Skills of Studying Abroad

When I first landed in Europe, I said “I can’t believe I’ll be here for months.”

Although “months” sounds like a long time, in reality I am in Italy for 100 days. As I reach the 50 day mark, it is amazing to look back on the competencies that studying and living in Florence that the Pitt GBI Florence program has given me.

One of the largest soft skills that all students abroad must learn, to some degree, is adaptability. This skill seems to be one of those concepts that is easy to speak out but hard to practice in reality. Adaptability is changing yourself to fit your surroundings, and I feel that it is something I must actively do every day. From the Italian I speak in stores to the visual engagement I constantly use to make sure I don’t get lost, I have adapted to the need to be alert and present.

I love to sit and read at the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. I am reading a book about famous landmarks in Florence while visiting them in person!

Another skill I have developed from being part of GBI Florence is problem-solving. For one of the first times in my life, I truly am alone and on my own. It is less convenient, or at times impossible, to call someone for help or advice when I would like to at certain moments. I have learned to trust myself and my intuition when dealing with problems and decisions.

I have also become more decisive in general. Whether it’s wandering around Florence without a map or figuring out which trains to board with limited timing, I have found myself needing to make quick decisions. As someone who is typically harmonious and laid-back, I realize that making judgements and being actively decisive is a muscle that one can strengthen from practice.

Throughout the past weeks since my last blog, I have been fortunate to travel to many different countries, especially over my 10 day fall break. During most of these travels, I chose to be alone. It is difficult to coordinate every trip with others who match your own desires. I have been with fellow students for most of my travels, but I have also solo-travelled!

One of my solo trips was to Berlin, Germany. I enjoyed wandering around Berlin and toured the Berlin Wall.

Navigating cross-cultural situations as a solo female traveler has been so rewarding and empowering, but definitely challenging as well. I have learned that maintaining a positive demeanor towards everyone while simultaneously being alert for my safety is quite a balance. Being alone has enabled me to build more connections that I might not have otherwise, and it has also taught me to be diligent with my belongings, surroundings, and plans.

I feel like the same person after these past 50 days, yet I am sure that my study abroad experience has changed me for the better already. I can catch myself practicing more gratitude for the whole of this experience so far – the frustrations, joys, challenges, and peaceful moments of the semester so far. Thanks for following along!

A typical meal I have when I go out for dinner in Italy! I love to try different varieties of pasta noodles as Italian culture tends to emphasis the importance of different pasta shapes!