Out of the zillions of things that I kind of wish someone would have alluded at to me before I stepped onto a plane (“Maybe you should bring more than five shirts.” “An extra charger will be useful for when you blow them all out.” “You should really be working more in the summer before you leave instead of spending so much time at the beach bar”) one of them that was mentioned to me which has remained true is to keep an open mind.
This struck me the most when my friend visited from back home last week, who had a hard time with the various eccentricities that cloud Italy like:
1. How my apartment’s electricity switches off at least twice a day
2. Some people get drunk and run around screaming on all the days that end in “y”
3. Any listed times for public transportation have a buffer period of like a year
4. You will get whatever food the chef feels like making
When these, and various other things happened to us, she asked me, “Doesn’t this bug you?” when I realized, no, it actually doesn’t. If I was a random visitor and not well prepared, if I was me three months ago, then yes it would.
But thank you, advisor, for really stressing me to actually keep an open mind and not wholly freak out every time things don’t go my way. This truly is the most important thing in study abroad and perhaps in life: it is very easier to get frustrated, angry, irritable, and downright aghast when things don’t go your way. But if you stop for a second and think to yourself, Okay, what is the other side of this? What are these people thinking? your experience is going to be a whole lot happier.
For example: Those girls who drink every night? Maybe they don’t have the money to travel every weekend like you do, so they’re making up for it by having a good time when they can. That chef who gave you the wrong order? This is his favorite dish and he knew you were going to like it. The fact the bus is like twenty minutes late? Maybe this is teaching you that you need to walk a little faster and stop buying so many cannolis when you should be at the bus stop already.
So spend an extra five seconds thinking about the situation. Take a breather and a laugh after you realize you are lost- again- and yes, the tour group has already left you behind anyway so you might as well begin that self-guided tour now and make some friends. Trust me, having an open mind here in Italy, as well as back in America where you can argue your way out of anything, will take you farther than any plane will.