by Kristi Rolf
Out of my three-month semester in Italy, I have less than three weeks left! For my final article from this side of the Atlantic, I want to reflect on my time here. It’s fascinating to compare my expectations about this semester to what has actually happened. For years I wanted to study abroad for all the usual reasons: to push myself outside my comfort zone, practice a foreign language, and travel.
It was impossible to understand what those catchy phrases truly meant until I was here, doing those things. This is what they’ve looked like so far.
Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone meant persevering through weeks of intense homesickness. It means braving conversation with strangers at hostels in new cities. It inspired me to travel alone this weekend and spend three whole days exploring solo. I couldn’t have imagined doing that two months ago, but now I can’t wait for the challenge.
Practicing a foreign language means absolutely sucking at doing very ordinary things. Grocery shopping takes twice as long when you struggle to read labels. Ordering at a small-town restaurant can turn into a guessing game when you have no cell service to use google translate and the waiter does not speak English. But you just might be rewarded with the best pasta of your life, even if you have no clue what is in it (I think I ate squid ink but I’m not sure).
This semester was an opportunity to grow personally in two significant ways: shifting my priorities and practicing spontaneity. This past Thursday, I left class at 2pm, walked to my apartment for a quick leftover lunch, packed a bag, and was on a train to Venice by 4:30. On the train I realized that the jeans I was wearing hadn’t been washed since I wore them the previous weekend in Florence. Oh well, laundry could wait along with the homework I had left undone.
A weekend like that never would have happened back home. But here I’ve succeeded in prioritizing travel over academics and adventure over routine. That was my goal at the beginning of the semester, but it took practice and an ample dose of anxiety to get there. Hopefully I’ll be able to switch back to a more studious mindset for my senior year.
This semester has been harder and more incredible than I could have imagined. I’ve seen the most beautiful places and met the most wonderful people. I’ll be ready to come home at the end of the month, but I am so glad I took this chance. I can’t wait to come back to Italy one day.