I just got back from a week in Italy and as you would expect it was amazing. Which makes it painful for me to look back and realize I nearly didn’t go. When I thought about studying abroad I knew it was going to be scary at times. I have pretty bad anxiety and stepping outside of my comfort zone can be really tough. I knew studying abroad would mean finding a new normal and adjusting to a new culture… and I did. I’ve made some awesome new friends through my program and that’s been wonderful, but it also put me back into that ‘safe’ mindset. Going on a trip to Wales or Switzerland was fine as long as I was going with one of my friends. Fast-forward to spring break and that wasn’t an option. Everyone already had plans to travel or visit with family, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
The university I’m studying at partners with a local student travel agency who offers discounted trips for St. Mary’s students. When I saw they had a weeklong trip to Italy with at the Colosseum, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast I was torn. On the one hand, the trip sounded amazing. The trip included visits to the places I’ve been dreaming about visiting since my first Latin class in 6th grade. But, it also meant I would be on my own. I wouldn’t know anyone on the trip and that was pretty scary to consider. So I spent nearly two weeks going over things, back and forth in my head trying to determine if the experience was worth facing my fears. In the end, I decided that not going would be the type of thing I would end up regretting so I took the plunge and paid for the trip. And on that first day in Venice, I found out something funny… everyone was scared. I wasn’t the only one who was starting fresh on this trip with no existing connections and that knowledge made things a lot less scary.
I had the time of my life this week and it made me realize that staying in your comfort zone can’t give you the types of memories that will last a lifetime, but stepping outside of it just might. I met some awesome people in Italy and I got to experience things I’ll never forget. So if you do study abroad don’t get stuck only doing things that are comfortable, try something new it might surprise you.