Letter to my Pre-Departure Self: Florence

Dear Pre-Departure Jordan,

Looking back at the past few months of my study abroad journey, I can say that I have grown so much throughout all of my experiences in Europe. From the start, I learned the true value of independence and self-sufficiency. I have always enjoyed my independence, but learning to trust myself in complicated, adult situations was a very special “coming of age” moment. I have grown the confidence to handle unexpected challenges that were very common throughout studying abroad, whether it was transportation problems, navigation, cultural differences and adaptations, etc.. I have also grown in my social skills which are so important to me. Because I value my independence, it is easy for me to isolate, especially since pandemic times. Actively focusing on my relationships with other people and traveling alongside friends was very beneficial for me, and I had an amazing time with my friends and host family.

If I had to think of anything that I wished I knew before traveling abroad, it would be to go into Italy with a better plan of what I wanted to see and do. The semester abroad seemed to be so long with endless time and possibilities, but it ended before I knew it! Making a lengthy bucket list of places to visit and things to accomplish would have structured my time a little better. However, I was still able to see many countries, cultures, and hidden gems in Florence, and last minute plans always ended up being the best. It was also hard to juggle my weekend priorities of traveling versus deepening my connection with Florence.  Structuring my weekdays in Florence outside of classes would have let me make the most out of my short time there. I would have told myself to be more social and outgoing with classmates and locals as well. I sometimes took my school days for granted and wouldn’t prioritize exploration after a long day of classes. It is easy to say that in retrospect, but every day counts. I would tell pre-departure me to take initiative in social situations because time passes and all you have is now! A final thing I wish I knew is to bring a duffle bag to Florence!! I wore a small bookbag for many of my weekend trips, which caused so much hassle with underpacking. For someone like me who needs a few options for what to wear, a large, cheap personal item would have been ideal for weekend trips!

What surprised me the most about studying abroad in Florence was that I adapted to the culture very quickly. What at first seemed like a whole new world ended up feeling like home within a week of being in Florence. Being hosted by a wonderful Italian family definitely made the transition easier, but I feel that my openness and appreciation for change made the cultural shift more seamless. I can’t believe the semester has flown by so quickly. I will miss Italy so much..!