Study abroad is a hard concept to define. It’s a personal journey of growth and a magical 4 months, but being truly immersed in another culture teaches you more than any textbook, museum or travel guide ever could. I had my fair share of trial and error while traveling in Italy and throughout the rest of Europe. Most of the time, it resulted in a memorable anecdote that made the past months what they were. As much as visiting other countries and the traveling that goes along with it are the big moments that stick out, being reminded how small we are compared to the rest of the world, is a point that is constantly emphasized while abroad. Whether it’s language barriers, cultural differences, or customary expectations, all of the above contributed to my crazy, wonderful, unforgettable time in Europe.
Below, watch the video culmination of my study abroad experience, featuring self-shot footage from all across Europe.
1.) Low flying pigeons are a real hazard and you will likely be hit and or pooped on by one.
2.) If you ask an Italian how to catch the bus to IKEA, they will look at you like you have 8 heads and ask you what store that is and insist it doesn’t exist. After spelling it out, the Italian will then say “OHH! E-KAY-A!” because vowels are pronounced differently in Italian.
3.) Switching between languages when traveling outside of Italy is a constant struggle. The amount of times I’ve accidentally said Ciao and Grazie instead of Bonjour, Merci, Hola, and Adios etc., is unmeasurable.
4.) Sometimes shit does not get done when you want it to get done and that’s ok. Everything works itself out eventually.
5.) When you’re leaving your hostel and the owner puts his palms out, don’t high five him, he’s asking for your keys NOT a high five.
6.) On the Barcelona and Paris Metros you have to pull the lever on the door in order for it to open. Don’t stand there and wait for it to automatically open, because the locals will give you weird looks and will think you don’t know how a door works.
7.) Learning to read a map is an essential skill. Google Maps doesn’t count.
8.) That being said, you will get lost and want to throw the map down a drain because you can’t orient yourself among the twisty European streets. Don’t give up and take a cab, persevere and find your way home. You’ll probably find yourself in that same location a day later.
9.) You get what you pay for. In flights, hostels, and souvenirs…I’m talking to you Ryan Air.
10.) In Florence there are no real road rules so almost getting killed by a bus, car, taxi, vespa or bike is a daily occurrence.
11.) A smile and honest attempt to speak a language you’ve never spoken in your life will get you farther than automatically resorting to English.
12.) America is not the center of the universe and some countries know how to do stuff right. That being said, there are some things that America knows how to do right as well.
13.) Who you travel with makes all the difference.
14.) When in doubt, box em’ out.
15.) The days you don’t try to look overly nice, are the days your pictures will come out best.
16.) Bad weather will only ruin a day as much as you let it. Your hair will dry, but you’ll never be able to relive those memories.
17.) Don’t neglect the city/country you chose to study abroad in, in order to see every corner of Europe.
18.) As much as everyone makes study abroad classes seem like a giant joke, school is still a thing and it is a total buzzkill when all you want to do is explore your city and travel.
19.) Just because traveling in Europe is cheaper than traveling in the United States, does not necessarily mean it is dirt cheap.
20.) Study abroad should be the jumping off point for your lifelong wanderlust, not the end.
21.) Don’t neglect activities just because they are labeled as “touristy.” When is the next time you’ll have the opportunity to ride in a gondola or see the Eiffel Tower.
22.) But don’t forget, there’s much more to a city than what is overly publicized. Seek out opportunities to define a place in your own words.
23.) Make the most of the journey.
24.) Without WiFi, your cell phone is a glorified brick.
25.) And there’s nothing more freeing then learning to live without constant connection to an iPhone.
26.) Not everywhere you travel is a magical, beautiful fairytale city. There will be places you love and places you don’t and that’s perfectly ok.
27.) Put those high school foreign language skills to use whenever you can.
28.) Some places and sites need no explanation, but others are best understood through a tour group or audio tour.
29.) Transportation is a game of chance and luck, and sometimes you strike out.
30.) Whenever possible, travel in a small group rather than a large one.
31.) If you ask me to help load your suitcase into the bus because you packed too much and can’t carry it yourself, I will roll my eyes at you with true disdain. Only pack what you yourself can carry.
32.) European grocery stores may not be as luxurious as Stop and Shop or Hannaford, but you learn to love them and may even find some of your new favorite snacks along the way (shoutout to Rustica potato chips).
33.) Pick one trip where you have no limits and no restrictions. Buy that bar of soap with the Parthenon on it and get that extra drink at dinner.
34.) Look up from your camera and journal, the world is in front of you.
35.) Take time for yourself.
36.) Make a bucket list for the place you are studying in to insure you remember and accomplish all of the things you want to do in your city.
37.) Food is one of the most important, delicious and overall best parts of other cultures so be sure to try foods you never thought you’d order or like, as well as ones you’v been dying to eat.
38.) Acknowledge your traveling strengths and weaknesses and pair yourself with someone who balances those out.
39.) In Italy, wine, gelato and carbs are not only amazing foods, they’re a lifestyle.
40.) Explore your city and find “your spot.”
41.) By the bag, by the shoes and most importantly, buy the apron with the David on it.
42.) Don’t forget to thank the people who gave you the world.
43.) Observe local street art and artists.
44.) Perfect your ability of scoping out the best stranger that seems as though they’re able to take a somewhat decent group photo for you.
45.) Say yes to unforeseen opportunities.
46.) Every mistake, misadventure, and traumatic experience becomes an unforgettable story.
47.) Pay for Spotify premium so you can have unlimited music for all of those times you’re trapped on planes, trains, and automobiles.
48.) The little moments hold the biggest spots in your heart.
49.) Don’t travel somewhere just because it’s where everyone else is going.
50.) Get up early, stay out late; you’re time abroad has an expiration date.
51.) No matter if you have to go or not, always use the bathroom if the opportunity arises.
52.) Playing cards beats being on your phone.
53.) Google translate cooking instructions for food or you may try to cook rice still in the plastic bag and wonder why it comes out rock hard.
54.) Don’t underestimate your feet as being the best mode of transportation.
55.) Every trip, every person, and every memory has the opportunity to change you and make you question the world around you. Let it.
Ciao for now,