Being a “quarter” student for SAI, my student abroad time ends mid-April, instead of mid-May, like many other students doing the full term. I remember looking back at my Delta Airlines app on my phone, out of curiosity, to see how many days it said until I could check in for my return flight…it said 80 some days. Now, it says 15, and I know those are going to absolutely fly by. I remember how nervous I was to get to Florence, and trying to understand how to get around, communicate with a language barrier (which was actually much smaller than I anticipated), and figuring out what trips to book. Now I am in the stage of cherishing every moment and being sure to always notice the beautiful city I am surrounded by. Though I am anxious to see my friends, family, horse (yeah no shame being the weird horse girl from 5th grade), eat some Chipotle, GRADUATE COLLEGE, and have unlimited water refills (for free) at restaurants, I will miss everything about this experience so much. Here are a few thoughts I have put together from my time in Florence and Italy, which really have stood out to me as I look back on my study abroad experience.
First, and most obviously: don’t blink. The days of anxiety, stress, doubt, and fear, are so little compared to the incredible memories created, friendships that will last a lifetime, and gelato and pizza to be eaten. Sometimes I was caught up in the moment, but looking back, I laugh at myself for letting something so silly take away from the all the greatness and realizing where I am, and what I am doing. It is so hard to fathom that this will no longer be my home in such a short amount of time, and I will never taste better olive oil again, until I return.
Secondly, I’m so happy I tried to take the most advantage of anything free. From free museum days, SAI classes, walking tours, trips, food, and things to do around you: do it. Being a college kid, we love free, but seriously you have nothing to lose by doing it here too. I will always remember the amazing ravioli made in the cooking class I did, and cherish the handmade book I made…even though I was 99% ready to chuck that thing out the window at one point because of how frustrating it can be to make them (I appreciate you, bookmakers of Italy). Seeing the David in real life, pretty dang cool, even cooler because it was free.
Next, I learned to take trips, but don’t exhaust yourself trying to see everything. I knew people gone every weekend, and were burnt out just a few months in, or literally got sick from always being on the go. Honestly, I am no where close to hitting up all the places I “want” to see, but I loved being so engulfed in Florence and really being “here.” Maybe pick out a few must-see weekend travel places, but remember you’re in Florence, and that’s pretty cool itself. Also I tried my best to keep in mind to not compare my experience to other peoples. Just because their Instagram shows them in 1000 cool places, doing trendy poses, and you think yours needs to look like that too. It doesn’t. Do the traveling for you!
Fourth, being abroad still requires taking class seriously. Honestly, when I told people I was taking Wine Appreciation and Wine Marketing & Communications, 9/10 they laughed. Let me tell you, Wine Appreciation was one of the hardest classes I’ve taken in my 10 (!!!) semesters of college. And there is so much more that goes into a glass of wine then you could begin to imagine: not just fermented grapes.
Lastly, I have learned to take way too many pictures. I definitely am not one to be like “omg let’s take a picture,” but I have tried my best to capture as many moments as possible, because I have realized that photos are one of the most important things to cherish when I leave Italy. I’ll take the hate for taking pictures of my food, but if it was dang good and I paid for it, I want to remember it. Already, I have looked back at pictures and realized I forgot about certain things, or they brought back memories I would have never remembered without seeing them. With everyone constantly asking what I am doing on the other side of the pond, or where I am traveling, it’s a lot easier to show them instead of just trying to explain.
Everyone told me these 3 months would be here and gone in an instant, but I just took it as the generic comment, and never to heart. No one was kidding; in all reality I don’t even know how my entire college career has already passed me by! Every morning, looking at the calendar seems surreal, and I already have had to start thinking about how I’ll be packing my Italian life back to Kansas! My heart has a special place for Italy now, and I know I will be such an advocate for taking the leap and studying abroad to any student who is considering it, even if they had the same nervousness that I did.
Kara is a spring 2017 SAI Florence student from Kansas State University.