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Reevaluating My Study Abroad Expectations

by Meredith McLaurin
AIFS student in Rome, Italy

My first few weeks abroad are finished. I’ve been in Rome for less than a month and I have already learned a huge lesson: Not everything will be what I dreamed it would be.

When I imagined coming to Rome, it was picture perfect. No flaws. Everyone would get along, would like me, and I would learn Italian in a week. What I didn’t realize until I arrived in Italy is that I was running away from a lot when I decided to study abroad, like troubles back home with myself or people in my life — and guess what? They traveled with me over to Italy, as well. Part of me expected these troubles to resolve as a result of studying abroad, but they didn’t. That’s not how life works.

I realized that I had to adjust my expectations — both for myself and for my study abroad experience in Rome — to reach the level of growth I want to attain while in Italy. The truth is that it’s not easy. Being somewhere where the language is different, where the people are different, where my family isn’t an hour away, and where I’m out of my comfort zone is challenging. I never pictured being able to take the chance that I did take, because I love being comfortable.

But here I am, 8000 miles away from home with strangers for friends who make my apartment on Borgo Pio feel like home, hearing sounds and a language that is starting to grow on me (even the different ambulance sirens, kind of).

I’m learning that not every day is going to be perfect — there will be drama, disappointments, loneliness, but that’s part of it all. Growth and change are challenges that everyone on a study abroad program will face. Then suddenly, the fear of change disappears and you are able to open your eyes to the beauty that was always around you, like the Italian sun hitting your skin, the warmth of feeling love from your new friends, and the sweet memories that are constantly seeping into your mind.

It’s not always perfect, but it’s worth it.

This post was contributed by Meredith McLaurin, a student from Mississippi State University who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Rome, Italy.

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