Being back in the States is great and strange, all at the same time. I enjoy being with my family in Florida and catching up with people who I haven’t seen since January. However, I do miss the Florence way of life. While walking everywhere in Florence, Italy could be annoying sometimes, I find myself missing my walks by historic buildings, such as the Duomo (Santa Marie del Fiore cathedral) and the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
I’ve been back in the States for over a week now and I am just now getting into my normal sleep pattern. I studied in Florence for nearly four months so it takes time to adjust to the six hour time difference again. When it comes to reverse culture shock, I can’t say that I have truly felt or experienced anything out of the ordinary. While I do get frustrated with how expensive coffee seems to be here compared to Italy, it’s something I’m willing to overlook (I’m a coffee addict; for example, a cappuccino at a cafe in Florence is usually around 1,20 euro, while a small cappuccino here is more than $2.00 dollars). Plus, I still haven’t eaten at any fast food restaurants yet. I grew to love the “fresh, local food” concept in Italy and am trying to incorporate and replace processed foods in my life. It is important to me-since I ate the best food ever in Italy-that I continue this at home.
Reflecting on my time studying abroad has been quite the process. It takes more than just a few moments (even weeks) to sit and contemplate about how my life was impacted by living in another country. It is hard to put into words because my experience was my experience. No one will ever understand what my experience was like, but we can compare and contrast our experiences to come up with a middle ground in which we can slightly understand what the other person went through. I keep telling friends and family “It was amazing,” because I don’t know what other adjectives to use that will fully encompass all of the feelings, joys and sorrows that I experienced during my time abroad. This semester was honestly a breath of fresh air, smack dab in the middle of my college career. It’s like reality was put on pause and I got to live this incredible life where I could hop on a train to the beach or wherever my soul desired.
I will say this about my time abroad: the movement of travel taught me more about who I am and who I am meant to be. While I had a deep desire to travel before even stepping foot in Europe, I crave for that adrenaline of traveling that I get each time I go to a new place. It’s exciting and nerve-racking because you don’t really understand what you’re about to get yourself into. But holy moly, it’s worth it!
Throughout this past semester, I learned to rely on the Lord a lot, break out of my comfort zone by meeting new people, being intentional with those relationships and lastly, I learned to live. Of course I have been “living” for the past 20 years, but studying abroad is where I discovered my greatest passion: to travel and seek adventure. Plus developing a habit of having a positive attitude among the craziness of traveling truly helped. With each trip that I prepared for, I went in with an open-mind. Delays, challenges or whatever else may arise when traveling, but hey, God is still good and I’m still alive. What more can I complain about?
I believe my family members and friends have seen how much this semester meant to me. While they can’t fully grasp what I experienced, they appreciate my stories about my time in Europe. They see how adventuresome my heart is and how I have more of a zest to live my life fully.
Now that I am home, I miss the strangers that became sweet friends. I still stay in touch with several people I met along the way. Each person I met touched my life in a special way that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
Before ending my post, I would like to encourage future study abroad students by saying: Go and have the best semester of your life. Embrace the challenges that come along with traveling and living in a different country. Do your very best to adjust and blend in with the culture. Of course don’t do anything you don’t want to do, but experience the culture and fall in love with the place and the people in it. Have an open-mind before even boarding the plane to your destination. If you are already negative about what your time will look like abroad, you are ruining your chances of truly enjoying yourself and the culture you are about to experience. My new motto for life after studying abroad is this: “Live life to the fullest.” Be encouraged friends and go explore this beautiful world!