Kayla Sides is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A psychology major, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester through the custom program at Norco College.
In this week's post, Kayla talks about how a previous visit to Florence inspired her to return and study abroad.
You would think that traveling across the planet to a foreign country filled with foreign people that speak a foreign language would scare me just a bit. In all honesty, though, that foreign ambiguity makes me even more excited to embark on this journey. See, since I was in elementary school, I’ve wanted to travel the world. I’ve wanted to be introduced to new cultures and witness all the beauty that goes past the fence of my backyard. The fact that the opportunity to study in my favorite place in this world was given to me still amazes me!
In the spring of 2014, my mom surprised me with coordinates written on a sticky note. The next thing I knew, we were on our way to Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome for spring break. That is when I fell in love with Italy. Everything from the cobblestone streets to the people that walked on them, I loved it all. We did all the must-see tours and activities and ate all the pizza and pasta in sight. I remember on the last day of our trip, I bought a “Universita Roma” sweatshirt and thought to myself: Kayla, you HAVE to study abroad in Italy. You HAVE to!
Now, here I am, writing my first blog post to kick-off the beginning of an unforgettable, life-changing journey. I am days away of what I’ve been told will be the "best decision of my youth". I am so incredibly excited (and slightly annoyed because I can’t think of a better way to say "incredibly excited") for what this trip has in store! I’m even more excited to share this journey with you and show you all the amazing adventures that reveal themselves in the next few months.
Again, I am not scared… but I would be lying if I said I didn’t get anxious sometimes. So, to my fellow wanderlust pals or soon-to-be travelers, here are some pre-departure thoughts that have been floating through my head, along with some can-do-attitude responses to help ease my stress! Maybe you have the same thoughts and don’t know how to cope with them. Here’s my attempt to lend a helping hand.
How in the world am I going to fit three months’ worth of stuff in one bag?! AND it has to be fifty pounds or less! This daunting task is definitely possible, my friend. Make a list of everything you want to bring, then strike out all the items that you can live without. I mean, do you really NEED those five pairs of stilettos? You’re going to be on cobblestone streets, so unless you don’t mind twisting an ankle or two, I suggest going with something a little less burdening. Oh, and leave that video game console at home… There’s a world out there that you have yet to explore! Lay out all of your items on your bed. This should include diverse but basic articles of clothing, minimal toiletries, electronics, and important documents.
What if I get lost ? YOU’RE GOING TO BE IN FLORENCE! First of all, it’s not too big of a city, so almost everything is within walking distance. Be excited to get lost in this beautiful city. This will be the time to find all the hidden gems that only locals know about. You’ll probably learn more about where you’re going when you get lost, because you’ll take note of where not to go, too! Then you’ll become the navigator in your group of friends.
What if I don’t make any friends? The one thing I know for a fact is that the people of Florence are probably just as excited as you are for your arrival. Just like you, a wonderous soul searching for beauty, experiences, and different worldly perspectives, the locals and tourists are interested in what the others have to offer. You will make friends easily because someone will find your culture and customs as intriguing as you do theirs.
Money… Money is always a difficult issue, isn't it? To go on this trip, I have fund raised and taken out a small loan. But, what about spending money? When I think of things I will probably end up buying, I think of groceries, souvenirs, museum and tour tickets, etc. All of those things add up, so what can I do to lessen that financial stress? Budget, people! I personally believe that one of the things that makes a person an adult is being able to manage your money effectively. When you travel abroad, you should have a weekly budget and an overall budget to keep yourself in check. Set aside a certain amount of money for different categories: food, hygiene, miscellaneous, and emergency funds. To help with implementation, do some research before you leave to figure out where the best places are to buy these items. Since Florence is one of the most touristy social hubs of the world, it is easy to spend more than you have to on certain items. Do your research, and ask locals for tips and where you can get the most for your money.
These are just a few thoughts that I know most people think about before they travel/study abroad. So, yes, I do worry occasionally about what’s in store for me and the tests of responsibility I will face. Instead of letting that consume me, I think of how amazing this experience will be. In the future, I will be able to say that I was a student that made one of her dreams come true – I got to travel the world and study in a city that was more than meets the eye.
Kayla's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.