What has your experience taught you about the world?
My experience abroad has taught me the importance of appreciating where you are at any given time or place. It is not about where you are in the world, it is about the mindset you bring to that place that makes the experience special. The study abroad experience is unlike any other time in your life and completely unique to each person. However, being away from home and your friends and family it is easy to get homesick. If you are living abroad but are constantly thinking about what your friends are doing back home, then you are robbing yourself of the joys and experiences that you could be having right where you are. Additionally, I learned the importance of an open mind. That can mean anything from not judging your surroundings to leaving your expectations behind. It is impossible not to imagine what it is going to be like abroad or in a city you have always wanted to visit. But do not let yourself try to create too detailed of an image of what you are hoping it will be like. It is likely that it might not meet your expectations, but you can’t let that disappoint you. That is because anywhere you are and everything you will see will be unique, beautiful and valuable in its own way. Your expectations could cloud your view from truly appreciating the world as it is. The world has so much to offer, I want to be as ready as I can be to take it all in.
What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?
I believe I learned a lot about myself and who I want to be while I was abroad. Moving to another country for a semester and going to school is not always smooth sailing. There are so many unknowns and variables that it can be so easy to become overwhelmed and stressed. But I learned that in the face of worry, I can be resilient and strong. I learned to take initiative when it comes to making decisions and how to follow through with them. I am so much better at problem solving and not letting the worst case scenarios fill me with fear. If I ask myself “what’s the worst that can happen? And then what would happen? And what would happen after that?” just a few times through, then I am able to realize that when worst comes to worst, my problems are temporary. I was able to use the strength I gained to find a solution to a missed train and to public speak without anxiety. Before going abroad, I was so stuck in a little bubble that made me believe that my problems were the end of the world as I knew it. Now I have a better grasp of how big the world is and how my problems are going to end it, they are going to force me to grow and learn so that my world can become even bigger some day. I am forever grateful for the independence that studying abroad has instilled in me.
Did you do an internship abroad? Where was your internship? What did your internship teach you?
I had the opportunity to do an internship in consumer behavior while I was studying at Florence University of the Arts. I did not know what it entailed when I signed up but figured it would be a good experience. I am a fashion merchandising major and expected the experiential learning experience to only focus on fashion but it ended up being broader. I was able to do shifts in the student run vintage boutique, as well as serve as a hostess at the student run restaurant, and a barista at the schools cafe. At first it was daunting and seemed so out of place. However, as time went on the roles I was given began to focus on consumer behavior and my actions became intentional. I was able to become connected to different departments within my university abroad that I would have never been exposed to. The relationships I made within my internships and with faulty from different specialties became the most valuable parts of my whole education abroad. In doing an internship abroad in a university that really valued experiential learning gave me the opportunity to really find roles that I excelled in. The more the faculty and professors saw that I was comfortable with customer service and unexpectedly had a talent for hospitality, the more responsibilities they gave me. They pushed me to be better and trust my own abilities. I gained so much more than the credits that my internship gave me. The skills and confidence that I grew will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Audrey was a spring 2019 Florence student from Washington State University.