5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad

1.       How much I’d miss it

This is an obvious one that’s super cheesy, so I figured I would start here. Of course I’m thrilled to be home with friends and family, but there are aspects about the abroad lifestyle that are hard to let go of. I’ve come back to three jobs, money stress, and a bunch of questions from loved ones that I just don’t feel like answering. I’ve gone from the most relaxed I’ve been in a while to instantly being pulled every direction. It’s a hard transition, and one I was not prepared for.

2.       How aggressive the men are in Europe

Now this by no means is meant to be a deterrent, I’m just an honest person and this fact was one I struggled with learning. Of course there are jokes about the men in Europe and their love for the sport of love, but it’s much more serious than that. The aggressive cat calling and following around was something new to me, and to think similar issues were bad in The States is a funny thought to me now. There were quite a few circumstances that I was not prepared to encounter while abroad, and at points it was very scary to me. Now if I were to know these things before going, it wouldn’t have changed a damn thing about my choice to study, but I wouldn’t have been so shocked by it all.

3.       How often I’d be cooking for myself

I used to think I could cook pretty decently for the age I am, but after eating nothing but buttered noodles and hamburger patties for the past four months, I have realized I cannot. I wish I would’ve taken the time to learn a few more simple dishes that would last me a couple of days instead of going into it blindly. Let’s be real, anyone who has been abroad will agree that it feels like a vacation the whole time. But that being said, it doesn’t mean you can eat like you’re on vacation the whole time and go out for every meal. That will kill your budget in less than a month.

4.       How important it is to stick to a budget

Speaking of budgets; HAVE ONE. Don’t be embarrassed that some other people you are surrounded by don’t have to be as frivolous. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re smart about it, you can do everything they can for much much cheaper. I set up a budget for myself the first night I arrived in Florence but I don’t think I looked at it again until about 2 months in when I blew through more than half my money. That was a big uh-oh. I’m currently quite in debt in the bank of Mom so do yourself and your family a favor, be smarter than me with your spending.

5.       How having the time of your life can happen when you are completely on your own

So I’ll end this on a sappy note, because I bet you expected just as much. I arrived to Florence with about 130 kids from my university. A lot of them had planned on going abroad together early on in their college career, and a lot of them all had their very best friend with them on this adventure. I did not. I simply had acquaintances. At first I tried my best to be outgoing and join in on what everyone else wanted to do, but it wore me out. I wasn’t happy. I was always the third wheel, and in some extreme cases, forgotten about while out on the town. It was a hard fact for me to come to terms with and it was a slow road to getting there, but I did get there. I started taking myself out on dinner dates, I’d watch the sunset over the Arno River with a cup of gelato, and I started to do whatever I felt like doing whether I had someone to join me or not. Sure enough, the right kinds of people started showing up in my life once I accepted that it’s okay to be on my own. I have made some incredible new friendships because I started to just be me instead of trying to fit in with who I already knew. Now every abroad experience is different, and I’m very lucky to have gone into this knowing as many people as I did, but it lead to the weirdest growing up lesson that I never would’ve thought I needed. So no matter who you know already or how you end up going abroad, you will have a kick ass time as long as you let yourself and sometimes that means being on your own. Hell, I still experienced the world whether I had people to share it with or not, so can you.

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