What Studying Abroad Taught Me


Annissa Peterson is a student at the College of St. Scholastica and an ISA Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.

If we are having an honesty moment, writing this post is bringing tears to my eyes simply because I will forever miss the friends that I have made while being abroad. There are so many things that I have learned while being in Europe, but here are a few.

Arno River
Arno River
  1. Smiling is a universal language.

No matter what language you speak, a smile signifies the same thing. It’s so comforting to have this unspoken gesture in a country that speaks a different language. No matter where I traveled, people would always smile at each other regardless if they knew each other or not.



2. Take risks.

I learned to take risks. Studying abroad itself can feel a bit like a risk – going off somewhere new and confusing, living with people you don’t know, often in a language you don’t speak. But during my time studying abroad, my best memories were times when I took some extra risks.


3. Take advantage of being in a different country.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and should be experienced to the fullest. It’s not everyday that you get to live in a different country, so take advantage of this amazing venture. Take studying seriously, but don’t hold yourself back from exploring all that you can and taking in as much culture possible. Make the moments last because it goes by fast.



4. I am way more independent than I thought.

While maneuvering through several international airports and navigating through the cities of a foreign country, you begin to realize that you are way more resourceful than you thought. I began to have this sense of independence that I never knew I had in me while studying abroad. I learned how to get around the city, learned the metro systems in different countries, and became dependent on myself in a country where I didn’t know many people, which made me believe I can really do anything.


5. A taste of empowerment.

After moving into the apartments, beginning my classes, and settling in to the city I was trying so hard to call “home,” I started to see what I had done. I had made the decision to move across an ocean, completely alone, to a new country with a language I was still struggling to get my tongue around, and live there somehow for three and a half months. There is nothing more empowering than having the knowledge that you can do all that and not only live—but thrive.


6. It’s a small world after all…but it’s also really big.

Seeing the canals of Amsterdam, the Swiss Alps, the Colosseum, and other unique places and spaces made me realize how much of this world has been unseen to my eyes, leading me to believe that the world is enormous. However, seeing so many new places was a bit overwhelming, so it was comforting to come across numerous occurrences that caused me to believe the contrary — that the world is small. There is a guy that is also studying here in Florence that lives three hours away from me back home!


As excited as I am to return home, I will forever cherish my memories of being abroad. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime.


The world awaits…discover it.

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