Studying abroad in Siena has been an amazing experience so far. Everyone is now preparing to go home and they all have mixed emotions. Some cannot wait to be home again, some want to go home, but only for a week then come back, and some do not want to leave yet at all. I, however, am staying the whole year in Siena, so I will be back after spending the break in Serbia, and I am very happy with that choice. I feel like I am just now making real connections with the Italians; I am making new Italian friends and am feeling more comfortable with the language. I want to feel integrated into the community and speak the language with confidence; I know one semester would have just been too short for what I want to accomplish here.
Here are 10 things (in no particular order) that I have learned thus far in this study abroad experience. As this is my second exchange, these points are specific to my experience here in Italy. When studying abroad, there is so much to learn. You learn about yourself, how others live compared to you, how to better communicate, how to accept and view differences, etc. There are so many things, but since I have already experienced so many of those, it is hard for me to focus on the initial things I learned when I went abroad.
- I have grown a lot as a person. When I am put into new situations and surroundings, it provides me with many chances to work on some qualities that need strengthening. I have really been trying to be more patient. I am in a host family with little kids that require a lot of patience. Patience is needed when learning a new language; otherwise, it can be frustrating when you cannot understand what is being said.
- I have become even more independent than I was before.
- I have worked further on my communication skills. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and tone of voice are different everywhere and it is good to notice the differences. I have also been getting out of my shell to meet new people and working on my small talk in a different language.
- I have learned that Italians do in fact eat pasta all the time! My host family does not eat it as often as others do, but some of my Italian friends eat it at least once a day.
- I have learned how to appreciate the small things.
- I have learned how to adjust my view of time and I am no longer as frustrated with unorganized surroundings. I am more relaxed with being on time and when things are unplanned or off-schedule I mostly expect it and deal with it.
- I have learned that Siena is different from other places. The people are different and the history is different. The fact that Siena still has contradas and people who are very dedicated to them, changes the feeling of the city.
- I have learned that one semester is just not long enough; I would highly recommend a year. Those who are going home have all said that they are just now feeling comfortable and now they have to leave.
- I have learned that I am extremely quiet. I talk quietly and I am just a quiet person overall, which I somewhat noticed in America, but in Italy it is extreme. Everyone is so loud! It is very hard to get used to sometimes. They always tell me to speak up and sometimes I have to take a minute for myself from being overwhelmed by how loud they are.
- Lastly, I have learned Italian! I still need to improve a lot, but I think I now have the tools and people to practice with to start improving even faster.
I cannot wait to come back to Siena after the break and get to know my new classmates and host family!