While living in Italy, it’s been incredibly difficult to think about my life back home. Summer plans, my senior year in Richmond, and everything in-between seemed like abstract concepts I could ignore while studying abroad.
Not only does life at home seem to be on pause, but I feel like my responsibilities belong to someone else. It doesn’t fit my study abroad narrative to sit around applying to internships, managing next year’s schedule, and scrambling to find housing. It’s easy to push these undesirable tasks to the backburner, but I also found it incredibly difficult to keep up with aspects of my life back home that were important to me.
The time difference between Italy and home made it so much more difficult to keep in contact with my friends. The only time I was available to Facetime was in the evenings, right when all my friends were in the middle of class. It’s hard enough to miss out on school events—things I’ve yet to experience because of the pandemic—but even harder to watch my friends go about their daily lives without me.
To make this more difficult, study abroad burnout plagued me. From Thursday evenings to Sunday afternoons, I was traveling to a new city or a new country. By the time I was back in Siena for the week, focusing on my classes, I was too exhausted to do much of anything else.
Dedicating all my energy to the best parts of studying abroad—exploring, trying new restaurants, and making new friends—was the best decision. However, it was easy to get trapped in the study abroad bubble, and the underlying pressure to keep up with life back home bloomed into something overwhelming.
The crushing weight of trying to secure an internship was stressing me out for a solid month during the first part of study abroad. I spent most of my weekdays holed up with my computer, and I felt guilty for not exploring Siena more. But I knew that if I didn’t dedicate this time to my life back home, the stress would prohibit me from enjoying my time abroad.
The instant I got an internship offer, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt new energy course through my veins (Dramatic? Yes. Accurate? Also, yes.). While it was weird to have conversations with my friends with hours-long gaps between our responses, eventually it became my new normal. Having loved ones that encouraged me to take advantage of my time abroad eased my initial fears about being so far away.
It’s okay that studying abroad will change your priorities and ability to connect with your life back home. Adjusting the amount of time and energy you can invest is essential to make room for the opportunities you’ll have in your new home. I certainly didn’t manage this balance perfectly, but I strived to embrace the study abroad lifestyle without neglecting everything from back home.
I’ll never have enough time in Siena, and I wish I didn’t have to think about my life after study abroad. However, I’m lucky that I managed my responsibilities, so I’m not bombarded by the unknown when I get back home. Getting out of the study abroad bubble may be hard, but it pays off in the long run, and it certainly doesn’t prevent you from immersing yourself in your new city.
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<p><span style="font-size:13.5pt"><span style="font-family:"Helvetica",sans-serif"><span style="color:#333333">My name is Brooke Fakhoury, and I am from Southern California studying abroad in Siena, Italy! I’m a junior at the University of Richmond, majoring in English with a minor in History. Other than reading and writing (both in and out of the classroom), I enjoy hiking, cheering on my favorite soccer teams, and eating pasta. After graduation, I plan to stay in the East Coast since I’ve grown attached to my winter coat and would hate to retire it so soon.</span></span></span></p>