Studying overseas was one of the biggest character building experiences of my time here at TU.
While going through the process of applying for study abroad, take a second to step back and think about what it is that you’re actually aiming for. As the semester picks up speed, remember why it’s important to complete your applications, stay on top of deadlines and keep yourself connected to news. Don’t doubt yourself — I guarantee the payoff will be worth it. This time, I want to share my personal experiences as I went through the most impactful vacation of my life.
When I finally finished all the paperwork and customs and made it to Italy, I was exhausted. Exhausted and cynical, because although I made it off the plane in one piece and hadn’t gotten lost in the airport, I still had forever to go. I had train connections to make, transportation systems to get used to and a language I couldn’t comprehend to deal with. It was stressful, I won’t lie. That was the most painful part of the whole experience.
Once I got myself settled down, the days started flying by. Days in a new country are special because they’re a change from routine and they don’t get to last. You appreciate experiences so much more when you see the deadline visibly creeping towards you with every second.
I had a few simple goals for myself when I was in Italy. First, I would stop overwhelming myself, just for a month. I embraced the laid-back culture of Italian people wholeheartedly and took a step back from everything I was involved in back home. Second, I tried everything I wanted to. If I had an urge to do something, I did it. I tried cuttlefish (which turns your whole mouth black, including your teeth) in Venice, climbed a mountain in Sorrento (where they make Limoncello — those trees were all over the peaks), journeyed through the Sistine Chapel (it wasn’t on our schedule; I just decided to go stay in Rome with a few friends over a weekend) and then backpacked through Europe after the classes ended in Italy.
To be completely cliche, I found out a lot of things about myself. Characteristics of my personality that I was only vaguely aware of emerged and took charge when there was no one to tell me where to go and what to do. I met curious and fascinating people and shared brief moments together with them while I hopped around in Airbnbs, trains, metros, buses and planes. I also realized that my experiences with places were largely dictated by the people I interacted with. Even when I got lost going from Munich to Paris (the train systems are precisely on the dot in Germany compared to the lackadaisical schedule of the Italian system, so I ended up boarding a train two minutes too early, which turned out to be a one way trip to Frankfurt), I was able to fumble my way through the conflict with help from other people.
By traveling abroad, you grow as a person. For me, these experiences have shaped me to be much more independent and grounded. It might be hard now, but once you get to reap the benefits of your efforts, you will do nothing but cherish every moment, good or bad.