As my time studying with IES Abroad has ended, I felt that I could shed light on my experience for others who plan to study abroad in the future. I wish someone had given me advice prior, so I thought I would in order to better equip others for their study abroad experiences. For context, I studied abroad in Rome, Italy during the spring of 2022.
#1: Choose a country that you're curious about
This might be obvious, but I thought it was a key factor that helped me choose where to study abroad. While you will have the opportunity to travel to other countries during your program, choosing the country that brings you excitement is important because of how much time you will spend there. Because of my curiosity, I was able to enjoy the great food, shopping, and culture of Italy with an open mind. Also, traveling within the country will usually be cheaper than traveling outside, so take advantage of that.
#2: Learn the language
Before going to Italy, I literally did not know a word of Italian. This definitely added to my stress when I first arrived, making the transition difficult at times. Looking back, I wish I had taken some basic Italian classes before arriving to ease my anxiety. Upon my arrival, I enrolled in an intensive beginner Italian course with IES Abroad Rome. While this class could be long at times, making up eight credits instead of four, it improved my confidence living in Rome. Also, since it was a longer class, I took four academic classes in total instead of five, which helped my course load. Additionally, I believe that my ability to speak Spanish in addition to Italian helped me grasp the language better. Now, I am hoping to continue learning, opening up my opportunities to travel back to Italy!
#3: Being alone is a good thing
Some people choose to study abroad in the same city as a friend to help ease their acclimation. In contrast, I decided to study abroad on my own, which felt scary at first. Looking back, I am so grateful I made this decision because it gave me the freedom to experience new things while also learning about myself. The reality of studying abroad by yourself is that you may feel lonely at times, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think one of the greatest things I learned on my trip was how valuable my own company is. In addition to this, I studied abroad while many of my other friends from college studied abroad in nearby countries. Traveling to visit them during my program was a great way to get a taste of home when I felt lonely.
#4: Take care when choosing friends to travel with
Choosing to study in the spring gave me the time to meet others in my program before I planned weekend trips. I am grateful for this because I was able to be mindful of who I chose to travel with. When visiting other cities, things can go wrong, people can have different agendas, etc. Just because you become friends with someone doesn’t mean they will be a good travel companion. I think that choosing others who I got along with that had honest communication skills helped smooth my traveling experiences when things didn’t always go as planned.
#5: Pay attention to your mental health
Studying abroad isn’t always as perfect as people portray it to be on social media. Your life abroad may be mundane at times because of how long you will be living there. Having ups and downs in your mental health is okay, even when others might showcase their experience on social media to be amazing all the time. Take time for yourself by calling family and friends, watching shows that bring you joy, and relaxing in ways that you’re used to. Most importantly, if you find yourself comparing your experience to others, taking a break from social media is okay.
Overall, you will have a great time no matter what; this is the experience of a lifetime! Traveling to see the world as a college student is unforgettable. If you make the most of it, you will see yourself grow exponentially.
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<p>Anastasia Hernando is a student at the University of Michigan, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Entrepreneurship. She is currently working on writing her Political Science thesis on labor rights of the textile industry. Her passion for human rights motivates her to learn more about government and philosophy while studying abroad in Rome, Italy during Spring 2022. Additionally, her interest in social media and business excite her about her opportunity to share her experiences as a IDEA Correspondent.</p>