After completing my first study abroad experience, when I reflect back on it, one piece of advice stands out that I would give to my past self at the start of this trip, and to anyone else about to study abroad. That advice is to expect ups and downs.

Do not go into your trip thinking it will be perfect the whole way through, because it will inevitably fall short of those expectations and demoralize you. Whether you go into your trip thinking you have absolutely everything mapped out, or kind of last minute feeling like you haven’t done enough preparation (like me), there will be things that happen differently than you expect, and there will be things that go wrong. So when you make a mistake, or you wake up not feeling as energized as you think you should, don’t take it personally. Don’t get mad at yourself, because things like this are not a bad reflection on you. They are natural responses to being constantly surrounded by entirely new experiences for weeks or months at a time. I guarantee everyone on your study abroad trip will feel like this at some point, whether they show it or not. So be kind to yourself, understand that you are asking a lot of your body and mind when you study abroad, and know the feeling will pass. Take it one day at a time, one moment at a time. If a day feels like a bust, give yourself a nice treat and go to sleep knowing that tomorrow will probably be better. If a morning of sightseeing gets you super tired and you don’t know if you can make it through the day, don’t look so far ahead, just focus on making it to lunch. As someone who’s never been away from home for as long as I was on this trip (17 days), and as an introvert who can get overwhelmed easily, I had to repeat these reminders to myself often.

Know that while there will be high points and low points, your trip as a whole will still very much be a net positive experience. I am very glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to go on this trip. There were hard times, but all the amazing things I got to see and do that would probably be a lot harder for me to do later in life made it worth it. Those are the parts I will really remember, even many years from now. Studying abroad really is an incredible opportunity to do amazing things, things that you probably wouldn’t be able to if you just went to a country on vacation. Even with the hardships, it’s an opportunity I think everyone who is able should take. If my little introverted self can do it, I’m sure anyone can.

As an example, here’s a picture of me on the day we went to see the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy. It was cold and rained like crazy, and none of us expected it because it was sunny in Venice where we were staying, only 30 minutes away. The Arena Chapel was a 15 minute walk from the train station in the pouring rain. My friends and I ended up ducking into a random store to buy rain jackets because of how bad it was. My shoes got completely soaked, and as you can see in this picture I’m not terribly happy about it. But seeing the chapel was still an amazing experience. I put my annoyances aside for just a few minutes so that I could focus on this experience I probably wouldn’t have again for a long time, if ever. Afterwards, my friends and I went to Italian McDonalds and got to try all the unique menu items! All this to say, when things go wrong, try your best not to let it take a way from the good parts of your experience, and know that things will likely turn around soon.