Hi Friends,

I am a Senior at The University of Alabama finishing up my first trip to Europe. I left my adorable chihuahua at home in Texas and flew to Venice, Italy with 10 other UA Students to study 5 different Shakespeare plays set across the country. We made our way from Venice, to Verona, Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Pompeii, Taormina and finally back to Rome. Before crossing the Atlantic, I spent hours researching how/what to pack, where to go, how much to budget, the best foods to try and everything in between. And while the research helped tame my nerves, there is nothing that can completely prepare you for your own unique experience abroad. Terrifying, right? I know that is probably not what you want to hear, and I am not deterring you from looking into information ahead of time, but if you are like me and think you can control your future with precise preparation, just expect things to catch you by surprise (in a good way!). If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this: Keep an open mind!

By all means, prepare yourself. I spent lots of time prepping for the challenges I might face abroad. I knew our group would be moving between hostels often, so I invested in an Osprey backpack and bought all the travel gear I could find on Amazon. I made a budget for myself and looked at average spending costs per day. I made a bullet journal with our class and travel schedule and filled all my prescriptions ahead of time. Despite all of my preparations and expectations, there were still moments I could not control. I missed my connecting flight in Philadelphia after poor weather left me trapped in a plane on the tarmac. My new Tevas broke three days into the trip. And of course, I overpacked and had to buy an extra suitcase. A wise person once said that you cannot control your situation, but you can control how you react to it. So react wisely, stay calm, and remember there is always a solution.