I’ve returned from Italy with a full stomach and a happy heart. Italy was full of new experiences, friends, and food. I was so sad to leave such a beautiful place, but I’m really happy to be back in the United States with my family and friends. As soon as I saw my mom at the airport, she greeted me with open arms and my favorite Starbucks drink.
I definitely believe studying abroad shaped me into a more understanding and compassionate person. It made me realize that there’s more to life than my small bubble of friends and family back home in Alabama. I felt so small when I was surrounded by the beautiful architecture, but that feeling made me even more appreciative of great works. I also think I became more independent. I’m someone who gets lost a lot and has a hard time navigating around even my home town. However, when in Italy, I found myself offering to lead the group to get to various landmarks and locations. My brother even noticed the difference when I offered to drive us to dinner at a new restaurant I was unfamiliar with. I feel more confident in my skills than ever before.
I never really understood “reverse culture shock” until I got off the plane in Atlanta, Georgia. I became so accustomed to not understanding the conversations of those around me. I also got used to paying €1.50 every time I needed water in Italy and in America any coffee shop gave water for free. Both countries have amazing cultures and I appreciate them in very different ways.
The best advice I have for future students studying abroad is to take in every aspect of the culture- try new food, go where the locals go, and don’t be afraid to try speaking the language. As for packing- keep it light and only pack essentials because it’ll make your life easier and allow you to pick up some souvenirs as well! The photo below shows the bag I chose to bring along on my journey. It was a little too large for all the walking and travelling I was doing, so I recommend other students to be more realistic about what they actually need to bring overseas. I advice all future students to keep an open mind and be open to all the amazing experiences that the country they’re visiting has to offer.