Julia Szeto
January 3, 2016

I’ve been back in Oregon for just over two weeks (and as I speak, Oregon is having its first snow of the year and of the season!). Adjusting back home hasn’t been as challenging as I anticipated, but I suspect that the hardest adjustment will come when I return to school next weekend. That said, I do miss my apartment and its proximity to the piazza, to cappuccinos with the perfect amount of foam, and to mouthwatering pastas. (My apartment in Siena was 100% the best real estate I’ll ever live in.)

At a couple holiday parties I’ve been asked, “How was Italy?” to which I realized – caught by expectant eyes waiting for an answer – that this was no easy question to tackle. How could I accurately describe the range of emotions I rollercoastered through in nearly four months? How could I express the times where I felt sad, lonely, and stuck despite my beautiful surroundings? These weren’t the answers that people wanted to hear – and especially, at a holiday party – so I gave a edited version of my experience at the parties. But here, on the blog, I can be more truthful.

1. It’s not all raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens abroad. There were countless times when I questioned what I was doing abroad, like “why aren’t I taking more pre-med classes and working on my GPA,” etc. I felt lonely and I felt like I was missing out on campus life at Bates. It felt as if my classmates and my teammates were all moving on without me in Maine. Traveling was fun, sure, but I had the worst flying luck anyone had ever seen (a delayed, missed, or canceled flight every time? That’s me!) and Sienese surroundings quickly lost their excitement – not because Siena is mundane, but because everything loses its sparkle with time. I think the greatest shock of studying abroad was realizing that I was living somewhere new, and that routine is a part of living. For some reason, I thought that living somewhere new meant jetting to a new place every weekend.

2. The great part about living somewhere new is that I learned how to live. While abroad, I took four classes that were all interesting courses taught by passionate professors, but the workload was much less than my regular workload back home at Bates. Because of that, I had time to spend on my surroundings. Having worked as an RA my sophomore year, I’ve always lived in dormitory housing. Living in an apartment in Siena forced to be more of an adult…more time was spent “adulting” than studying while I was abroad.

3. Travel is such a wonderful thing. To be surrounded by an entire culture you don’t know, stimulated by unfamiliar sounds and smells…nothing is better. It is tiring, so I would advise planning a trip every two weeks to give yourself a break, but traveling was the best part of studying abroad.

4. I was challenged while abroad. I’m very Type A in that I love making a plan, a list, sticking to it, and feeling satisfied when I’ve followed through with the plan. Almost every time I traveled this fall, I had a plan that fell through…because plans tend to do that every once in awhile. I had to learn to be more flexible and to stop myself from becoming very upset. It’s harder than it sounds. My other struggle was learning to live with three people – one of which I shared a room with – that I did not know.

I have no regrets about going abroad. I’ve tried to be as honest as possible in this post – but to those going abroad to Siena? You will love it. It’s an Italian fairytale that you get to be a part of for several months. How cool is that? 

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Julia Szeto

<p>I am a junior at Bates College, where I study English, Creative Writing, and Chemistry. Though I left the beautiful forests of Portland, Oregon for snowier seasons in Maine, I&#39;ve discovered that there are valuable stories to be heard and told in ever corner, or coast, of the world. I am interested in people and the words they have to say, and I am thrilled to be in a city as rich with history as Siena. I hope to explore new perspectives of culture and life in Siena through words and photographs. Outside of story-telling, I am a varsity coxswain on the Bates rowing team, and I enjoy hiking, trail running, singing loudly in the car, and getting hopelessly lost in a good book.</p>

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