It seems like it was only yesterday that I was arriving in Italy, ready for the semester-long journey ahead of me. From traveling to Barcelona, Switzerland, Germany, France, Greece, United Kingdom, Croatia and Ireland, I can say that my study abroad experience has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I’ve only been in Rome for a few months but part of me feels like the old version of myself is gone, and for the better. However, if I could go back in time, I would giving myself the following advice:
Be intentional with your friendships.
As an extroverted person, I can’t say that I had difficulty putting myself out there. But something that I did have a harder time doing was keeping up with my new friendships. Throughout the past four months, I’ve had the privilege of meeting all types of people from very different backgrounds. If I could go back in time, I would have loved to become better friends with them by inviting them out to lunch, or to the mall, or simply asking if they wanted to walk to class together. With everyone wanting to travel on the weekends, it’s a little more difficult planning to meet up on the weekdays, especially since we have classes and homework. Looking back, one of my biggest regrets was declining an invitation to dinner because I wanted to work on homework that wasn’t due until a few weeks down the line. I soon learned that my friend who had invited me out to dinner was at dinner with Noah Beck, a famous celebrity who happened to be in Rome that night. Not only did I miss out on the opportunity to form a deeper friendship with that person, but I also missed out on the opportunity to have dinner with a celebrity whom I’ve always admired. So, if you make a new friend and they invite you to dinner, say yes. Be intentional, be present, and have fun.
Just because you’re studying abroad doesn’t mean school is easier.
Just because you’re comfortable with the American school system doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same about the Italian school system. I planned out my classes a year in advance and I was confident that they would be a breeze…until they weren’t. I soon discovered that I needed to try just as hard in my classes, maybe even harder, than I would back at home. It took me weeks to adapt to the educational school system here, which I would have never imagined to be the case. I learned that the way of teaching, taking tests, and notes is something that requires practice and time. So always remember to try your best in all of your classes, be persistent, and have a positive mindset when approaching challenges.
It’s okay to feel homesick but don’t dwell in it.
I personally didn’t start getting homesick until about three months into the semester. In fact, I didn’t think I would get homesick at all. But out of nowhere, it hit me like a bus. When I first began feeling that way, I was confused because I knew I was having a blast here but at the same time, I missed my family back home. After talking to my roommates about it, I soon discovered that those feelings are normal. They, too, miss their families and other things that you can’t find in Rome. But the best way to overcome that is by focusing on the good and keeping yourself busy. The most effective solution for me was traveling on the weekends. I learned that my excitement and eagerness to see the world has been the best medicine to feelings of homesickness. To you, it may not look the same. You may find peace in walks, or art exhibitions, or exploring your local city. Whatever it is, make sure to continue doing those things to help with homesickness.
Keep taking care of yourself, mentally and physically.
Finally, I wish I could have brought my running shoes to mentally and physically take care of myself. For as long as I can remember, long distance running has been my coping mechanism. Shortly after arriving here, I noticed the perfect trail next to a river. Although I enjoy going on walks there, I would prefer being able to run on the trail. I didn’t realize how much running meant to me, until I didn’t have access to any running shoes. So whatever coping mechanisms you have back home, make sure to bring them along on your journey.
A healthy habit that I adopted during my time here is journaling. Through self-reflection and deep thought, I have been able to mentally take care of myself. Every night, I make time to write something about my day, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Looking back, I wish I could have started journaling sooner rather than later, which is why I encourage everyone to implement this healthy habit into their daily lives.
Jocelyn is a SAI Rome Fall 2022 student, from Baylor University.