Cobblestone streets, aperol spritz, long sandwich lines, tour guides, ornate cathedrals, leather stores, cappuccinos, violins, chianti classico, afternoon gelato. It’s a challenge to describe what my life was like while studying abroad in Florence. It’s easy to talk about the trips and the cities I visited on the weekends, but looking back I think the most incredible part of the whole experience was all of these little things in my everyday life in Florence that just became my normal. The very fact that I had the opportunity to live in another country for long enough for it to eventually feel normal and for me to feel like a local in a completely different country was simply a life-changing experience but this is a part of studying abroad that is difficult to put into words.
There were definite phases of studying abroad. The first month and a half or so I don’t think I was able to utter any other word than ‘wow’. Seeing so much so fast was a sense of adrenaline I had never felt before. I like to refer to this as the “butterfly stage”. Eventually, the nerves and adrenaline somewhat settled and I sometimes found myself passing the duomo on my way to class, forgetting to look up and admire it. I felt so much guilt at first, until I realized that I was no longer a tourist. Anyone can go visit a different country and experience that spark but not many people get the chance to stay long enough for this initial excitement to settle. After a couple months of living there, I began to experience what studying abroad is truly about; I became immersed into a different culture.
To the next study abroad student, there are three main words of advice that I can give you. First, there is always someone much closer than you think who is willing to help you.
Whether you are lost in a train station in Switzerland or having a difficult time adjusting to your new surroundings, help is always right there but you have to be willing to ask for it. Second, talk to as many people as you can and ask them where they are from (especially if they don’t speak English, just figure it out). One of my favorite parts of studying abroad was all of the people I met from all over the world with completely different backgrounds. It’s the easiest conversation starter and you’ll make some awesome friends. Third, this will most likely be the most incredible experience of your life thus far. That does not mean that you won’t miss home at some point or feel stressed or overwhelmed. It is all completely normal and you need to allow yourself to feel these things, but don’t think too much about them. There is nothing wrong with feeling these things and they will pass.
In conclusion, I’m still learning how to answer the biggest question post-study abroad, “how was it?”. I don’t know how to explain the best four months of my life in even a million words, much less a few summarized sentences. I would have to write a book to share the details of every story, every person I met and every unforgettable place that I saw. This fact is truly bittersweet because I desperately want everyone to have the same experience that I had, but no one will really get to know my study abroad experience unless they experience it themselves. So do me a favor and study abroad. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Chloe Hill (BA Art: Studio) spent Fall 2022 studying abroad in Florence, Italy through API. Chloe had the following to say about studying abroad, “Do it for the plot.”
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