Did you know that within one day, you can make at least four friends? Sounds a bit far-fetched, I know. But you learn something new every day, and when you're thrust into a unique situation with several other people, friendships form almost immediately. Just imagine what can happen within the span of a few weeks!
In the United States, I take it for granted. Three weeks into my junior year of college, how much could I have possibly learned? You don't think about what you're reviewing, how much you absorb, in a month. Through study abroad, I've come to recognize just how much being in a new environment can help you change and grow. Since I arrived here in August, I've made lifelong friends, planned some trips, and improved my skills in the Italian language. I've learned the ins-and-outs of Perugia, from the minimetro to the best restaurants in town. Now, when I talk about 'home,' to my friends, I'm referring to my little Italian apartment just off of Piazza Quattro Novembre, not Philadelphia, PA. How does this happen without my realizing it?
I'll give an example. I visited my family about a month ago, and I've been studying for the past three/four weeks. When I returned to visit my family again, they told me my Italian has already improved. I didn't realize I was getting better; in fact, I thought I made very little progress. But communicating is easier, the words spill from my lips without me having to think about what I'm saying. Who would've thought, huh? By the time I'm back in America, my Italian will be better than my English. Let's hope I can still pursue a Communications degree!
Even so... I won't sugarcoat the truth; traveling abroad is difficult. The first week abroad is spent finding friends, people you click with. The second is spent learning your classes, getting to know the area, refining your friend group; I don't think I've ever made friends so quickly as I have this semester, at the very beginning. Note: cliques form quickly! Find your niche.
However, adjustment comes slowly to each of us; accepting and appreciating your surroundings is the first step. Within a month, Italy has become my 'home base.' By the time I return to America, I can only imagine my worldview will have been drastically altered-- in a good way!