Overcoming the Challenges of Studying Abroad


As one would expect, studying abroad in a foreign country for a semester is much different than a typical semester spent in Oakland. Before arriving in Florence, I anticipated having things like a language barrier, unfamiliar surroundings, and making new friends as obstacles to overcome. However, one challenge I did not expect was adjusting to the new lifestyle of a study abroad student.

By the time junior year of college rolls around, many students are set in their routine of balancing academics, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs. However, as a student not participating in the internship program, for the first time in my college career, I seemed to have an abundance of free time where I had the liberty to choose how to spend it.

As someone who likes to stay busy, this adjustment was a bit unsettling at first. However, over the first few weeks, I learned to fill this time in meaningful ways that I enjoyed. Below are some ways that I liked to spend my time in Florence outside of the classroom.

  • Sign up for one of the activities offered by CAPA

In the CAPA lobby, there is a calendar full of free/low cost activities that students can sign up for. There would be some days of the week where I had no class in the afternoon, so I was able to attend events like a dessert tour of Florence, exploring the Italian markets, and meeting local Italian students. It was a great learning opportunity and helped me feel more immersed in the local culture.

  • Get lost (on purpose)

As simple as it may sound, one of my favorite ways to spend my free time was going on walks around Florence. It is a city full of beautiful architecture and history, and by exploring the area, I was able to get adjusted and learn my way around pretty quickly.

  • Sign up for a volunteer opportunity

Although my time in Florence was cut short, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer teaching English in a local elementary school. Not only was this a great way to practice my Italian, but I also got to interact with locals and see first-hand the differences in Italian versus American school.

  • Plan weekend trips

One of the best parts about studying in Europe is how easy it is to travel to different cities over the weekend. I had so much fun getting together with friends and planning out trips to places like Amsterdam, Milan, Athens, Brussels, and Switzerland, to name a few.

All in all, study abroad is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and spend time doing things you genuinely enjoy. While it may be different than what you are used to, your semester abroad is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something new.