Traveling day to go study abroad can be a rollercoaster of emotions and moods. First, you’re excited and nervous to be in another country alone. Then, you’re unbearably uncomfortable for 8 hours while you try to sleep sitting up. From personal experience this sleeping position just simply is not natural for anyone except maybe my grandpa who actually preferred sleeping in his recliner chair every night rather than a bed. At least my grandma never had to worry about his snoring.
After hours and hours of traveling, being unable to shower and unable to find any possible comfortable position, people are expected to be super energetic and excited to be in another country. When people take vacations, especially international vacations, the travel days should not count as part of it. I mean, how much of that day are you really using to see and truly enjoy the destination if you spend most of the day in a cramped, uncomfortable airplane? Sometimes the exhaustion and shock factor alone can make anyone feel out of place and not their best adventurous selves upon arrival. Basically, I just want to warn everyone who thinks that their study abroad experience will be amazing from the moment they step foot on foreign soil that it’s not always like that. The first day of arrival is honestly strange and sometimes lonely. You leave all your family and loved ones, and come to a country where you probably know no one and maybe don’t even speak the language. This would of course be an awkward situation, but don’t worry, it does get better.
I arrived in Florence a couple days ago because I thought it would be nice to have some nostalgic moments before I begin my summer program in Perugia. For those of you who aren’t aware, I spent my spring semester of 2014 in Florence and it’s my absolute favorite city in the world. Well, when I arrived in Florence it was anything but blissfully nostalgic. I had to drag all of my luggage over cobblestone streets and find my hotel, which luckily was on the same street as my former apartment. Needless to say, it was hot, I had a lot of luggage and Florentine streets are not the easiest to maneuver. I was downright exhausted. After getting checked in and situated into my room I honestly felt strange. I spent the rest of my afternoon walking around the city, seeing all of the familiar sights and eating at a little garden restaurant. I was alone, tired, unfortunately sick at the time, and it just wasn’t the best day. Even though Florence had been my home for 5 months in the past, it felt like a different, foreign city on that first day. I was lonely, sad and really missed home.
After this not so great day, I decided to focus on enjoying myself and being nostalgic like I had planned. As a result, things did start to get better. I visited my former apartment in Florence and it looked better than it had when I lived there! It was freshly painted and beautiful.
When I first arrived in 2014 the door looked old, shambly and the paint was chipping. I remember when I first saw it I was worried that the apartment would be a wreck and that I would have to deal with a rickety old home. Luckily, it wasn’t at all and I had the most amazing experience during my time abroad.
On my second night in Florence I also met up with some friends and was able to go to some of my old favorite hangouts. I still knew how to get around the city easily and where everything was. Some new hotels or clubs had popped up since I had been there last, but I started to realize that Florence was still very much the charming city I remembered it to be. By the end of my two days in Florence, I was content and comfortable. It was still my favorite city in the world and that made me so happy. However, I was very ready to get to Perugia, improve my Italian and make some new memories in a new city.
The moral of the story here is that the first day may not be what you expect and it may be intimidating. You may be thinking, “What am I doing here? This does not feel right. I need to go home.” But let me tell you, that feeling DOES go away and things WILL get better. You just need to have a positive attitude and get through the uncomfortable parts. If you can make it through that then I promise you, your time abroad will be the most amazing experience that you will never forget. So if you end up having a terrible first day, week or whatever it may be when you arrive abroad, just remember, “Sometimes when things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place.” –Unknown