You’ll learn some pretty cool things while studying abroad, I promise. And if you’ve already studied abroad, can I get an “amen” for every point I’m making?!
1. If you study abroad, you will learn to be a better friend.
With regards to everyone you love back home, you have to be dedicated to keeping in touch. You have to deal with a difficult time change (7 hours for me!) and not simply being able to walk into the next room and see your roommates/friends/sisters every day. You have to keep those relationships by doing whatever you can: texting, FaceTiming, Snapchatting, or one of my personal favorites, weekly email updates.
You also learn to connect with and open up to an entirely new group of people. I personally did not know a soul when I came to Rome, Italy, and had to make a whole new set of friendships with the other people in my program. While strange, it’s kind of like going to college freshman year, only you’re not all clueless freshmen! You’re a group of people with one very similar mindset that says. “let’s have a good time while abroad together!”
2. If you study abroad, you will become more independent.
It’s very easy to get into a comfortable routine while you’re at college and spend more time in class or in your apartment/dorm room/house than anywhere else. However, while you’re abroad, you only have a set amount of time to explore your surroundings. For me, this meant that I only had three and a half months to visit the Vatican City, throw coins into the Trevi Fountain, wander through the Roman Forum, consume as much gelato as humanly possible, and sit in the Borghese Gardens. I had to learn to go do all these things on my own, because if you rely on following the pack and just doing what everyone else wants to do all the time, you won’t truly make the most of your time abroad. Make your own plans, discover your own favorite museums, and find your confidence.
3. If you study abroad, you will learn to say yes to anything and everything.
Want to go to a wine tasting? Yes. Want to learn how to make spaghetti carbonara? Absolutely. Want to take a weekend trip to a gorgeous town on the Italian coast? Count me in! Want to be introduced to the wonderful concept of apertivo? DUH! There are so many incredible opportunities that will be offered to you while abroad, and you absolutely have to do one thing: Take. Every. Single. One.
4. If you study abroad, you will learn a new language.
For me, this meant learning Italian unless I wanted to be completely lost in grocery stores and attempting to read basically anything and everything. It was necessary, but it was also FUN! I’m still far from fluent, but the sense of pride you get when successfully holding a conversation with a stranger in a café is unlike any other – even if you do mess up a few words.
This whole “new language” thing also doesn’t just mean something other than English. There’s this different and kind of unexplainable way that people who have studied abroad have conversations with each other. The kinds of relationships that you develop after being with people for just a few months, but in such an abnormal setting (not a bad thing at all, by the way) are different from any other, but they’re still just as incredibly deep-seeded and meaningful. Even just in regards to daily life while abroad, after each weekend you’re not just asking questions like “oh how was that Netflix series you finished?” but instead, “How much did you love Greece?!” or “Wow I loved all your pictures from riding camels in Morocco!”
5. If you study abroad, you will fall in love.
No, I’m not talking about falling for a hunky guy named Paolo riding around on his Vespa and having your first kiss in front of the Trevi Fountain at night. I’m talking about falling head over heels, irrevocably, inexplicably in love with your temporary home. No matter where you are, what you’re studying or what other trips you take while abroad, you develop an indescribable longing to stay in your home city forever. So naturally, you will absolutely have to go back someday!
This post about what happens to you when you study abroad was contributed by Emma James, who studied with AIFS in Rome, Italy.