Why Survive When You Can Thrive
Yanisha, Spring 2023, Florence
June 7, 2023

Why settle for surviving during your time abroad, when you can be thriving. Spending the past four months as a foreign exchange student has taught me a lot about myself. The journey has been one filled with smiles and laughs as well as tears and frustration. Life is all about balance and duality, figuring this out early is what has helped me make this time the best of my life. Some of my recommendations include:

Finding your community/people
The worst part about being so far away from home is not having immediate access to your support system. Back home you have the people you know you can trust and rely on which is what makes home, home. This is why it is so important to foster these connections abroad as soon as possible. What this does is establish the roots that keep you grounded. Finding my people while in Florence has allowed me to have a shoulder to cry on, a friend to vent to, someone to laugh with, and honestly kept me sane. They also say “the friends you meet in college are the ones you’ll have for life,” and this is an experience, that offers you the ability to meet a variety of new people and bond with them over something many others don’t get to experience.

Traveling outside of your host city
Oftentimes while you’re abroad you’ll hear many people tell you to stay and explore your host city. But don’t let that shy you away from continuing to explore the world. Take that train to Paris or plane to Ireland, because you never know when you’ll have the chance to come back. Your host city is your new home and you’ll find different times throughout your day to explore it. Use your weekends or long breaks to see different places and gain new experiences.

Advocating for yourself
This is the biggest and most important recommendation in my opinion. No one knows you better than yourself meaning that you know your limits, boundaries, needs, wants, etc. Therefore, you have to learn how to communicate that to others as there will be times when you need to stand up for yourself. This could range from a disagreement with your housemates, confusion in class, or as simple as telling a guy “no grazie (no thank you),” when he says “ciao bella, posso avere il tuo numero (hi beautiful, can I have your number)?” You have to have your own back while you’re abroad because if you don’t who will?

Stepping outside of your comfort-zone
In the photo above, I had just hiked to the top of Monte Bondone in a pair of snow shoes. First, I had never really hiked before especially up a mountain (I’m from the Midwest) and second I had never worn a pair of snow shoes before. So it was safe to say I had no idea what I was getting myself into but, this turned out to be one of the best experiences I had during my time in Italy. This just goes to show how essential it is to step out of your comfort-zone while abroad. You never know what hidden talents you could end up discovering, what activities you may end up enjoying, and what new things you could learn about yourself. This is your time to discover and experience as much as possible.

Overall your time abroad is exactly that, YOUR TIME. So spend every moment doing things that bring you pure joy. You don’t want to look back on this time and have any regrets. And remember, don’t settle for just surviving abroad when you can be thriving abroad.

Written by Yanisha, Spring 2023 student from Bradley University.  

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