In this post, CAPA Alumna Nicole talks about how her study abroad semester in Florence helped her step outside her comfort zone, become more independent, and shape her future career path.
I studied abroad in Florence, Italy during Spring Semester of 2018 and I can easily say this experience helped me grow as a person. Before I left to study abroad, my professors had told me that it would change my outlook on life, but I wasn’t sure how traveling could have that much of an impact on me. After spending three and a half months living in Italy, and traveling around European countries, I now understand why my professors told me that it would change me for the better and help me grow.
Before studying abroad, I traveled to multiple countries and around the United States, however I had never been to Europe. I’ve always been aware of cultural differences and why people have different values, however, indulging myself in a foreign country definitely gave me a better understanding as to why people have different values. I believe that my experiences abroad changed the way I approach my environment at home because it taught me to have more patience for others and tourists that visit the United States. It also made me realize that although people were born and raised in the United States, their values and outlooks on life could be different than mine due to cultural differences. Every culture has certain norms and ways of doing things, so I now have a better understanding of why people behave the way that they do.
Not only has studying abroad opened my eyes to learning about different cultures, but I also noticed that it has helped me with my independence. I took a risk when deciding to study abroad because I did not know anyone in my program and all of my friends were going to different countries. I still remember my dad dropping me off at the airport and being so nervous because I’ve never travelled alone before. Traveling alone, in and of itself, is intimidating because you are entering a new country alone, navigating a new airport by yourself, and you are the only person that you can count on to make it to your flight on time.
Although I was scared at first, traveling definitely taught me that I am more independent than I thought I was. It also taught me great time management and communication skills. When I got lost, it was crucial for me to ask people for directions and I also had to make sure that I was getting to where I needed to be on time. I have always been the independent type of person however I normally prefer to do things with others. Studying abroad by myself was definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone.
Not only did I become more independent from this experience, but I also learned that my opinions matter just as much as other people. I used to be the type of person to go along with what everyone else does and just go with the flow, but ever since studying abroad I’ve noticed that I can’t keep following others or I’ll never be happy with what I’m doing. An example of this is when my roommates wanted to go visit different countries than I wanted to. In the beginning, I agreed to the locations that they chose but I soon realized that this is my experience and money as well, so my opinion on where I want to travel should also be considered as an option. Luckily, this experience has changed me for the better and I’ve become a lot more independent and self-aware of putting my opinions ahead of others.
Once I graduate from college I see myself marketing for a beauty or fashion related company. I want to go into social media marketing because social media has grown immensely, especially in the beauty and fashion community. Studying abroad in Italy definitely helped me decide that I want to work in the fashion industry. Self-appearance and fashion in general is huge in Italy and I would constantly see people on the streets of Florence posing for what was most likely their Instagram account. Also, when I went abroad I wanted to share my experience with everyone back at home, so naturally I posted on Instagram and Snapchat a lot more than I normally do. Doing so made me more familiar with both apps and it definitely made me more interested in editing my Instagram pictures. Not only did going abroad help reassure me that I wanted to go into social media marketing, but it also taught me to do something with my life that I actually enjoy doing. Although I could easily declare a major in something else that would land me a higher paying job after college, I’m choosing to stick with marketing because it is something that I actually enjoy doing.
All in all, studying abroad has taught me to live the life that I imagine myself living and not to let my fears get in the way. If I could study abroad again, I would do it in a heartbeat because it taught me a lot about myself.
Meet Nicole Wong, a SUNY Oswego student studying Marketing. She studied abroad in Florence during Spring 2018 and was a CAPA Ambassador during the Fall 2018 semester.