For Anyone Wanting to Study Abroad

This week I decided to do something a little different for my blog post. I did not want to recap on things I did or places I went rather I wanted to focus on the beauty and opportunities that await you when studying abroad. Since being gone many people from home have discussed with me the idea of studying abroad. Here is a little open letter to everyone who is thinking, dreaming, and wanting to study abroad.

Dear Friend,

I know what you are thinking on the inside. Is this the right decision for me? What if I miss out on activities at school? What if I miss everyone at home?

What if I lose connections? What if I miss out on opportunities?

These were all questions I had when deciding to study abroad. I think it is completely normal to second guess yourself for multiple reasons when deciding to study abroad. I constantly talk about the idea of the unknown future and how legitimately scary it is. I do not think anything is scarier than boarding the plane alone not knowing where you are going, not speaking the native language, and flying across the ocean miles away from comfort.

Do not hesitate too much. I have wanted to do this since I was in high school. I would attend college visits and ask about their study abroad program. I had always planned on this. Little did I know the impact that Marymount’s leadership opportunities would have on my life. I fell in love with the school, the environment and the people. But I became too comfortable. I had my routine, my jobs, my friends, it was all so normal. What terrified me the most was the idea of missing out on opportunities and losing the comfort that I established at MU. Do not be afraid to miss out, everything will be at Marymount when you return.

Do not hesitate to go astray from your original plan. All throughout high school I dreamed of living in London for a semester and even freshman year that was my plan.  I mean I would probably blame One Direction for this obsession but that is beyond the point (HAHA). Now that I am here in Florence I do not think there is any other place I would want to be. You establish a third home when studying abroad. You find your friends, your secret hideouts, you slowly build the comfort that you had at MU in the city. Everyone told me that when you study abroad you leave a little bit of your heart and mind forever in the city. I can testify that this is completely true, a little part of me will forever be in Pennsylvania, Virginia and now Italy.

I think I had the worst FOMO (fear of missing out) about a week before I left and that is completely normal. I do not know if it was because my sister was going off to MU for her own adventure and I was not. I went to move in day saw everyone and began to second guess everything. The week before my departure was stressful I am not even going to lie to you. You second guess every decision you are making, packing is a nightmare, but you must realize that all the stress will eventually have an awesome and rewarding end. I have come to realize while being over here I will miss things while being gone. Such as Capitals practice, uh new episodes of This is Us (I haven’t come to terms with this one yet), funny moments with my friends etc. But these things will be there when I return.

Do not be afraid of missed opportunities, there will always be more doors opening for you. And guess what there are doors abroad that open also. When I made the last-minute decision to do this my mom said to me are you going to look back when you’re old and forever regret not doing this. We are all at the perfect place in our lives to do this nothing is holding us back. Twenty years from now when we are sitting in an office or running around with children are you going to look back and reflect on the memories made abroad or will you be looking back with regret of not taking advantage of the opportunity.

When in Italy learn how to cook of course

Trust me, I know the process may seem stressful when deciding, committing and finally getting there but it is so worth. Take advantage of the study abroad office they are there to help you with everything. I would encourage you to sit down with them and discuss the idea immediately when you begin thinking about studying abroad. I sat down with them freshman year to plan for junior year. I eventually decided I was not going to do it, and they were fine with that. I had extensive emails and plans mapped out in case I changed my mind. And when I frantically emailed them at 10 PM on a Thursday during a Fashion Club viewing party in hopes that it was not too late. They answered right away and sat down immediately with me the next day. I got working on the application about two weeks before the Marymount deadline (talk about last minute decisions).

A semester abroad is completely what you make of it. You meet people from all around the world. You go to places you never thought you would go. You go to places that you’ve never heard of. You eat some of the best food you will put into your mouth. You spend endless of amounts of time reflecting. You pinch yourself multiple times a day just to make sure you are not dreaming.

I cannot encourage you enough to take this leap. It’s a scary leap but it is so worth it. Challenge your comfort zone. When you find yourself stuck or just living everyday with the same routine it is sometimes important to break it. Breaking your routine in this sense can forever change you. It is not possible to come home from studying abroad the same person. Everyone who studies abroad has a different experience which reflects who they are as a person.

This experience opens your mind to a world of new things that you did not even know. It can put a confidence in you that you probably have never experienced in your life. It makes you grow up and as strange as that sounds considering most of us are juniors and seniors. We are completely self-reliant here aside from our advisors, professors and friends our comfort is not close. The comfort of your family, and other close relationships that you rely on most days at home are miles away. You fly across the ocean fending for yourself. That sounds horrible I swear it is one of the best aspects of studying abroad.

Ponte: Still cannot believe I am here

Okay, I swear my rambling is done. But if you have gotten anything out of this letter I have a few tasks I want you to complete. Sit down in a quiet spot and reflect on a few of these questions.

Where you are at in life? Do you feel stuck in a routine? Can you better yourself from this opportunity? Do you believe personally that you can handle the changes and situations that will come up while being abroad? What do you hope to accomplish in life will this experience better it?

Now that you have reflected upon yourself personally did you decide that the thought of studying abroad is a good or bad decision for you? If you determined it was good here are a few more questions. Where do you see yourself? Do you want to go alone or would you prefer the comfort of a friend?  Honestly if you are extremely interested going further book an appointment with the study abroad office it will only peak more of your interest.

There are some very important questions to further ask an advisor also. Where does my program allow me to go? Can I afford to go? Will I be behind if I choose to do this? All these logistical questions can be answered by them and will give you comfort in your final decision.

I hope that some of you took away something from this very open letter I decided to write. As I write this I am at the library on a terrace overlooking the Duomo if that says anything about the daily life of studying abroad. Please if anyone is thinking about studying and wants an opinion or questions answered from a student perspective please do not hesitate to contact me.

I leave you guys with quote, I heard it originally from HelloKatyXO on her study abroad video and it really has stuck me.

“Your 20s are your ‘selfish’ years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time, and all aspects of you. Travel, explore, love a lot, love a little and never touch the ground.” – Kyoko Escamilla

Do not let the fear of the unknown hold you back from what could the biggest adventure of your life. Do this for you not someone else. Do this to better yourself, to grow as a person, and to figure the world out.

Olivia Pienta

2 thoughts on “For Anyone Wanting to Study Abroad

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