To my pre-departure self,
You don’t know if yet, but you are about to move to one of the most beautiful, culturally rich, and meaningful countries in the world (well, in your opinion at least). Three months of studying abroad might sound like a lot of time to you now, but trust me, it’s nothing. I know you are going into this program a bit nervous but with as much of an open mind as possible, and I’m happy to report that you will keep that open mind for the duration of your semester and it is going to take you so many places, metaphorically and physically. This should be some of the most tiring three months of your life, but in the best way possible.
To prepare you a bit, here’s an idea of the multitude of personal growth you will experience over the next three months. First and foremost, your interpersonal and communication skills have gotten so much stronger through your internship, talking and interacting with people who speak a different language, and by getting to know the staff at school on a personal level (and other students, of course). I think you thrive in small group social settings so this doesn’t surprise me (by the way, you’re one of only 26 students). Another way in which you will grow is in your independence. Not only do you become even more independent than you already are, but you become truly confident in your independence. You’ll learn how liberating traveling solo and figuring out foreign streets on your own can be. Along the lines of independence, your time abroad will remind you to always stay true to yourself. Even though not knowing any of your classmates might be intimidating, that doesn’t mean you have to change for any one of them.
Now, I have to advise you of a few things I wish I knew before moving to Florence. First, three months goes by FAST. Do everything you possibly can and always say yes to adventures and trying new things before it’s too late. You only get to study abroad in Italy once in your life. Another thing, I know it seems terrible right now that you aren’t allowed to leave Italy, but you should know that you will get to see more of Italy than most Italians have seen – and it’s incredible! It might be frustrating but it’ll be just just as meaningful and you get to know Florence better than you otherwise would. And one more thing on a less serious note, Florence is buggy in the heat, so be prepared.
Finally, I have to prepare you for the surprises – good surprises of course! You will surprise yourself with just how comfortable you can be living in a foreign city and so far from home. Week one, you’ll panic about getting around, but you’ll pretty much know Florence like the back of your hand by December, and that’s a really cool feeling. You’ll also surprise yourself with how much Italian you learn over the course of the semester. You learn a lot more than you would in a beginner course back at home and it’s something to be proud of. And the best surprise of all is the city of Florence. Who knew you could love one city so much. I know you had a good feeling about Florence, but all your expectations will be exceeded more than ever imaginable.
So that should sum up this letter of advice in combination with a love letter to Florence. All I can say is to not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone – the payoff is amazing! Be yourself and take in every last second of it. Besides, your friends and family will be upset if you don’t come home with good stories to tell!
End of Program Diana