As soon as I arrived in Rome, I felt a massive wave of FOMO (fear of missing out) approaching. Thoughts filtered mind, like “Which countries will I travel to on the weekends?” “Who will I travel with?” “Everyone already seems to have all their trips booked…” “I need to do this, this, and this…” “So and so told me to do this…” “How am I supposed to improve in Italian if everyone seems to speak to me in English!” “What if I don’t get to do…”
When a once in a lifetime opportunity to live in Rome for three and a half months arrived, I felt the pressure to fit it all in– to experience as much as possible in fear that I would be missing out on something. And that was a challenge, because while I was experiencing one wonderful thing, thoughts creeped into my head about the details of the next thing I would be doing, and before you know it, I would be living the famous Allen Saunders quote “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
At first, I gave into the FOMO pressure and made a ton of plans. For three weekends in a row, I travelled to a different city. And when I felt the weight of exhaustion on my mind and body from all the traveling, I finally realized that I needed to slow down. Some people would kill just to have a single day in Rome, and I had three and a half months. I didn’t need to act like I was only going to be there for a week-long vacation. And so, for the next couple of weeks, I stayed in Rome.
As much as I wanted to see other places, I knew that I could not take for granted the city that I was living in. I decided to not only see the city, but enjoy it. I journaled more, spent more time reflecting on my experiences thus far, went on some some beautiful walks in the city and through parks, and met some local Italians through a parish I went to.
I realized it’s okay to go against the tide and have a slower, more relaxed study abroad experience than most students my age. I learned that it’s okay to say no to a trip or experience that you know is only going to make your life more exhausted and stressed no matter how nice it seems. I learned that there are a lot of nice experiences in life, but that it’s better to savor one than rush through three.
So to all my future study abroad colleagues reading this, I would advise you to not overextend yourself, especially while in a foreign country. Take some time to breathe. Write. Relax. Do photography, art, cooking, listen to good music, or whatever wholesome leisure brings you life. Don’t take your host city for granted, you chose it for a reason.