Here's How Studying Abroad in Florence Changed My Life

Written by RTC member Jordan Mehan

The biggest cliché of them all- “studying abroad changed my life!”. Yeah, it’s annoying, but yeah, it actually happens. That’s why it’s a cliché. Here are three ways that studying abroad in Florence, Italy changed my life.

1. It made me comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It’s a funny saying, I know. How can you really be comfortable with being uncomfortable? Well, studying abroad definitely teaches you how. When studying abroad, you’re entering a country that you’ve never been to before, enrolling in a school with people you’ve never met, and speaking a language that’s different from your own. It’s scary, and you feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but you’re kinda stuck there, so you have to just go with it. While at home you could remove yourself from the situation, you don’t have that option anymore- studying abroad forces you to sit in your discomfort. 

As with most things, the discomfort wears off over time; however, the ability to embrace things that make you uncomfortable will stay with you. For example, when I returned home from studying abroad, I applied to a PR internship in NYC. I had never worked in NYC, and I had no experience writing pitches or creating media lists. Before studying abroad, I would have never applied for this position because it would have put me in the uncomfortable position of navigating a new city, forming new relationships, and figuring out a new industry. After study abroad, I was okay with feeling that way. Studying abroad allows you to be okay with putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. This is a valuable skill that you will thank yourself for learning.

2. It made me realize the importance of a support system outside of my family.

I was lucky enough to have studied abroad with two friends from home. During my time abroad, I was pretty much spending every second with them- we lived together, studied together, and explored together. Of course, this was a blast; however, I didn’t realize that the friendship offered me more than just fun times until I started to feel homesick. 

About halfway through my time abroad, my family came to visit. I hadn’t felt homesick at all, but after my weekend with them, the feeling of homesickness hit me really hard. It was so weird because I was totally fine, but seeing them kinda “triggered” the feeling for me. 

Cue the start of my week post family time. I was definitely struggling; however, as the week went on, I started to slip into the same routine with my friends. Although at first it may seem like I felt better because the routine provided a distraction, this actually wasn’t the reason. I felt better because throughout our daily routine, my friends took the time to have meaningful conversations with me. They asked about my day and they asked how I was doing. Most importantly, they genuinely listened and cared about my response. The relationship I had built  with my friends gave me the same support I had from my family, and it gave me the same feeling of love. That’s why I was able to get over my homesickness. 

I’m not saying you need to study abroad with friends, or that you need to spend every second with them to build this kind of relationship. All I’m saying is that make sure you build relationships that offer you more than just fun times while abroad, because these relationships will help you get through the harder times abroad, and in life, when your family can’t be there.

3. It taught me the value communication and compromise.

This one’s pretty ironic since I was a Communications major, meaning I literally studied the topic at school. Alas, learning theories is much easier than practical application. Studying abroad definitely taught me the practical application of communication and compromise.

It’s inevitable that you’re going to have different habits from some of the people you’re with abroad. You may be clean and your roommate may be messy. You may like to stay in hostels when traveling and your roommate may like to stay in luxury hotels. Having different habits is totally okay, but what’s not okay is staying quiet when the habits are bothering you. 

Failing to communicate when something is bothering you creates a hostile environment, and it takes away from the fun of studying abroad. If you’re bothered , address it, don’t be angry in silence- that gets you nowhere. The key to an enjoyable time abroad with others is learning how to communicate your feelings, and learning how to comprise on a solution. Study abroad exposes you to a lot of different experiences and people, meaning you’ll have apple practice with communication and compromise. It can be tough in the beginning, but learning these skills are super important when finding happiness studying abroad, and throughout life.