Summing Up Studying Abroad

As the semester slowly begins to wind down and final exams quickly approach, I can’t help but look back and reflect on what has been undoubtedly the most remarkable semester of my collegiate career.  Throughout the past few months, I have had many “firsts” – from trying new foods to exploring new countries, and during this experience, I have had the chance to learn a lot about myself personally, academically, and professionally.

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If you asked me what I was expecting my study abroad experience would be like before I left, the answer I would have given you is wildly different from what my journey has actually consisted of.  I never imagined that I would be able to visit 10 different countries in less than 4 months, that I would be able to immerse myself in so many unique, wonderful cultures, or that I would have met so many unforgettable people and make so many memories along the way.  Summing up such an extensive experience in just a few words is difficult; I don’t think I can put into words the gratification I feel in regards to everything I have been able to do and see.  Being able to study in another country and live a completely different life has truly opened my eyes to ways that cultures other than my own operate.  I consider myself incredibly lucky and fortunate to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity, and encourage all college students to study abroad for at least one semester, if not longer.  This sounds obvious, but it truly allows you to see and experience the world.  There have been times when I have simply been walking through the streets of Florence, and I just can’t help but smile.  This city will always have a piece of my heart, and a part of me will be left here when I return to the United States.

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In terms of growth, I have definitely developed both personally and academically.  As a student, I have adapted to a completely different method of learning.  As I have mentioned in multiple other blog posts, I was used to a completely different style of teaching back at Pitt; my business classes were all very interactive, with only a fraction of the time spent listening to professors lecture, and exams that consisted of multiple-choice and open-ended mathematical questions.  Here in Florence, each and every one of my classes has been entirely lecture-based, and the only elements of our grades are an 8-paragraph essay midterm, 2500-word research paper, and two 8-paragraph essays for a final exam.  This style of grading has led me to get back in touch with and enhance my skills as a writer, and has also led me to study for exams in a completely different manner.  I never thought I would write this many essays in a semester, but I truly appreciate the academic skills I have developed through this method of learning.

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I have also experienced immense growth as an individual as a direct result of my study abroad experience.  From overcoming language barriers to getting lost in multiple foreign cities to meeting people from every corner of the planet, I have encountered obstacles I didn’t even know existed, and also come up with solutions that I never knew I could think of.  Studying abroad has allowed me to see beyond the world I was insulated in for the past twenty years of my life, and to think in an entirely new way about almost every aspect of my being.  It has opened my eyes to skills and traits I didn’t know I possessed, and taught me a lot about interaction with others and international matters and cultural differences.  Taking each individual lesson and putting them all together, I can truly see how much I have learned and taken away from this incredible experience.  As I return to the United States and head back to Pitt Business for my senior year, I know I will also take the social, cultural, and business knowledge I have gained along the way.  Everything I have learned throughout my time here in Florence has only helped me in my life, both personally and professionally.

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I only have a few more days here in Florence, and my fleeting time has led me to attempt to fill every second of every day with new experiences and memories.  It saddens me to think this wonderful journey is coming to a close, but I can’t help but smile when I think about how this has been the best few months of my entire life.

Ciao for now!