Moving away from family and friends can be challenging. Here are some ways the CAPA Florence summer students have learned to thrive in their new environment while enjoying their study abroad experience.
This summer, eight CAPA students packed up their things and moved to Florence for a six-week study abroad experience. Although we are a small class, we come from very different parts of the US.
Caption: CAPA students from left to right: Emily, Rose, Nicole, me, Jenna, and Sydnee.
Let me introduce you to my classmates. Nicole is from the beaches of California. Nick is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but calls Lucca, Italy, his real home. Rose and Jenna are from Pennsylvania as well, and Sydnee has left Missouri for school in Pennsylvania. Stephanie and Emily cover the northeast region. And I come from the sunshine state: Florida. All eight of us had the same thought to study abroad for the summer. We each entered this experience with different expectations, but one thing we have in common is homesickness. Each one of us is dealing with trying to thrive in our new environment in different ways.
Moving away from friends and family is challenging but can be even more complicated when there is a six-hour time difference. Emily has dealt with being separated from her family by making Zoom calls. Having a structured system to staying in contact with loved ones while abroad is an excellent way to stay connected. Nicole commented on this by saying “it’s harder when my family is in a different time zone than everyone else's (classmates). I have to wait longer to talk to them and get less time, but I make the best of it”. Nicole went on to say traveling is nothing new to her, so she felt prepared to deal with this distance and issues that come with scheduling communication with loved ones back home.
Caption: A pic of me with a picturesque Italian town and sea in the background.
Nick, however, is having a very different experience. He told me, "Growing up in an Italian home and having family here (in Lucca), my time in Florence is like a vacation, time for me to relax—and work on my schoolwork, of course."
Caption: A picture of Nick Giorgetti, a fellow CAPA Florence student.
To be completely transparent in my writing, I felt homesick too. I moved away for college, so being away from my family is nothing new. I felt separation anxiety from my pet. This wasn't a struggle only I had. There isn't a day that goes by here when someone declares "LOOK" and presents their phone screen to the crowd. Without question, we know it is a photo update of their pet. Stephanie said, "I am very close with my family, so we talk like every day. It's like I'm still there, but when my mom sends me videos of Camden walking into my room looking for me, it breaks my heart." I asked her how she is managing with being homesick from her puppy, and she said, "I focus on having fun here; I know I'll see him in a few weeks."
Caption: Stephanie Horn-Mitchem and the update photos of her dog Camden.
Caption: A photo of Nicole Smith in front of a cathedral.
Caption: A photo Nicole received of her dog.
Caption: One of the many photos I’ve received of my pet cat, Randall.
Personally, homesickness didn’t hit until halfway through my semester abroad. After the excitement and shock wore off and I started to settle into my routine, I had more time to think about homesickness. To help myself feel better, I would call home and have my mom remind me that the feelings will pass, and I need to embrace the study abroad experience as much as I can while I am here. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience, and I believe I am getting everything I’d hoped for out of it.
Something I was relieved to find out about studying abroad is realistically there is very little time to feel homesick. Between schoolwork, exploring your new city with new friends, and weekend exploration, you have very little time to dwell on being sad. But when the feelings of missing home do creep in (they will from time to time), CAPA staff and classmates are always around to help you out of a funk.
Here is a short list of suggestions from the summer 2021 Florence class on dealing with feeling homesick:
Caption: Dropping off snail mail home to my parents.
1. "Write postcards home. Sending something via snail mail draws out the anticipation of receiving it. It keeps you excited and upbeat." —Maddie
2. "Social media. Posting to my friends and keeping them updated on my time here has helped a lot." —Nicole
3. "Calling works the best. Hearing everyone's voices makes you feel like you're with them. We use WhatsApp." —Nick
4. "Go out and experience your new city as much as you can; staying busy is the key." —Jenna, Rose, and Sydnee
5. "The more you open yourself up to new experiences, the less homesick you will be. EMBRACE IT." —Nick
6. "Keep a journal, keep track of what you want to tell everyone when you get back. This pushes you to make more memories." —Maddie
Maddie Anderson is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2021, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An Interdisciplinary Studies major from the University of North Florida, she is studying abroad in Florence this summer.
See more of Maddie's journey in Florence.