Studying Abroad During a Pandemic
Grace, Spring 2021, Florence
May 18, 2021

Some might ask why would you choose to study abroad during a pandemic, is it worth it? Why didn’t you wait a semester or year? All of these questions roamed my head before making my final decision about studying abroad. I have now been in Florence for 53 days and looking back I would not have changed a thing. I would not have wanted this experience to happen to me at any other time in my life.

One tip for staying mentally and physically healthy abroad is to go on walks! This is a photo of me on a walk by the river!

Go on a walk
Before coming abroad, I had been working on myself in becoming more physically and mentally healthy in many different ways. I love to cook, go on walks, go on runs, work out and take time for myself. This can be hard coming to a completely different place for the first time, especially with the pandemic. One of the best things my roommates and I could do to clear our minds no matter what we were thinking is to go on walks. Whether we did walks in small groups or alone with headphones in it helped to clear my head. While walking around you also get to experience the beauty of Italy. Everywhere you turn in Florence there is something different to see.

While on walks I love to have my headphones in and take images while I wonder around the city! This is a photo I took while on a walk to clear my head!

Find your eating groove
As I mentioned before I love to cook. Cooking with my roommates for breakfasts and dinners has been another activity that definitely helped with my new mindset on staying physically and mentally healthy. Eating in Italy can be scary for someone that likes to be healthy. Before I came, I had to tell myself I knew I would have a completely different diet. For me, this was a big change because I like to plan out what I want to eat in advance. Living in Florence has helped me to open my mind to have a different perspective on this. I have been able to try so many different amazing foods as well as cook for myself and my roommates to give myself the balance I need. This balance is different for everyone and will take some time to get used to, but I assure you, you will find your groove. What works best for me is waking up every morning and making breakfast at home. For lunch, I will either make a salad or wrap if I am at home and if I am at school, I will pick up a sandwich. For dinner, I like to leave it open to what I plan to do with my friends. Sometimes we get dinner and take it home to eat or to a piazza. And then some nights we will cook. Something else that very much helps with this is buying groceries. Having some items on hand at the apartment is very helpful. Having snacks, breakfast items and some dinner items helps ease your mind with what you will eat throughout the day.

One of my favorite things to do is cook! This is a photo of my oatmeal I made one morning for breakfast!

Do things for yourself
One thing I have learned about myself is that in order to stay mentally and physically healthy, you need to put yourself first. If you want to wake up early to go on a walk or run by yourself, do it. You do not need every day to align with everything your friends or roommates are doing. Sometimes being by yourself will make you feel so much better since you are always in an apartment full of people. If sometimes not everyone wants to do what you want to do you should still do it. If I am craving something different than my roommates, I will go get coffee or lunch by myself. These little things add up and will make you have a great time abroad mentally and physically.

Studying abroad during a pandemic is not what I dreamed for myself when I thought about bring abroad. Although it was different than most people’s experiences when they go abroad, I believe mine was better. Better for myself. I will never in my lifetime again get to experience Italy without tourists. I am very thankful for my time abroad. It taught me a lot not only about Italy but about myself.

Grace is a Spring 2021 Florence student from the University of South Carolina.

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SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.