Three weeks in and this is what I have to give you guys! Of course the obvious, have fun, stay safe, and play nice with everyone, is implied, but these are the most important lessons I’ve learned so far!
1. GET LOST. Now I know that when you arrive in a new city it’s scary, like tremble in your new, super cute boots kind of scary. So keep a map with you if you need, and by all means consult it as you attempt to find your classes or new places to check out. But don’t forget to put the map away for a little bit and just let yourself explore! The best things I’ve found so far are the things I’ve found when just exploring, instead of trying to find the places people recommend!
2. GO WITH THE FLOW. Things are different. Things are expensive, and sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. Sometimes your friends want to stay out late, sometimes your teachers request some strange things, and sometimes the cute Italian boy making your panino adds some special stuff just for you, and you’re not quite sure what it is. My advice to you is to just go with it! Try staying out a little later one night with them, give your teachers’ strange ideas a shot, and try a bite of the panino! You’ll probably end up back in whichever city you’re living in, but you probably won’t get every opportunity you’ve had again, so jump on everything you can!
3. TALK TO PEOPLE. Growing up, I was always embarrassed how often my father asked questions to the locals. Well like father, like daughter! I’ve been asking locals for advice about where to eat, where to buy gelato, and all the best places to check out, and they know it! Even if you just start off asking for directions, get talking to the locals!
4. GET INVOLVED. In the midst of living in an entirely new country, it’s hard to remember that you’re also here for school. But don’t forget that your school offers a bunch of opportunities to get involved! From interacting with Italian families, to organizing game nights and themed dinner nights at Ganzo, the student-run restaurant, check out what your school and ISA have to offer, and jump on every opportunity! Your experience should be about living in your host city, so go for it!
5. DO EVERYTHING. Yes, you are going to be living in your host country for a couple of months. Yes, you should attempt to blend in with locals and not be obnoxious tourists. But don’t forget that you are only there for a couple of months, and that it’s okay to be a bit touristy, especially when you’re visiting specific places. Take those cheesy pictures holding up the leaning tower of Pisa, or with the gladiators at the Colosseum. Try and order that cappuccino in Italian. Posso ordinare un cappuccino per favore! Just try it all, within reason of course.
6. EXCHANGE INFORMATION. Roommates are great. But sometimes you want to get out and hang out with some other people. Don’t be afraid to ask your classmates or people you meet on trips for their contact information so you can hang out with them again. You’re only here for a couple of months, don’t be shy to ask to hang out with people, they’re probably looking for some more friends too. But be safe about it. If you’re meeting with people you just met, bring a trusted friend with you or make sure to let people know where you’re going and when you’ll be back!
7. KNOW YOURSELF. Studying abroad is all about growing as a person and exploring new things. But don’t forget about what you actually want. Don’t get so caught up in what everyone else is doing that you forget what you want to do. If your heart is set on Paris for your birthday, go to Paris for your birthday! If you know that the extra helping of gelato is going to make you sick, save it until tomorrow! If you can’t handle going to Verona for the Love Festival after breaking up with your boyfriend recently, then it’s okay to postpone it to another day that works better for you! Yes, you’re going to want to go out and join everyone in their different adventures, but don’t forget about yourself! This is your trip too!