Written by carolinepotts May 16, 2024

On Christmas Day, I always get a little bit sad that the season is ending. I adore all the music, decorations, food, and festivities Christmastime brings, and I am one of those people who never want it to end.

The tradition of getting depressingly sentimental has been happening every year since around 2009 (when I was in kindergarten), and I have only found one cure: make a “happy list.” Without fail, amidst the piles of used wrapping paper and new toys, I take a piece of paper and write out a list of all the things I look forward to in the coming year. My lists always cheer me up and remind me that there are things to look forward to after Christmastime.

As I was nearing the end of my study abroad experience, I started to feel sentimental about the present moment, and it was a horrible feeling. The depressing thought of returning to the United States would come to me in happy moments: while taking a water taxi in Venice and while lying on a beach in Sicily. I never want this to end, I thought. I never want to leave, and I am going to have to. And that was my cue to start my list.

So, I started a list in my Notes app titled “What I miss from the USA.” Of course, I listed my family and friends at the top, but I also had smaller conveniences like ice, sleeping in, my book collection, and silk pillowcases. I missed places, such as my campus recreation center and La Fiesta (my hometown’s Mexican restaurant), and activities like going to church, driving my moped, movie nights, and Taco Bell runs with my brother. I included all of these (and more) on my list.

The list reminded me that there are many wonderful and exciting things to look forward to. When I would forget that the consistency of home could be exciting, I looked at my list, and there were reasons not to be as disappointed. If you are studying abroad soon, I would recommend reminding yourself of home like this.

My last week in Italy was full of tears, and I spent the whole week wishing that time would slow down. To distract myself from the end of one of the best semesters of my life, I started to plan other trips in my mind. It’s okay, I thought while packing my clothes up and cleaning out my cabinets. When I go back to Milan, I’ll stay by the Duomo di Milano… that will be amazing.

I even thought of trips to go on back in the United States. Maybe I could meet up with friends and go hiking in a national park, or my family could go boating in Wisconsin. These trips may or may not happen, but it was comforting to think of exciting adventures that could happen in the future, with people I love. I inherited this habit from my mom, who boards planes back to Chicago O’Hare with another trip in mind.

When sad about your study abroad experience ending, make a list of great things that are coming. When you are sad that your trip is over, consider the next one. Make a list of things you miss, trips you want to plan, and adventures you haven’t had yet.

Studying abroad is not the last time I will be in Europe. This past semester taught me how I like to travel, and it reminded me of my love for new, amazing places. Studying abroad was just the beginning of a life full of plane rides, hotel rooms, and long days of exploring. I would recommend it to anybody and am so grateful for the experience.