Expectations, Adaptations and 2 Weeks in the Books!

Written by Maisie January 29, 2020

Anticipating moving to Paderno came with many preconceived notions about what I was getting myself into. Nothing screams discomfort like moving to a foreign country with a bunch of strangers. I was clueless as to what my adaptation process would look like, and although I knew studying abroad was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, I honestly felt more fear than excitement. 

Before arriving in Paderno, and even for the first few days, I expected that I would be spending the majority of my time with my friends that also came to CIMBA from Western Michigan University. While it has been extremely comforting to have these familiar faces here with me, CIMBA does an incredible job of encouraging students to branch out of their regular social groups. I have realized that simply traveling, experiencing new things, and seeing new sights with new people tends to quickly bring everyone together in an unconventional way. Whether it’s enduring a long school day after 4 hours of sleep, attempting to maneuver the Italian train station, or standing in awe in front of the Duomo in Florence together, it’s impossible to not feel the life-long friendships forming within our group of CIMBA students.

Coming to Italy without knowing an inch of Italian, I planned on having a very hard time with language barriers. However, I have been blown away by the number of locals who genuinely seek to communicate with the study abroad students. On my way back to Paderno from Florence, I was sitting next to our taxi driver, and I could tell he wanted to chat. I felt horrible, having no idea what he was trying to say. In the midst of my discouraging thoughts, the driver blasted “Think” through the speakers, screamed “ARETHA FRANKLIN!”, and we all proceeded to dance, sing and laugh for the rest of the ride. I didn’t expect to interact much with the locals, but through a mixture of hand gestures, head nods, positivity and patience, my mind has been opened to endless possibilities to overcome our cultural barriers.

I would say the most prominent expectation I had, and still have, about being abroad for 80 days is homesickness. I am still anticipating the moment that this feeling hits. Most say that studying abroad is like a roller coaster: prior to leaving is the excitement of going up the big hill, and even within the first two weeks, you’re still on your way up. It’s estimated that around the third week is when students begin the downhill plummet of missing home, family and friends. At this point of my trip, I have luckily been too occupied with our day-to-day schedules to let those feelings settle in. Although I am still afraid of being homesick, these first two weeks have given me a bit more peace with it, and more clarity that I will overcome it by focusing on being present in my extraordinary journey.

Overall, the reality of my first two weeks in Italy has immeasurably surpassed every preconceived notion I had while in the United States. I can say with utmost confidence that adapting to a culture separate from my own has been the most educational and humbling experience I have ever had. The fear that once captivated my mind has been overcome with high hopes and confidence in this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I have a new sense of appreciation for  discomfort, diversity and “getting out there”. Here’s to an action-packed first two weeks and embracing what’s to come!

Ciao for now!