As I was preparing to leave to come back to the US, I couldn’t help but feel sad. On one hand I was happy to have home cooked food instead of eating out and to sleep in a room other than a hotel room. Again my packing cubes came in handy again to get all of my clothes I left with (plus a few things I bought) home in my luggage. We headed to the Florence airport at 4 in the morning to head home, but unfortunately our plans quickly changed. Our plane was overweight and could not take off into the wind, so instead we took a one hour bus ride to Bologna, Italy where we fly to Paris, then to Amsterdam, and then finally back to the US. Although it was extremely frustrating to land 24 hours after I was supposed to, all of my luggage arrived on time and there were no further complications. While changes to plans can be frustrating, it is normally best to go with the flow and adjust how you react to negative news.
While I did not experience any culture shock while abroad, I did experience some reverse culture shock when returning. It was quite jarring to go form the idyllic streets of Florence, devoid of any interstates or large cars, to I-10 in the US and getting cut off by 18 wheelers. Despite this slight reverse culture shock, the entire trip was an incredible experience and has shown to me that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I would be able to. It is a lot less stressful to think now about navigating public transportation on my way to work next year, when I was able to navigate the Berlin subway with only German instructions and directions to read.
First, I would recommend to anyone considering doing a study abroad trip to just do it. It is an amazing experience and I have met and made friends some amazing people that I would not have met if it was not for this trip. My next piece of advice is to do plenty of research before hand. Learn what you do and do not want to see and try to see it all, but don’t be too discouraged if it cannot fit all in one day (I learned that the hard way attempting to do Rome in 7 hours). And finally, try to learn some key phrases in the native language of the country. They will be able to tell that you most likely are not a fluent speaker, but they will appreciate the effort.