Balancing Schoolwork, Friends and Adventure: Study Abroad in Italy

April 25, 2019

Studying abroad can be a liberating, but isolating experience. A way to make it less isolating is to remind yourself of all the people who helped you get here, through the application process up to the little gelateria I just visited. As exciting as a study abroad experience can be, it can also be difficult to find a balance between work and adventure– because after all, I am here for school, studying at Università degli Studi di Pavia.

Support From Friends Both Old and New

Staying in contact with friends and family has helped me with the bouts of homesickness I have been experiencing. One important thing I have noticed is that hanging out with friends and pushing myself to be extroverted has allowed me to meet many people. It can be scary to place faith and hope in strangers, but as long as you stay aware and alert it can lead to magical connections.

I want to thank the first person who helped me reach Pavia; my friend Carla. While she was traveling back from Kenya to Pavia, she took me under her wing to show me directions and to welcome me to Italy with open arms. I want to thank Eylul who, after hearing my strained attempts at Italian, rushed to my aid to check me in and show me around the labyrinth that is Collegio Castiglioni. She introduced me to her friends who are now my friends. I want to thank Issadora who traveled with me to Rome. Her extroverted personality and warm approach has allowed us to share some timeless memories. Lastly, I want to thank my friends and family who text and chat with me all the time to check up and remind me how envious they are. Knowing that I get to see you at home and share my stories with you excites me!

Sometimes, being alone produces the greatest lessons and memories. Being honest with yourself about what and who you need is not a weakness, but a strength. Go under someone’s wing, have faith (but not blind faith) in the people around you. Most importantly, when times get tough, remind yourself why you are here, what you will achieve and that everyone back home is waiting for you with so much love and respect. That is la gioia della vita, or the joy of life!

Making the Most of It, In Moderation

This is my first time outside of the United States and I have a severe case of wanderlust. I do not like to be in one place for too long and there is so much to see in this big beautiful world. So, naturally I have felt the need to travel every weekend, this is why I was grateful that my program does not have class on Fridays. I spent my first weekend in Rome, then I stayed in Pavia to explore my new home, after that I went to Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Florence, and finally Prague! This is what I was supposed to be doing right?

I worked and saved all this money to be able to travel at my own will during my five months abroad. Well, while you may be young and able, your body will begin to tell you when it needs to rest and your wallet will say the same thing too. The lesson is, you don’t have to travel every weekend, quality over quantity! I am more fond of spending a good amount of time in a place without an itinerary so I can wander around and have my own authentic experience. I hate having to rush here and there to see this and that. Also, when you have tons of reading to do before the next week, you just don’t have the time to do everything. Unless, that is, you bring your work with you, can focus really well, and dedicate time to studying while you are traveling.

The message here is balance. Find that comfortable spot between checking off places and things from your bucket list while also remaining focused on why you are here (and how far a dollar can stretch!) And don’t be too frustrated with yourself when you are studying while you really want to be outside exploring. As my grandfather put it, the study abroad experience hands you so many things and it’s up to you to do the best you can to maintain them all, but you are human, and you will figure it out. Remember that the world is not going anywhere anytime soon so if you can’t get everywhere you want to be now, remember that if you truly want to come back and go, you will make it happen.

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