Okay so ignore my last post.
Not really, but last time I talked about being sure you are comfortable and having a good support system around you so that when things suck, you've got good people around you who can probably understand you a little better since they are in the same, or similar situations. Well this time I'm gonna tell you to keep that in mind, but don't just sit in your apartment all day long (besides class time, go to school people) watching Netflix or skyping friends and family from home. Those are good things to get your mind off of culture shock (I did my fair share, okay maybe more than my fair share, of those things) but in my honest, unqualified, IES Abroad blogger opinion, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. What I mean is get out there and become a part of the culture. Let me tell you a story. The first week I was here I thought I made a huge mistake in committing just even 3 months of being away from home. I had a crappy time getting into Italy (plane had to land at a different airport than scheduled,) was tired of an orientation week, and hadn't really connected with anyone. But instead of staying in my room and talking to my girlfriend or family, I went out to experience an Italian dinner. This wasn't initially my idea, but my sister knocked some sense into me by going out. I went to a restaurant, ordered lasagne and wine and sparkling water, and I loved it. I didn't go out with anyone, and I was the only one in the restaurant. But that just meant the waiter, Salvatore, and I got to talk more. "Talking" meant lots of charades and hand gestures. But without that small interaction, I would have kept going through that week thinking that I couldn't meet anyone new, make a friend, or even adapt to the Italian culture.
One of my biggest recommendations is to join a language exchange, even if you don't know the language. I struck absolute gold in our exchange with my partner Simone. Simone is practically fluent in English, and is one of the nicest person I've met. He is great at conversation, wants to get to know you, know what you like, and then he wants to like it too, so you both can talk about it. He even got his friends to all get together and cook me and all my American friends a dinner. Not once, but twice they did this. He even took me to his home town on the coast and let me stay with his family, just because he was excited to show me his home. And when I went to Rome with some friends, he wrote down all the places I should go, and how to get to each of those locations. This is all because I said I would come to hang out with a group of people each Wednesday night and play games with them. Yeah I think that worked out for me. I would recommend you try it too, because you never know who you are going to meet, and how your whole study abroad experience can change simply because you have a local on your side.
So while making sure you've got friends who can understand you better, make sure you get out and meet some new people. Or else you may miss the whole point of the studying abroad experience.
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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>