Chelsey Keenan is an SAI Ambassador who spent her Fall 2013 term in Florence studying at Florence University of the Arts (FUA).
When studying abroad, you expect to come back with a couple of lessons including, but not exclusively, how much better the food is in Europe, how to find the cheapest flights and train rides, and especially how to ask what the wifi password is. But after my four months living in Florence there were a couple of things that I learned about myself and about the world around me that I certainly did not expect to carry home along with my suitcase full of souvenirs.
Dolla Dolla Bills Ya’ll – Between the exchange rate, weekend trips, and of course the leather jackets, making sure you come home with some money in your pocket becomes quite difficult. In order to escape this issue while abroad, I started budgeting and found a quick and easy way to manage my money to make sure that I bought only what I needed so that I could afford all of the weekend excursion. This budgeting did not stop once I came to the U.S. and has come in handy while thinking about paying off student loans.
No wifi? No problem – After losing wifi in my apartment for the last two months of my stay in Florence, I quickly realized that I did not even need it. Going out with my friends and leaving my phone at home was the most liberating feeling. Being able to have honest conversations, without the distraction of Facebook and iMessages, is an invaluable lesson that I would not trade for all of the hotspots across Europe.
Don’t Hate…Appreciate – Being in a different country every week may seem like the typical life of a study abroad student, but this is absolutely not the typical life for the large majority of people around the world. It seems like the norm to hop on a train after class on Thursday and get your passport stamped at borders. Taking the time to step back and see the privilege in all that you do and all that you experience while abroad is truly an eye-opening realization to how much there is in this world to be grateful for. Whether it is waking up and being thankful for the fresh vegetables you can get right down the stairs from your apartment, or thanking whoever helped you to get you to this point in your life, you will find an immense appreciation for what used to seem like the minutest things in daily life.
Whichever life lessons creep into your soul through your time abroad, you will be sure to come home with a wealth of new knowledge, indebtedness, and thirst for adventure.