I've been in Rome for about a month and a half now and I feel like I've finally settled into my life here (it only took half of the whole semester.) When I first arrived, I was so timid and easily overwhelmed! If I wanted to go somewhere, I would pause and think, “how can I go if I have to take the train! I don’t know how to do that!” If I wanted to go into a store, I’d think, “what if they speak Italian to me and I don’t know how to answer and I accidentally offend them and can never come back to this store again.”
If you’re thinking of studying abroad, I have one piece of advice: recognize irrational, spiraling thoughts and ask yourself instead what the worst-case scenario is. If you take the wrong train, what’s the worst that will happen? What steps can you take to minimize the risk of that happening? The thing is, you can’t avoid interacting with the unknown forever. It’s just not going to work. About a week and a half into the semester, I realized that there is no getting around discomfort. I took the train. I went into the stores that I could only hover outside of on my first few days. I took my keys, laced up my shoes, and went wherever I wanted.
Some people who study abroad are already seasoned travelers and have been through this before. That’s awesome, but others are still like little caterpillars clawing at their cocoons, reluctant to bust out their beautiful new wings and fly across the world. Now that I’ve been here for a while, I have some good news for all the wee caterpillars of the world: your wings will come. Little by little, studying abroad makes you bolder. When you take the train for the first time, you realize that you were perfectly capable of doing it. When you get lost for the first time and have to get yourself home, you realize that you’re resourceful. When you’re ignorant about something cultural, you realize that a bit of embarrassment is not the end of the world. When you get through things, you start to realize that you’re capable of more than you ever thought. Slowly, you start to become more open to doing things that once intimidated you. Adapting, learning, and overcoming obstacles makes you empowered.
I’ve definitely grown over the last month. I’ve made friends, I’ve gone on trips, and I’ve been enjoying every day (except that one day when I was walking to class from the Vatican Museums and the sunny weather suddenly transformed into an apocalyptic thunderstorm that left me crawling into the IES Abroad Center like a drowned rat emerging from the sewers while everyone else was dry because it didn’t rain near the school, BUT THAT BUILT CHARACTER SO IT’S OK!!!!
I even took the plunge one day and decided to get a pixie cut, a decision that I absolutely would NOT have made before this semester. The thing is, while abroad I’ve started to question things like why I would have never gotten a pixie cut before. What was holding me back? What other people think of your hair and clothes all seems so insignificant when you live less than two minutes away from the Pantheon. If you want to do something, just do it!
For all of the people out there who are nervous about studying abroad, I sincerely believe that you won’t regret it. You’ll love the you that you become throughout your journey, and that’s worth grappling with all of the anxiety and fear that will try to hold you back. If I can do it (and I swear, I am the biggest bundle of nerves you’ll ever meet), then you can too!
More Blogs From This Author
<p>My name is Charlotte and I'm a senior at Penn State studying Human Development and Sociology. I like traveling, baking, k-pop, rabbits, and collecting scrunchies!</p>