At the very beginning, I was just another wide-eyed American who had never been anywhere but the States. I was eager to begin traveling and explore every part of Florence and the rest of Europe. This was the first time I was ever truly on my own without having my parents at my beck and call. I could certainly call my parents, but there wasn’t much they could do when an ocean stood between us. Anytime I had some type of obstacle in my way, I had to figure it out on my own. Lots of things will not go your way and it is up to you to figure out how to handle certain situations. Flights will be delayed, you may miss your train, and hotel rooms may fall through. My very first day arriving to my apartment, my roommates and I couldn’t figure out how to unlock the front door. Fortunately, we were able to figure that out! You are thrown head first into a whole new world and a new experience and are forced to adapt. For some, this process may be harder than others. I found that it was easy for me to adjust to life abroad. It was something that I had been excited to do for years and so the excitement often overshadowed any sense of homesickness. That isn’t to say that I didn’t face any challenges. But with each challenge, it helped me grow as a person.
It was intimidating to travel alone for the first time. I triple checked everything before leaving. Made sure I had my plane tickets, my passport, my luggage, etc. Despite making sure I had everything I needed, not every trip went off without a hitch. During my time abroad, I had a flight that was delayed almost 3 hours, causing me to miss my train home to Florence. I got stuck in Sicily an extra two days due to a massive storm that flooded the city. And I experienced a number of other small problems. With each problem, I could have either went into full panic mode, or address the situation calmly. As easy as it is to completely panic, I always tried my best to remain calm. If you miss a flight or a train, there is always going to be another one.
Other challenges I had to deal with were as simple as learning how to cook good meals for myself, dealing with food going bad, and learning how to budget. I learned how to effectively budget and to make decisions on what I should and shouldn’t splurge on. Before I bought something, I would often ask, can I get this in America? For example, I didn’t spend a lot on clothing that could easily be found in a store in America, but would splurge on a leather item from Florence’s leather market.
Studying abroad is not only an amazing experience to travel but also makes you mature as a person. Towards the end of my time abroad, I was confident in my abilities to navigate train stations, airports, and new cities. I am far more responsible and because of that, I feel even more prepared for life after college. And I have my study abroad experience to thank for that.
Kate was a fall 2018 Florence student from Muhlenberg College.