Top 10 Things I Learned from Studying Abroad
Mary M. is from Quinnipiac University. She is a Junior Marketing/International Business Major who found her passion for traveling after studying abroad in Rome. Mary aspires to one day work internationally with on a major sports campaign. She loves being involved in her campus community and experiencing college to the fullest.
Last Spring, I studied abroad in Rome. At the end of my time, I made a list of the 10 things I learned from being abroad. Here’s a list for those of you who are finishing up your time abroad, gearing up for the fall semester or are missing a past study abroad experience.
1. GET LOST. It’s the best way to learn a new place. Forget a map, stumble into something amazing and unexpected instead. You’ll end up where you belong eventually, it just might take a bit longer.
2. EAT EVERYTHING. As the world’s formerly pickiest, but most avid eater, my culinary horizons have expanded tenfold in the 4 months I’ve spent in Europe. Salmon pasta, a dish I wouldn’t even consider smelling in the states, is one of my warmest memories of Rome. After my trip to Greece, I hereby swear to only eat Greek food for the entire summer. Tzatziki is my new best friend.
3. LISTEN. If there is one thing I’ve had to learn how to do, it’s listen. Trying to learn a new language is incredibly hard, but listening to the people around you speak is the best way to pick it up. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up, but with a little time and extra effort, you’ll hear something amazing.
4. SLOW DOWN. For me, long legs + no patience= fast walking. That is actually impossible in Rome, and even Europe for that matter. What’s the point in running somewhere? So you can get there 2 minutes faster? Rome has been around for hundreds of years, chances are it’ll wait a few more minutes for you.
5. SEE, DON’T LOOK. This might actually be the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. In the beginning of my trip, I would get so overwhelmed that I would just stop what I was doing and take in my surroundings. I wouldn’t look at where I was, I would actually SEE it. I would see the leftover food from the market, the shrine to Santa Maria above the nasone, the detailed shutters on the apartment buildings. Seeing means appreciating.
6. RELAX. I’ve been told in my travels (and actually this is mentioned in the book Eat Pray Love) that Americans don’t know how to relax. We run, run, run, work, work, work, and then stop our lives for two days a week to do absolutely nothing. Here, people take long walks for the sake of walking and actually taste the food they’re eating. Do something you thoroughly enjoy, not just that is a mindless effort. This is a concept I’m still working on, slowly but surely.
7. PATIENCE IS TRULY A VIRTUE. I thought I was going to go insane when I
got to Rome. Everything was slow, nothing was on time, and no one knew where anything was. Take a deep breath, think about where you are, and move with the flow of the world around you.
8. DON’T PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED. Traveling with various people will teach you more lessons than I can possibly list. I’ve learned that flowing is the best thing to do in situations that you can’t control. Okay, you booked the wrong train home and you’re facing a 300 euro fine. There’s a solution, it will come right to you. But be prepared to run a lot… that seems to be involved in all of my solutions—especially involving transportation.
9. LEARN YOURSELF. It’s such an abstract concept. I thought I knew everything about myself coming to Europe. I’ve never thought about what I truly wanted out of life more than my time here. And more than just that, I’ve gone after it. It’s never too early to start figuring yourself out.
10. TRAVEL. It’s absolutely the best thing you can do for yourself, plain and simply. Being in Europe has given me the itch to see not only other continents, but all the places in America that I’ve never even considered travelling to. To know yourself is to know where you’re from.