It’s a weird balance between never wanting to leave and missing home; feeling like you’ve been here for three months but feeling like it’s only been a week.
Romanticizing the abroad experience is common. It’s easy to get swept up in the culture, friends, and food around you. Yet I am one month into my abroad experience and know that my flight home is exactly 77 days away.
It seems wrong and unappreciative to know that number, but with all the excitement comes lows. The first two weeks were what I’m referring to as the “vacation period”. Becoming super close with my roommates, going out to dinner all the time, exploring every day, shopping, but then school starts, you miss your friends from home, and suddenly, you’re at McDonald’s just to find some normalcy.
The first week in, we had orientation. They mentioned culture shock and the available resources, but it’s a difficult feeling to explain and I’m learning that there’s a range of experiencing it. It comes and goes; it took around two weeks for it to kick in for me but one of my roommates experienced it as quickly as orientation. It’s important to know that everyone is most likely experiencing it in some way.
Rome is stunning, and every day is an adventure. I’m settled into school, making new friends, finally in a good routine but I’m the only person I know who hasn’t traveled on the weekends yet. Granted, every weekend from here on out is booked but it’s important to not get FOMO, and do what’s right for you.
The third weekend in, all my roommates traveled, and I decided to stay alone. I explored Rome for the day, had some gelato, bought myself flowers, got my nails done, did some things around the apartment that I needed to check off my list, and relaxed. It’s okay to do things by yourself or be the only one that stays.
Culture shocks come from experiencing something unusual, getting stressed out, and/or not understanding you environment, but then you adjust. This happens all the time: going into the cafe and panicking even though you know how to order that croissant in Italian; seeing dogs everywhere but not being able to pet them because apparently, people don’t ask that here; places being closed in the middle of the day because Italians appreciate their lunch; not knowing if they’ll understand your English; no big department stores with everything I need.
I won’t say I’m fully adjusted to all of these, but taking time in Rome and getting into a routine made things easier for me.
There is nothing wrong with romanticizing study abroad, it is an amazing personal experience, but there is also nothing wrong with needing to go to McDonald’s for a sense of normalcy or thinking about how many days until your flight home.
Lily Richard is a college student at Masachusettes College of Liberal Arts. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Rome, Italy.