probably will have class the next day. Time management and planning are important skills to have because you are not going to want to be doing homework while on a trip. I try to not plan trips back to back so I can have a weekend to kind of recover and just enjoy Florence.
Along with traveling you still have your everyday responsibilities like school, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, ect. All of this can start to feel overwhelming after you get home from a trip and just want to relax. Some things I have found help me destress and get everything done are planning out my days, exercising, and making a routine.
Planning has helped me get all my responsibilities done with less stress. I like to plan out my days and weeks, so I know what needs to be done that day and then things I can get a head start on. You can use a paper planner or one on your computer or phone. I have been using the reminder app on my phone and it has helped me so much because you can set reminders for what you need to do in the morning, afternoon, and evening and also schedule things for later in the week. Making a list helps you know what you need to get done so you don’t get sidetracked. Also breaking it up into morning, afternoon, and evening makes the list smaller and less overwhelming.
Exercise can also help you destress and is a big one for me. Going for a walk or run allows me to clear my mind and reset. It is also a great way to explore and enjoy Florence. It has been proven that exercise releases endorphins, so whenever you’re feeling homesick or overwhelmed just go for a walk or do a quick workout.
Making a routine is another thing I have done to keep me on track and less stressed. I wake up and make breakfast. While eating I will plan out what I have to do for the day. Then, I’ll go to class or get some work done and after I will get some exercise in. Afterwards, I will do whatever is left on my to do list. Having a routine helps me get everything done and always allows me to get exercise.
Homesickness is normal after moving to a new country. You are immersing yourself in a new country with a different culture and maybe even a different language. You should acknowledge it, but not dwell on it. You can’t let it restrict you from enjoying this once in a lifetime experience. Some things that have helped me make Florence feel more like home are getting to know the city, meeting new people, and a routine. I like to explore the city by going on walks and runs to get more comfortable with the area. When you don’t have to use google maps to find everything you feel more at home. Whether you go abroad with friends or not, meeting new people in the city you’re studying is such a cool experience. Making friends in a new place can make you feel like you belong there. Another thing I have done is made a local coffee shop my regular coffee shop. Now the people know me there and it is such a welcoming and comforting place for me now.
Studying abroad is an amazing experience and allows you to see the world and learn about other cultures. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. It isn’t always perfect, but it teaches you many life lessons and skills you can use for the rest of your life. If I can manage life abroad, I’m sure you can too.
Written by: Caroline, Spring 2023 Florence student from Miami University!