I probably say this about eighteen times a day (rough guess) but I literally CANNOT BELIEVE that I really only have a few more weeks here. Before getting on my plane to Italy, as my mother cried at the airport, I thought to myself, Wow, a semester. That’s a long effing time. Guess what. It’s not. Not in the least. In a few short weeks I will be sitting on yet another plane, waving goodbye to beautiful Italy and saying hello again to my New Jersey, praying that it is still in one piece and that the world doesn’t end in December. Anyway, having been here a fair amount of time thus far, I thought I would share with you some things that I have learned as of now, mostly which I have mused on while sitting on six-hour bus rides to random places. I really hope this doesn’t sound like mom advice.
1. Sometimes, you have to hunt for reasons to like people. When you’re studying abroad, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be with a group of other kids from your University. And, inevitably, you will find reasons to dislike some of them. Well guess what. Unlike being at school, you can’t just avoid these people. Whether you like it or not, this is your family for the next three months, and you better get used to it. With this in mind, and knowing there is no option to make someone disappear from your life, you’ll find that it’s actually pretty easy to find reasons to like anyone. And not only will this make your whole experience less stressful, but it’ll make you find values that you want to create in yourself. BOOM.
2. Nobody’s way of life is better or worse than yours. Being that the only place I have ever lived is the United States, I was under the extremely ignorant impression that more or less, everyone kind of does things the same way. This is not true. Depending on what country you’re lucky enough to call home, I’m guessing you’re drastically different, solely from the point that you live somewhere else. And this doesn’t make your way better, or their way better. It’s just another way, and just as your way is second nature to you, so is theirs. When studying abroad, there is a lot of talk on having an open mind, which makes you watch cultures intently instead of just shunning them.
3. Don’t stress the small things. Think of your last trip. Think of all the ways that you messed up, all the little things that make you go UGHHH because you wished you planned a little better or did something differently. Now multiply this by fifteen weeks of a semester, and that is studying abroad. When being in another country, it’s easy to want to get frustrated enough to want to punch a baby because you’re lost, you can’t figure out where the bathroom is, you haven’t eaten in sixteen hours, you missed the plane… well guess what, people. THIS STUFF HAPPENS. And if you let it get you down, it will kill you. Best to just be happy you’re there at all, sick and covered in odd red hives or not.
4. You are so obscenely lucky. All throughout my life, I kinda felt like I was getting screwed over. I always felt like I was working so hard and still not getting the respect I thought I deserved from my peers, my professors, my bosses, my family. I always felt like I was getting the short end of the stick and it just wasn’t fair. Now when I walk down the street from my class to my apartment and see this view, I am so humbled that I want to cry. I literally cannot believe how blessed I am to be here and I wonder why the hell, out of all people, that I was given the opportunity to live in such a magnificent place. This is how you should feel no matter where you are.
5. You don’t always have to be on the verge of an anxiety attack. Speaking of working my ass off, I am always working my ass off. This is a fact. And now that I’m here, where people eat three hour lunches and bike to work and fall asleep at 2:00 pm, I feel like an idiot. Not that being a hard worker is entirely bad, but if you stop working at 11:00 pm and get up at 7:00 am just to do it all again tomorrow, there may be a problem. Life is short. Chill out. Sit down.
6. Make the most of it. It’s easy to hear those dumb quotes at home like No regrets. Live your life. and it’s also easy to abide by them… from time to time. Unlike life, though, in study abroad, you know your expiration date. This makes it much easier to say, Okay. I have six more weeks here. That’s it. Better make it count. Now if only we could say that in the grand scheme of our lives.
7. Wherever you are, be all there. Even though I love Italy with all my heart, sometimes I get a little homesick. Sometimes I miss my friends and speaking English and feeling not so much like an outsider, and I think to the day when I get back on my plane to New Jersey (provided that it’s still there, thanks for nothing Sandy). But the truth is this- you can be miserable no matter where you are. You can wish you were doing something else or being someone else or with someone else. This doesn’t make where you are any less of a reality. No matter what you do, whether it’s cry to your mom or go out and get smashed with your new friends, you will still be home the exact same day. This is a promise. So… what do you want to do?
8. Spend your time (and money) doing things that matter. When abroad, it’s pretty easy to piss away your budget on badly mixed drinks and gelato. Trust me, I am well aware. But, when standing at that counter, slurring your words to the bartender, hopefully you can think ahead to where else that money could be going. So, when home, before dropping dollars on a new pair of shoes the second you get your paycheck, look at the big picture. See beyond the obvious so that you can do something worthwhile.
That’s all I have for now. I wanted to get to ten but I couldn’t really think of any more right now and I really should be packing for my trip to Ireland tomorrow. LEARN SOMETHING PEOPLE! Knowledge is power!