So I would like to tell you all about what it's like to travel abroad, live in a new culture, try new foods, learn a new language, and spend most of your time with Americans. Don't get the wrong impression, I'm not upset that most of my time (and free time) are spent with people that speak the same language as me, understand more of my background, and above all are just as uncomfortable as I am in a new culture. The first few weeks I would have gone insane had I not been spending time with my new found friends, instead of going out and trying to meet new people. Now that it's late in the semester, and I am now "comfortable" being in Italy, and I have the Italian acumen to ask where the bathroom is, it's easy to regret not getting out more and trying to meet all these new people and become facebook friends and like each others pictures and funny videos of animals.
But the more I think about it, the more I don't regret the way I handled my social situation. If you are going to study abroad, you'll probably hear everyone saying go make friends from other countries and get out of your comfort zone. Now hear me, don't not do those things. It's good to step out of your comfort zone, because that's when you'll grow. A growing lobster only get's rid of it shell when it's old shell gets too small and uncomfortable, so it has to leave it's shell, be exposed, and wait for a new one to grow in. What I am saying is find a balance. I joined a language exchange program, and despite not knowing a lick of Italian (well I could say what my name was,) I got meet new people that way, and my partner and I became quite good friends (I'll talk more about him later.) But on the other hand, had I ignored the people in my program, I would have gone insane the first few weeks. As much as I like the italian friends I've made, I know who I'll be actually reconnecting with when our program is all said and done, and we all return home to our different schools and states.
I could go on about balance and all that, but I'm sure you'd find it quite boring. I would. So I'll wrap it up quick. Expose yourself. Grow. Be uncomfortable. But don't put all your free time into being uncomfortable. A lot of time you spend traveling and just navigating life abroad will be uncomfortable enough. Be sure to have a good support system around you when things suck, and the only way to do that is to spend time with those people.
To those who are in my program and read these things (I'm laughing if you do) - thank you. You've really done more for me than you know. There. That's all you get from this guy. Ciao.
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<p>My name is Scott Durrwachter, and I am a junior at Penn State studying Business Management. I am studying abroad in Siena, Italy on the Business and Economics of the Food and Wine Industry (does it get any better than that?). My goals in Italy are to keep studying the coffee industry (especially espresso) and to befriend an Italian grandmother who loves to cook.</p>