A few months ago, I was sitting in my apartment in Pennsylvania, scrolling through study abroad programs. I clicked through distractedly, wondering which program would be the best fit for me. A few days ago, I landed in Rome, Italy with two massive luggage bags, my passport, and only my nerves to keep me company. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
Italy is a stunning place. It reminds me of my childhood, because in part, I grew up here. The rolling hills are familiar, the architecture and the sprawling, colorful towns. There is so much to see and do, but it feels inaccessible because everything is so new; how can I get there and do that? My excitement almost, almost overpowers the incredible feeling of homesickness that struck me the moment I laid eyes upon my new school. I've realized that the difference between simply signing up for study abroad and actually beginning the semester is huge. I'm not a pessimist or a total homebody, but am I ready for this commitment? I mean, I'm here for four months, so what now?
The last time I went abroad, it was for vacation. Now, I'm juggling classes and the urge to travel, as I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't just a fun family trip. I have wonderful roommates, two of them, and an absolutely precious little Italian apartment. Everything is lush and beautiful, and the city is abuzz with party-goers at night. I actually have to go to school? With the summer heat still heavy in the air, it's hard to believe that I'm here for anything but vacation.
I'm nervous about the challenges I face, between academics and general adjustment to a new country. I worry about making friends, because cliques form quickly; it's intimidating! The more I stress, the more my doubt grows-- and so within these first few days, I have learned that I can't sabotage my own experience. Having a good time abroad is completely up to me, and I won't allow myself to tarnish it by hiding beneath a black cloud of worry. All of these students are here for the same reason-- we want to explore. We want to start a new chapter through studying a different language, or seeing a new place. I know that each of my fears will be alleviated, slowly but surely, as I begin my classes and meet friends from all around the world. This is only the beginning.