My First Study Abroad Lesson!

25 Jan

Ciao bloggers! I am happy to report that I made it safely to Italy and have been happily living here for an entire week! Before I blog about my experience in Venice and then my first week at my program site in Paderno del Grappa, I would like to allow you all to hear of my enlightenment! In my first blog I spoke of my accident pronenature and my minimal grasp of Italian. These facts about myself caused a few hours of sleepless tossing and turning while imagining the worst and most embarrassing situations a young traveler could find themselves in their first time going abroad. The plan was to fly out of Chicago with another girl in my program, Steph, to Zurich for an hour layover, and then onto Venice for three days before our program start. So let me recap the situation: two college students who have never traveled outside of the US by themselves, who both began laughing on the plane for not knowing the exact name of Switzerland’s language, were flying to two foreign airports and then staying in Venice, a city they were completely unfamiliar with, dragging all of their necessities for the next three months.

How many problems do you think we encounter while traveling? Did we miss our connecting flight because customs kept us held up? How many times did we get lost? What crazy stories can I tell about us having to pantomime questions to people who didn’t speak English or what we did when we realized we were on the wrong bus heading towards Rome instead of Venice? Answer: none. No one was more surprised than me that we did not encounter one single problem in our long journey!

Now, it could have been beginners luck. It could have been that I have a natural talent at navigation (highly unlikely though if you ask my family). Or the whole thing could have been due to two things: over preparation and a lax attitude. Steph and I researched every hotel in Venice, read the reviews on several websites, mapquested their exact location and how to get to that exact location.  I read the booklet from our program about how to get around, how to buy a train ticket and bus ticket, and other helpful travel tips over and over. We also were not afraid to ask a million questions of the English-speaking hotel staff.

There are over a million things that can go wrong when you are traveling abroad. It is scary to walk off the plane and have to ask, “Now what?”. Every Study Abroad brochure, returning student’s testimonial, and this blog, I’m sure at the end of the semester, will tell you that you will learn so much from your experience studying abroad. My first lesson learned: Don’t panic! The moment I would feel a pang of nervousness in my stomach, that feeling of fear that you may be lost in a foreign country, was the moment we would continue walking and suddenly see the sign for where we were going.

And getting lost isn’t always a bad thing! I feel like one learns their way around better when they get lost. More importantly, getting lost means you have strayed from the beaten track. I decided to study a whole semester in Italy because I wanted to be immersed in a culture, learn somewhere completely different for some time in my life. It is hard to be immersed in a culture when you stay on the beaten tourist track, the cliché Italy. Some of my favorite views of Venice were the realistic views of our random wandering path.

I cannot wait to write next time about my few days in Venice and in Paderno del Grappa! But it’s ciao for now!

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3 Responses to “My First Study Abroad Lesson!”

  1. April February 1, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    Yay Colleen! I admire your spunk and your positive spirit. I was told that the COM 100 class will be reading your blog — and I cannot imagine a better student from whom to learn about the study abroad experience. Keep on writing! I’ll be readin’ – April

  2. Michael February 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Great post! Those “ah ha!” moments are what make Study Abroad so powerful. What you get it, there nerves are gone and the adventure begins. Keep it up.

  3. Mara May 24, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    Thanks for the blog! If you want to keep up with your Italian online or on your iPhone a good service is Babbel.com (http://www.babbel.com). Buen viaje!

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