Studying abroad means change. Not only do you uproot your life and move to a completely different country, you surround yourself with different people, food and cultural norms. The culture shock varies depending on the country, but it happens in some form. If all of this wasn’t overwhelming enough, being immersed in a completely different language will surely get you to that point.
When I first arrived in Florence, my excitement was through the roof. Another girl and I decided to walk around a little bit, check out the neighborhood and get something to eat. We couldn’t have been in Florence for more than a couple of hours when the culture shock really set in. And it stemmed from the simple task of ordering a sandwich. The server didn’t speak much English; we didn’t speak any Italian. It was in this moment that a wave of anxiety came over me. How was I going to communicate in my new home?
This initial feeling stuck with me for the first couple of days. Fortunately, my program requires the participants take an intensive Italian language course the first two weeks. After the first day of class I already was equipped with useful Italian phrases. Each day deemed easier and easier. While the class itself is challenging, the content is practical and extremely useful.
The best thing to do when living in a country with a different language is to simply try. I’ve found that even if my Italian isn’t perfect or if I mess up a phrase, which happens often and causes many Italians to laugh, people appreciate that I’m trying. They are even more likely to help me out. It is all about the effort, so don’t be afraid to mess up or say the wrong thing. It is much better to try and fail than to not try at all. Don’t get frustrated. Simply take it one day at a time and enjoy your new language.