Wow I cannot believe I am approaching the end of this semester abroad already!
This abroad experience has been one of the greatest journeys of my lifetime. Not only was I able to learn about other cultures and people but also I had the greatest pleasure of learning about myself!
But first let me talk about the importance of bridging other cultures.
If you want the most beneficial and fulfilling study abroad experience then I highly, highly recommend that you go out and connect with your host culture! This is so important to communicate and interact, even if at rudimentary or basic language skills, with the host culture. The more you actively engage with the culture, the more you will learn about it and adapt. Another important point is to do some pre-departure research about the host culture and their native language. When searching on the internet try to go deeper than surface learning, look up how the people interact with one another, what are the beliefs they hold, what are some socially appropriate and inappropriate things to do and say? These two pieces of advice, interact with the host culture and do pre-departure research, were what benefited me the most while studying abroad.
Helpful tip: if you don’t know how to get involved with your host culture other than going to stores I recommend you participate in the many activities offered by your host university and also study abroad program. They typically offer fun activities that get students engaged with locals. (I joined a volunteer opportunity here while in Florence and have made the best relationships with locals and other study abroad students!!!!)
The second most important thing I want to say about studying abroad is that this experience will forever change you. Learning to adapt to a whole new culture can be physically and mentally exhausting, but at the same time it challenges and nurtures you to grow in ways you wouldn’t think possible. From my personal experiences I have been able to do a lot of self reflection and evaluation of my character. I have found a strength and resilience I did not know I possessed and I discovered that I did change a lot from when I first came to Firenze. It is pretty amazing what this study abroad experience has showed me externally and internally. I am more aware of global issues and more open minded of other’s values and beliefs. I have met people from all over Italy, from the local Italians in Firenze to Roma to Venzia and in-between. I have also met many people from all over the world, from Peru to Japan, from Argentina to Ireland, and from Egypt to Russia.
I hope that many more CSP students can experience such an awesome opportunity to meet new cultures, experience adventure, make new friends, and have an amazing journey of self discovery through studying abroad!
But my (& your) journey doesn’t stop there! I will continue to grow and learn even when I come back to the United States. I hope to take my new found knowledge and insight from studying abroad and apply it to my life back home. Studying abroad has changed me and I cannot go back to the way I was, only continue moving forward. So I may be nearing the end of my time in Firenze, Italia but this is only just the beginning of a new and better me.
(MN here I come!)