Facing Adversity: What You Actually Learn from Study Abroad

Written by Katie June 2, 2016

Should've wished for better luck.

When your train's delayed 35 minutes and you only have three connecting trains to catch...

My face when bad luck strikes again but then I realize life is too good in Italy to even complain...

If there’s one lesson to be learned from studying abroad, it’s to never expect anything to go smoothly. EVER. Adjusting to a foreign country simply isn’t enough. There are a variety of obstacles to be thrown in the mix. Whether it’s on or off campus, you are going to encounter barriers and difficulty. Having a positive mindset is critical throughout all of the following situations. Trust me. I experienced all of these first-hand.

Course Work

Unlike many of the students here, I am a biomedical engineering major. CIMBA has done an amazing job at compromising and providing substantial and relevant courses for us engineers. I currently take Statics and, although it is quite challenging at times, I absolutely love it. Unfortunately, the pace is demanding and the homework is definitely time consuming. This was expected considering the difficulty of the course. My other class, on the other hand, is much different. As an engineer, I typically have semesters overflowing with math and science classes. For the first time, I am branching out and have decided to take Travel Writing. This was quite the adjustment. I do have a deep love for writing, but the modification from analytical thinking was not the easiest.

Bad Luck

This one actually makes me laugh. The amount of bad luck I have experienced is truly humorous at this point. Multiple trains delayed or cancelled, a shattered phone with a pricey fix, dropping my sunglasses into the Mediterranean Sea, smashing a glass in the cafeteria, accidentally eating fish spine (multiple times), staying up studying for hours only to accidentally sleep in and almost miss class – these are just a few on my list. The remarkable reality to my collection of misfortunes is this: nothing has stopped these past three weeks from being the best time of my life. Last weekend in Cinque Terre, my life was in shambles. Nothing seemed to go right for me, yet I can still say it was one of the coolest weekends of my life. I promise you, just because everything goes wrong doesn’t mean your time in Italy will be terrible. I am living proof of this.

Culture Shock

It never really hits you how different Italy is from America until your feet are on campus in Paderno. Every meal consists of pasta. Jet lag hits you hard. The rain from the mountains comes and goes whenever it pleases. The people don’t really understand you. You don’t understand them either. Everyone dresses differently (no, really. I swear Italians don’t own shorts). Everyone stands while drinking coffee. The list goes on forever. To put it simply, life on the other side of the globe is truly a whole new world. Just be open to change and adaption to this foreign land. You get used to it.

Missing Home

As if being away from family and friends for nine months out of the year isn’t enough, adding another month can be tough. As amazing as Italy is, subtle things will remind you of home. You miss the food from your fridge, the comfort of your own bed, the company of your family, etc. When these feelings arise, you must remember that a month truly isn’t that bad. In fact, I cannot believe that I only have a week left here. These three weeks have been some of the fastest of my life. So if you think you shouldn’t study abroad because you’ll be homesick, definitely reconsider. A month is nothing in Italian time, I promise.

Overall, be ready for a wild ride. Life will throw the unimaginable at you during your time abroad. That is okay. This will not stop you from having the most remarkable four weeks possible. Despite my many misfortunes since I’ve arrived, I would still say Italy has treated me extremely well. Nothing can get this girl down! Sorry Mom, I’m never coming home.