So here I am two days before I leave the US for the wonderful country of Italia, and I’m staring at an empty suitcase. Packing that suitcase is like admitting that I’m going to be gone for an entire semester, living in a foreign place, with foreign people and leaving all comfort and familiarity behind.
This post really has no new information other than the fact that I’m in denial about leaving and I’m trying my best to get excited without becoming a nervous wreck at the same time.
So in order for me to quiet the doubts in my head and the fears about being away, I’ve decided to make some goals for my abroad experience. “You get out of it what you put into it” is what I’ve heard, and I plan to get a lot out of it, so here goes:
1. Travel as much as possible. Now I do plan to get to know the city of Perugia itself very well and learn about it’s history and culture. But there is so much of Italy and of Europe that I would love to see as well. There is a fall break trip planned by the Umbra staff every year and this year it is to Southern Italy. This trip will go through Ischia, Capri, Naples, and Pompeii in three days. I will definitely be going on this trip so I can see the beauty of Capri and Ischia and the ruins of Pompeii, as well as taste some pizza in Naples! Other cities in Italy that I would love to visit include Rome (and the Vatican City), Siena, Assissi, Venice, Verona, Parma, Florence, Pisa, Ravenna, and my grandmother’s town of Pacentro. Hopefully I will be able to travel other places within Europe like France, Spain, England, and Greece. But that will all depend on cost!
2. Embrace the culture and new experiences. I know this is a very general statement and all the handbooks you could read about study abroad have this exact line. In my case, I am not a very experienced traveler and I’m worried about how the “settling in” part will go. So I should probably say this goal is more like, be open to new experiences and don’t skip out on things for the sake of comfort. I want to be able to recognize difficult situations as learning experiences and not be intimidated easily. The challenge of speaking Italian will be a struggle at first, but I hope to be proficient in the language by the end of the semester. Especially since I will be greeted with a 400-level Italian class at U of R on my return.
3. Make some awesome friends. This goal is more practical than sentimental, although I do hope to meet some great people while I’m abroad that I can stay in touch with. The number one piece of advice I’ve received from friends and family members is to “NEVER TRAVEL ALONE.” I hope I make some fast friends with reliable people so that I have a trustworthy group to travel with and make memories with.
4. Keep myself busy and involved. I hope to join in with the activities that Umbra plans for its students so that I can fully enjoy my time in Perugia. There is a professor there who plans hiking trips for students on the weekends, and I will definitely be joining in on a hike or two in the surrounding national parks. The EuroChocolate festival is held in Perugia, and is an annual celebration of the best cure-all I know of: chocolate. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on the fact that I will be going and nothing is going to keep me from sampling as much European chocolate as I am capable of consuming.
5. Remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and be thankful for that. I can probably safely say that at no other point in my life will I be able to attend a university in a foreign country. I will never again have this opportunity and I need to make the most of it. The less time I spend worrying, stressing, and missing home, the greater and more rewarding experience I will have. I must remember that I will be in ITALY and I will be living my dream, and I need to learn how to appreciate my time there.
This trip is going to be the biggest step out of my comfort zone that I’ve ever taken, and I just need to throw myself into it. I have a great support system at home (and abroad as well) so I won’t be completely on my own. Now I think it’s about time I quit worrying and procrastinating by writing this and start packing.