By: Mari Metter
Our expectations can either make or break a situation once we actually experience it. Studying abroad can carry a lot of weight because it’s such a big decision that results in a lot of change. One of the points that the Gonzaga-in-Florence program continues to stress is the importance of budgeting- you will make a budget and expect that your budget will keep you on track. In reality, you will exceed your budget, have to adjust it, and then go over that new budget. People want to go to all the best places; however, weekend meals cost money, tours cost money, entrances to museums cost money, and of course, people have to throw money into fountains and make wishes on them. It’s hard to account for the spontaneity that will occur in Europe, especially as a college student. I rationalized many of my financial decisions based on the fact that I won’t be back to Europe for a very long time. Knowing this now, I plan to leave plenty of money aside as a last resort in future trips and in my life back home.
Another expectation I had before coming to Florence was that I was going to be really independent, since I decided to study abroad in Europe and that’s a very brave thing to do. In reality, yes it’s brave but that doesn’t mean I’m as independent as I’d like to think I am. It was difficult to talk to my mom, sisters, brothers and friends and I missed them. One benefit of being abroad is that my parents finally stopped making comments about me always being on my phone since it’s the only way they could contact me.
A third expectation I had was that traveling around Europe would be cheap because that’s what my friends who had previously studied abroad told me. In reality, I shouldn’t have made an assumption on this topic because my parents plan all of our family trips and I knew almost nothing about what is expensive and what isn’t! After spending the semester planning trips with my friends, I now know to plan early and make sure I’ve looked on every website because it will bring the cost down.
A fourth expectation that I had is that I’d experience an immense amount of culture shock. I had a ton of anxiety leading up to the departure because of everything I had to do to prepare and the huge change that was ahead of me. In reality, it was a big change but I didn’t need to worry as much as I did. Italian students learn English at a fairly young age and a lot of people know English in and around the city of Florence. Most of the places people travel are likely to be big, touristy cities and many people will speak English. If they don’t speak English, it is still easy to order an espresso and a croissant simply by using hand gestures!
Lastly, I expected to never want to return home. I wanted to buy a one-way ticket and spend the summer doing under-the-table jobs and continuing to immerse myself in the European culture. In reality, I missed America. I missed my bed, the food, my dog, being able to drive, my friends and my family. I loved Italy and the amazing study abroad experience because I learned a lot about myself, but I also realized I’m comfortable at home which is something I never would have realized if I didn’t choose to study abroad.