Marte Eggleston has been an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism major at the Indiana University, she has been studying abroad in Florence this semester.
In her last post as an official CAPA blogger, Marte shares 10 lessons her semester in Florence has taught her. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Marte! We wish you all the best.
It is the strangest feeling writing this blog post about coming home. Going back seemed so far away, and then suddenly it was a month away, a week away, and now it’s here. I’m fortunate that my family is here in Florence and we are spending an extra week visiting Florence, Venice, and La Spezia together. Leaving is bittersweet in the best ways. I’m grateful for all of the friends I’ve made, but also I’m incredibly excited to see my friends and family back home. I’m sad to be leaving Florence and Europe in general, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to study here in the first place. I’ve been able to find my place in a completely different culture and I accomplished things that I never thought possible.
It’s funny to think about going back home and hearing so much English for the first time in months. I’ve been lucky in Florence for the fact that I can practice Italian but also knew I could use English if I needed to. It was one of the biggest things I had to get used to, especially when I traveled to other countries. I realized that not being able to understand every word gives you a kind of freedom that you couldn’t have if you spoke the language.
I like to think I’ve gained a lot of patience points while being abroad. It’s important to realize, even beyond the language barrier, that people are not going to do things how you would have done them. It is important to realize that when you think that someone else is doing something strange, they’re probably thinking that you are just as strange!
There isn’t one way to do things, and I believe that it has been one of the most enriching things to experience another way of life. Italy has taught me that taking things slow is sometimes the most rewarding, and it’s going to be okay if something doesn’t go exactly to plan. When you’re abroad, you have to go with the flow or you’ll make yourself crazy. I’ve accepted that sometimes people will stop and have a conversation in the middle of the sidewalk even if it’s inconvenient for me. It’s one of those little things that drive you crazy at first, but then it just becomes a part of the world you live in. All the things that seem strange at first just become a part of your life.
TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED FROM STUDYING ABROAD
1. SUPPORT. I have an INCREDIBLE support system! I could not have done anything without my parents (especially), family, friends, and the people I’ve met along the way.
2. LANGUAGE. A few key phrases can get you anywhere. I can’t say that I’m fluent in Italian, but I can get around! Plus, everyone appreciates it when you say thank you in their language.
3. TRANSPORTATION. Mastering a city’s public transportation system is key. I’ve never taken the public transportation in my own hometown, but I have in just about every city I’ve been to abroad.
4. SHOES. Wear the right shoes; no one wants water soaked shoes when it rains all day in Paris!
5. FLEXIBILITY. GO WITH THE FLOW! You have to be willing to try new foods, visit out of the ordinary places, and make friends with perfect strangers. It’ll make everything that much better.
6. HOMESICKNESS. It’s okay to miss American things. I miss free water at restaurants and chocolate chip cookies. It’s completely normal.
7. OPTIMISM. Sometimes things will go wrong, but it will work out! I missed my connection to Florence on the very first day and bought the wrong bus ticket to Barcelona from Valencia, but I still made it!
8. RELAXATION. It’s okay to relax! I didn’t leave Florence every weekend and I’m glad I didn't. I didn’t get to every place I dreamed of going, but I don’t have any regrets.
9. PHONES. I don’t need to have cellphone service all the time. I didn’t get an international phone plan, and ultimately I’m glad I didn’t. I had to get a little creative sometimes, but it was a part of the fun (not to mention I’ve gotten really good at reading paper maps)!
10. PERSPECTIVE. The world is much bigger than I could have ever imagined before. I’ve gained an incredible appreciation for how many different people and places there are to see. I’ve knocked a lot of things off of my bucket list, but that doesn’t mean that I should stop exploring!