You never realize how much you have changed until you put yourself in an experience you’re not familiar with. Whether you believe people change or not, we all have experiences that shape us into who we really are, or who we are becoming. Thanks to studying abroad with SAI Programs, I became someone who has more resilience. I’m thankful that I am able to see how much I have grown and changed from this one semester I spent in Florence.
Living somewhere where you need to learn how to communicate with a different language, different cultural activities, holidays, foods, transportation, etc., breaks down that sub-conscience shield we all have of “knowing how everything works” and enables us to adapt as we learn how to live in a new culture. Instead of calling it “cultural shock” I like to think of it as unspoken benefits. I was extremely lucky to have this opportunity to learn on my own how to live somewhere that I didn’t know anything about. These opportunities are the things in life worth experiencing. And whether you are scared of being without your friends and family, or the cost, I can assure you that you can’t put a price tag on this experience to shape your growth, as well as your professionalism, academic growth and outlook on life. Studying abroad enabled me to learn to adapt to situations, become more responsible with every day living matters such as spending money, and learn who I am.
When you’re going to study abroad for your first time, what to pack and what to leave at home is the million dollar question.
What I recommend bringing, other than your clothes of choice, are:
- Nyquil, cold/allergy medicine, advil. They have pharmacies and English speaking doctors here, however, their medicines are different than the U.S.
- Vitamins/ Multivitamin.
- Big bottles of lotion, shampoo and conditioner. Pack them in ziplock baggies in your checked suitcase, that way you can save money.
- Umbrella, water resistant jacket.
- Copies (2) of your passport to carry on you.
- Notebooks and school supplies.
- Facial and feminine products.
- Walking shoes, chunky heels/booties (not stilettos).
Do’s that I highly recommend, are:
- Applying for one of the many internships SAI offers like I did. You will benefit in so many ways by giving back to the community, as well as being able to add the professional experience on your resume.
- Try as many new things as possible! Travel everywhere and have an open mind.
- Try to speak the language as much as possible.
- Spend your effort and money traveling everywhere you can. Traveling is very affordable through ryanair or easyjet, trains or buses. Your time abroad will go by very fast so make sure to make the most of it and take lots of pictures!
Some Don’t’s are:
- Being disrespectful or inappropriate. Be respectful of the culture and people where you’re visiting.
- Overpacking. Everything you need can be bought here.
- Bringing hair straighteners, curling irons, hair dryers, etc., they take up extra room and you can buy very good quality for cheap here. Also, they will blow out your adapters so just save yourself the trouble and don’t bring these.
- Bringing tons of clothes or shoes. You can buy fairly cheap clothes and shoes here and the shopping is to die for :)
Becoming comfortable with your new city can take a few weeks: it’s okay to get frustrated, feel lost or homesick. Getting yourself up and moving around can help those feelings of homesickness, frustration or loneliness. Take a walk, go for a hike, get lost, go on a run, get a local gym membership, etc., there are so many cheap-free options available so that you don’t miss out on this amazing experience abroad! The first few weeks are new and exciting and all of your friends want to do everything and go everywhere-try not to let this overwhelm you. Ease into your new city in your own time; find out what works/doesn’t work best for you, where you want to go, what restaurants/cafe’s you like, etc. Giving yourself alone time to get comfortable at the beginning is so important. Again, learning how to get around on your own is your best way to familiarize yourself with the city.
Use your money wisely because it is so easy to spend hundreds within the first week you are here. Try to acclimate yourself with the city first before you spend lots of money shopping. I know this is hard, especially for us girls, but you’ll appreciate learning what stores have the same or different products and which prices you like better/what sales are going on. The thrill of being here can take over a lot of self control with shopping (haha) so be careful, the shopping is to die for :)
Simple things such as learning how to take the train all by yourself in a foreign country, or actually studying for finals because you found a rooftop café, can make you feel so proud of yourself! Cherish the moments and acknowledge how much you are growing as an individual simply by studying abroad with SAI. The unspoken benefits of studying abroad are incredible. You will come back home a new person and you will be thankful of all of the risks and trips that you took.
Kansas State University
Studying abroad was hands down the best decision I have ever made. I was able to experience a completely different world of living, different foods, people and culture traveling around Europe. I was able to use my internship for professional growth, and satisfy credit classes towards my degrees with the classes I took abroad, while getting to visits historical sites such as The Eiffel Tower, The Cliffs of Moher and The Swiss Alps just to name a few! I never realized how much of the world there is out there to see, and ultimately, to learn from. You will come back home and not be scared to take spontaneous trips because you’ve grown into a more well-versed person from studying abroad.