Studying abroad is different than simply traveling around because whatever city you are staying in for 4 months is your classroom, and your weekends are filled with new adventures. Rome became my home back in January, and it will be for the next month or so. Not many college students get this experience, so I am so fortunate that I have a second home in Europe. But, if you have the chance: take it. Here are 8 reasons to study abroad for a whole semester...
1. You will learn a lot about yourself
|By the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele, if you climb to the top there is a great view.|
I cannot recall a time in my life where I have felt more in touch with who I am than this present moment in Rome. I have not only learned more about myself but also, my heritage. I am 25% Italian and still have family in Southern Italy. I've learned more about my family's traditions here, I saw the farm my great grandfather grew up on and spoke Italian with my cousins. Another thing is that my style has completely evolved because European fashion has had a heavy influence on my life!
Wherever you go and whatever your connection might be with that place (even if you have no connection with it at first) you will start to understand where you fit in this world.
2. Meet new people & make friends for life
|By the sea in Cinque Terre, Italy with my friends Anna, Grace, and Crystle.|
I have met so many awesome people while abroad! These are girls and guys I will be friends with for the rest of my life because of all the great experiences we've had here together. It's not hard to make friends while studying abroad because, well, you're all in the same boat. You're all away from home, in a new environment, and looking for adventure. My friends and I basically started planning travel weekends the moment we all met!
You will also meet locals or other travelers. I've met people simply because they heard me speaking English and they were Americans too, or they wanted to practice their English and were curious. If you're naturally shy, I would tell you that you should go abroad. According to the Myer-Briggs test, I am an ENFP, which means I am an extrovert, but they frequently describe my type as the introverted-extrovert. Even if you tend to be more introverted, it's important to expand yourself (I'll chat about this more, later).
3. Have the chance to become a part of a new culture
There are many things I love about Italian and Roman culture, but also some things I can't stand. Wherever you go, there will be differences and similarities. Sometimes it's the small things. The bus system here is so slow and never on time, that really gets to me. Italians eat sweet pastries for breakfast and drink cappuccinos and espressos; I love savory food in the morning and I'm not a coffee drinker. Things like this drove me nuts after my first month here, but I've since learned to embrace those differences.
It is all an adjustment, but it is an amazing, exciting adventure at the same time. You will try local foods, enjoy cultural traditions, and even adapt to dressing the part. It has given me and many others I know a better sense of our own cultures, no matter where we come from, and also has sparked a great creativity in me.
4. Expand your comfort zone
|Jumping into the Aegean Sea off the coast of Santorini, Greece.|
When you leave home for a semester and head to a new country, it can be daunting. But, those of us who have studied abroad know it was all worth it. When you decide to study abroad, you know you are about to embark on the greatest adventure. It expands your comfort zone in so many ways: physically, emotionally, and mentally. My friends went paragliding in Portugal, we took six flights in just nine days, we've tried new cuisines, jumped into the freezing cold Aegean Sea, and questioned our own beliefs. You'll never know yourself until you experience something outside of your own self.
5. Learn a new language
Language is not my forte, but I've studied Italian for the past year to prepare for my time here. Although I am still not very good, I'm not sure how I would have learned this much Italian at home. If you are more interested in learning new languages than I am, study abroad is the perfect opportunity to do so.
6. Take a break from your normal daily routine
|Kiwi/banana and local lemon gelato in Vernazza, Italy - Cinque Terre.|
Normal does not exist when you study abroad for a semester. Sure, you have class, but in between that time, you're exploring your life away. I was very accustomed to chilling in my dorm when I had downtime in between class back in Chicago, but now I am constantly out and about. That means going to the Vatican, or just chilling with my friends in the cafe, or shopping on Via del Corso (where I spend a majority of my time). I hardly ever find myself in my room because I have no time to waste, I will see everything here if it kills me!
It's a very different life, but it's absolutely incredible. We eat gelato all the time, pasta at every meal, and we walk practically everywhere. Normally I try to be gluten and dairy-free, and I plan to go back to that diet when I'm home, but for now I can't pass up amazing Italian meals. We all need to step away from the normal sometimes and see what life would be like in a different light.
7. See this beautiful world in a new light
|Amsterdam, The Netherlands - AKA the weirdest and more unique city I've ever visited|
I cannot fathom how many beautiful places I've seen, yet I've hardly made a dent in Europe. In Italy alone there is so much to see; I've been to Milan, Florence, Venice, and some smaller cities along the way. As for Europe, I've been to Athens and Santorini in Greece, Amsterdam, London, and will be seeing Paris and Barcelona soon. It's incredible to think that's only a small fraction of Europe.
Study abroad infects you with a major travel bug. It's like an addiction you can't get rid of. The exhilaration of boarding trains and planes and touching down in a new city every weekend is breathtaking. I left a lot of people I love back at home and Chicago to come here for 4 months, but I know they realize how happy I am to experience all of this; never be afraid to take an opportunity to see the world and travel.
8. Make your host city your classroom (and new home)
|Montecassino Cathedral in Cassino, Italy. The most beautiful church I have ever set eyes on.|
And finally, although I will be heading back to the United States, my true home, in just a month or so, I will always consider Rome a second home. Rome has shaped me into the girl that's ready to channel everything she's learned into something great. I haven't taken any classes toward my major here, yet I've enjoyed it because I actually get to experience the history that is surrounding me. I have an on-site class every week where I get to go learn and see beautiful churches and basilicas. It's the best way to learn!
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I will turn 20 years old at the airport as I head off to Ibiza and Barcelona in just a few weeks. This is just one big great dream. I thought I would write about my experience with study abroad while I am still here because I want anyone to know who is even thinking of going abroad that it is 100% worth it. Frequently I say YOLO here and a lot of people probably think I'm really strange, but it's true! C'mon, I mean, when are you going to get the chance to study in a different country other than in college? If you have the opportunity, take it. I can't stress it enough. I'll be harsh: I don't care if you have a significant other at home, if they are really good to you, they will be able to let you go and live your life... Ask my boyfriend. Distance doesn't destroy a good relationship. Take the opportunity if you are so fortunate to be able to see the world and live in a new country.
If you're not sure about doing a whole semester abroad, there are always summer options that usually are only a month. I was looking into that, but personally, I think you need more than a month to really experience a culture. I hope this has helped you decide to study abroad! You can tweet me your questions whenever you like; I'm an open book!