Before it Begins

Here I am, it’s January 10th, and I am getting so close to my take off date. I leave for Florence, Italy in 10 days. I feel like I have been waiting to go for so long yet I cannot believe the day is finally about to come. It suddenly feels real. I’m so excited to document my thoughts and experiences during my time abroad. Before I can do that though, I wanted to share my experiences before I go. The time I decided to take the leap and commit to going abroad, the time when it all seems so far away but way too real, and the time where you start to get a little scared about moving away to a foreign place.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited for the amazing opportunity I have to live in Europe with my peers for a whole semester and see parts of the world that I have never seen before. What I feel like many don’t talk about enough, is the anxiety and fears that come along with going abroad.

I have lived in the Midwest my entire life and this is where I feel the most at home. As I have grown up and spent time in other places than my hometown in Minnesota, I also have learned that I like being where I feel comfortable and where I feel like I belong. Further, I am a total homebody. Seriously, my dream nights are sitting with my family on the couch watching Dateline or a cheesy Netflix movie. So, to say going abroad is “stepping out of my comfort zone” would be an understatement.

While preparing to go abroad, I asked some of my peers who have already gone things they wished they knew or did before they started their journey. Here are some of the important pieces of advice that have impacted me and that I plan to keep in mind before I board the plane to Florence.

1.Don’t choose where you go abroad based on where your friends are going.

This is so important. I almost applied to an entirely different country and program because of this and I am so excited that I chose to go where I personally want to.

2.Prepare for culture shock and being uncomfortable for at least a couple weeks.

We all know about culture shock, but it’s essential to know that the first week isn’t going to be the best week of your life. You are going to be uncomfortable and have to be willing to adjust.

3.Don’t plan a trip every single weekend.

Many students plan a trip to a different place every weekend they are abroad. While it’s obviously important to travel and see as much as you can, it’s also important to get to know the city you are staying in and to spend at least a couple weekends exploring your “home base”.

4.Take advantage of the variety of classes you are taking because you cannot take classes like this at UW-Madison.

I cannot wait to immerse myself in the classes I am taking in Florence. The classes I am taking are subjects that I am personally interested in and I need to remember the impact they will have on my educational experience.

5.Keep a record of your days, trips, thoughts and experiences.

Having a record of your daily experience abroad is going to be very rewarding when you get home. I plan to journal and blog while I am away to make sure I remember all of my joys and struggles in the years to come.

As my takeoff date is getting very close, I am itching to start my time in Florence, Italy. Here’s to the entire abroad experience- the before, during and after and all the growth comes with it.

-Paige