Studying abroad is undoubtedly one of the greatest opportunities for a college student to experience. Not only do you get to travel around with friends, learn about other cultures and experience incredible food, but it is also a time to completely escape out of your comfort zone and learn so much about yourself.
This past semester I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, a densely populated city surrounded by Tuscan hills and relatively untouched throughout centuries. I spent the semester with 34 other Wake Forest students and lived in the heart of the city, a street away from the Duomo. I ate my way through 15 cities in Italy, and traveled to eight different countries in Europe. When people ask me what I miss most about studying abroad, my go-to answer is the food. Yes, the pasta and pizza in Florence were indescribable and a subject that I can talk about for hours; however, the obstacles that I was able to overcome were what made this experience unforgettable.
I did not even notice all the things I had accomplished while abroad until weeks after returning home. Some of the most challenging obstacles abroad such as budgeting, navigating, communicating and planning just became daily routines for us. I did not quite realize my accomplishments until I was no longer walking four miles a day, attempting to speak another language or booking Airbnbs and trains for the upcoming weekend.
Growing up in Raleigh, NC, I never had to worry about finding my way around a brand-new city or flying alone to a different country. But each bump in the road just made me feel even more prepared and excited for the “real world” after college. The life skills that we were all able to acquire this semester would not be possible without the missed flights, lost luggage, GPS mishaps and a touch of homesickness.
While I was abroad, it would not have been the same experience without the abundance of friends around me wherever I traveled. I am so thankful that Wake Forest encourages so many students to spend a semester abroad. It led to weekends like Oktoberfest where I was surrounded by 200 Wake students crammed in a tent, meeting up with friends on the Amalfi Coast and six of us jumping out of a plane together in Interlaken, Switzerland.
Although all these travel weekends and wine tastings have come to an end, there is still so much that came out of my experience. Before going abroad, I always had a love for art. On a complete whim, I decided to take an art history class while in Florence. Four months of weekly Uffizi visits later I declared a second minor of art history. I would never have done this if it weren’t for my decision to study in the city known for Renaissance Art.
On my flight back home, I realized that although I may be returning to Florence one day, I will never be able to have an experience like that again. I will never be with those 34 Demon Deacons tasting every gelato flavor, walking along the cobblestone streets and taking in a country rich in culture and history. I am so grateful for the quickest four months of my life and am forever wishing I could do it all again.