Living abroad comes with a lot of "first times" and this weekend was yet another first time for me. On Sunday I participated in the Stramilano, my first half-marathon! Although I wouldn't say it was the most fun time I've ever had, it was definitely a rewarding experience. Running through the streets of a city I love was motivating and gave me a new appreciation for the place I've made my home. 13 miles is a lot of ground to cover so I even saw areas of Milan that I had never been to before. I had been wanting to participate in a half-marathon for awhile now and when the opportunity came up, I figured why not? And how cool would it be to have done my first one in Italy...
Training added a unique dynamic to traveling because running in new places gave me a chance to see so much more of the cities from a different perspective. Many hidden gems that I would later go to visit were stumbled upon in this way. I'm a firm believer in trying things outside of my comfort zone - the whole "do something that scares you everyday" approach - and there's no better time to test out this philosophy than while abroad.
Now I'm not trying to say that everyone should go run a half-marathon, unless it's something that interests you of course. My point is that we all come abroad with our passions and things we love to do. Going abroad doesn't mean that those have to stop or be put on hold for a few months. I would say that it's especially important to continue to pursue your hobbies while in the midst of so much unfamiliarity. By incorporating daily activities in my life that I normally do at home, such as running or joining a yoga studio, it made the adjustment to a new place easier by having something familiar and consistent to keep me sane when the craziness of living abroad got to be overwhelming. I can guarantee that it's possible to find people who have passions similar to your own and it's worth taking the time to seek them out. It's also very likely that you will make new friends along the way. Even with a language barrier, many activities are done the same way no matter where in the world you go, like running for example, and right away you will already have a connection.
However, like said before, going outside of your comfort zone can really make your experience abroad even more fulfilling. So while keeping your hobbies and passions from home in action, try to branch out a little too and try things that you may have always wanted to but never had the chance or something that is exclusive to the area where you're studying.
So now I'll leave it up to you to decide - what's your half marathon? And quickly, before you can talk yourself out of it, go do it!