The Top 4 Things Study Abroad Taught Me (Sometimes the Hard Way) Kate Andriola August 11, 2016 International Travel, Personal Travel Essays, Student Travel Studying abroad in Italy was everything you’d imagine it would be— delicious food, stunning architecture, incredible art and culture– basically a picture perfect four months. It was in the moments where things weren’t as perfect, however, that I learned the most and ultimately appreciated my experience to the fullest. How to Adapt to New Surroundings Credit: Matthew Reid/Flickr Creative Commons Before my study abroad experience my only out of country travels included Canada, Mexico, and a family trip to Italy in middle school. I had never really traveled alone or experienced the infamous “culture shock” I had heard so much about. Some of my friends found it rattling to have to adjust to a new place and a new language but I actually welcomed the change! I was immediately fascinated by the Italian culture and how even the smallest differences outed me as American almost instantly. I quickly caught on to bring my own recyclable bags to the grocery store to avoid a fee, that tipping is not required (score!), which wall adapter would charge my American cellphone, and that clothing dryers were a rare exception. There was really no way to figure out these cultural nuances except for experiencing them yourself, an activity I came to love! How to Live in the Moment Credit: Kate Andriola The cliché Tolkien quote, “Not all those who wander are lost” has never been more applicable than it was when I was overseas. My friends might disagree and say we were definitely lost when we were seriously struggling to find our way reading the street signs in Prague or couldn’t find our hostel in Croatia as the sun was quickly setting and our phones were losing battery. Being the optimist I am, I secretly enjoyed getting lost in the windy, unfamiliar streets. We still made it on time to see Old Town Square and the Charles Bridge the next day (both of which I loved), but I appreciated seeing other aspects of Czech culture too, like the man playing music outside a charming sidewalk cafe or the young girls we saw excitedly chattering in Czech outside a small apartment building. Living in the moment and having this kind of perspective was essential to my study-abroad success. How to Deal with Travel Disasters Although celebrating my 21st birthday at the baggage claim of the Rome airport was not exactly how I always envisioned my entrance to legality, my experience abroad taught me how to cope with even the most frustrating of travel circumstances. Because the Florence airport is so small, my friends and I often found ourselves heading to Rome, Pisa or Milan to fly out of instead. The getting there part, however, proved to be easier said than done. From forgetting to validate our ticket on the platform (who even know this was a thing?!), to booking a ticket without accounting for military time, to sprinting for tight train connections, we had our fair share of train travel disasters. With each mistake we soon became experts at navigating all sorts of travel dilemmas. The first stop on our spring break was Santorini, Greece, a top pick on my must-see destinations abroad. At the end of the 3-hour flight from Rome to Greece, we were abruptly woken from our naps to the sound of an Italian flight attendant speaking rapidly over the loudspeaker. After sitting anxiously for the English translation, we learned that heavy winds in Santorini made landing the plane impossible and that we would have to return the 3 hours back to Rome for the night. Of course I was bummed that we had to adjust our hotel reservations and miss out on some of the birthday celebrations we had planned but I knew it was out of my control. My new found perspective had me feeling happy we were safe and that although cut short, we would still make it to Santorini (which ended up being my absolute favorite trip!) And hey, the free buffet breakfast in the airport hotel wasn’t a bad way to start off my 21st! How to Disconnect From Technology Credit: Moyan Brenn/Flickr Creative Commons Studying abroad was such an amazing experience that I instantly wanted to share everything with all of my friends back home. My first few weeks in Florence it would take me forever to get anywhere because my phone was attached to my hand (or my selfie stick) trying to take a picture of every single thing I saw, from the Ponte Vecchio to the pigeons on the street. I soon realized it was much more enjoyable to pick my head up and enjoy my surroundings with my own eyes rather than viewing everything through the lens of my iPhone camera. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to document your travels. In fact, snap away! But make sure that you’re not overdoing it with your tech time. Take some pictures and send them to friends later, or even wait until you get them developed for an awesome scrapbook when you get home. Related: Check out some other compelling reasons why you should study abroad! Did you ever study or live abroad? Tell us about your experience below!