I remember wanting to study abroad since I was in middle school. I made a list that had places such as France, Italy, Ireland and Japan – foreign places that I could easily see myself living. Heck, I remember counting down the days until I could go to college because I knew that I would be leaving my little home in the middle of the Pacific. I guess growing up on an island will sometimes do that to you – make you eager to explore new places.
Luckily, I went to Lewis & Clark College, one of the top ranked colleges for the study abroad programs. I studied abroad in Siena, Italy for one semester during my junior year. It absolutely changed my life, and here’s how:
I became much more independent.
I already gained a lot of independence when I went to college. But studying abroad was something no one in my family had ever experienced, so I had to figure everything out on my own, one step at a time. I had to learn my surroundings and figure out public transportation. I had to learn a new language. Quickly. I had to figure out how to communicate with my friends, family and boyfriend back home (harder than you might think because of roaming charges, lack of wifi and finally learning to unlock an iPhone).
It’s not like I was studying abroad in a third world country or anything, but living in Italy really made me appreciate the little things, and the bigger things in life. Like heat, timely transportation, and my college education. I learned to appreciate my family even more than I already did because I didn’t think it was humanly possible to miss people so much. I even learned more about the U.S. Government and really appreciated the opportunities we are allowed in America that many people in Europe are not.
I realized my passion for travel.
Moving to Italy opened so many doors for me. I learned about cultures that I didn’t even know existed. I learned how easy it was to travel around Europe. I got to see beautiful places that I only thought existed in paintings. I even got to visit some of the wonders of the world. I learned that the world isn’t such a scary place and that there are good people in this world. I got bit by the travel bug and now have incurable wanderlust and am always planning my next adventure.
I became more open-minded and curious.
Being from Hawaii, I was used to being exposed to different cultures and ethnicities. I grew up with many traditions and types of delicious foods, so being in Italy, where the culture is completely different from anything else I’ve ever known, was a huge adjustment. Being introduced to all things Italian really excited me. I went from being quiet and shy to eager to learn about someone’s hometown and culture.
I became much more easy going.
I bet some of you are reading this and thinking, “You’re from Hawaii, of course you were already easy going.” This is just not true because I was pretty uptight, and sometimes still am, before I moved to Italy. I’m the type of person who needs to plan every minute of every day, and I am also a compulsive list-maker. That definitely changed after living in Italy. At first, it would really annoy me when professors showed up to class late or when I had absolutely nothing on my to-do lists. Then I learned how to embrace this free time and to enjoy every moment that I had in Italy.