Immersing myself into this world of studying abroad has opened my eyes in countless ways and provided an entirely new perspective on life in almost every aspect. The idea of traveling the world, learning and living in an entirely new culture, being on your own, moving thousands of miles from everything familiar, has always seemed like a dream, maybe one that was even too far off to turn into a reality. Specifically, after having gone through some of what should have been the most eye-opening periods of change and growth in my life during COVID, I realized that dreaming of these life experiences means nothing if I don’t take a step forward and go after the life that I desire. How would I know what I want out of life, in any sense, if my entire world remained solely in the confines of my hometown? You never know what the world has to offer, you never gain true perspective of a life other than the one you are currently living, until you broaden your horizons, open your eyes and your mind to all of the world that is around you.
That being said, studying abroad has allowed me to see everything in a new light. Whether it is the language barriers that I have to hurdle all day long, the social relationships I’ve made that quickly turn into a lifelong bond, the further appreciation that I gain for where I come from and the people that the distance now lies between, the sense of balance that I have to perfect in regards to school work and living, even the drastic increase in common sense, safety, and responsibility that I am forced to attain while living on my own and traveling to new places… Anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad will certainly return home a different person, one with a wonderfully cultured mindset: One of independence.
Furthermore, in the area of psychology that I study, it is extremely important to understand the norms and the concepts of other cultures and being able to witness this firsthand will forever aid me in my field. I believe it is nearly impossible to truly understand someone without understanding how their deeply routed heritage could be entirely different from one’s own. How we grow up, our traditions, routines, and habits shape us into who we are and why we believe in what we do or act in a particular way. In order to positively impact and assist others, I have always been interested in discovering the heritage of a world other than my own. I have the privilege of traveling to a different country every weekend and becoming a temporary “local” in Italy, which in itself, expands my cultural awareness immensely.
In terms of living and financial situations, I am forced to deal with things here that I have never had to before. I am responsible for maintaining my own apartment and being a good neighbor to my surrounding families, being that I live in a purely residential area and building. This makes problem solving and social cues two very important characteristics to have, which are also equally as important to have and to work on generally in life. Because my time here in Rome is, unfortunately, limited, I must make the most of my time, planning trips, doing work, and living life in a smart way. This includes financial intelligence and strategic budgeting.
Overall, I would not trade my experience abroad for anything and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of doing it, if there is ever a time to do something of this caliper, the time is now. I will leave a quote by Anthony Bourdain that has spoken volumes to me throughout the past few months: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
Annalese G. is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Dance at Salve Regina University. She is currently studying abroad at the American University of Rome in Rome, Italy.