My Takeaways from Study Abroad

Christina Mercedes looking over a cliff

Do you think time goes by faster the older you become? I do. Semesters go by, and months bleed into each other. Before you know it, you’ve finished one chapter and you’re already reading the next. That’s sort of how I feel about my senior year commencing when just three months ago I was enjoying gelato after class in Rome.

Spring semester of my junior year, I studied abroad in Italy. Every day was a separate adventure; I learned a lot, ate a lot, and experienced a ton. Each of my classes were unique and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Weekends were set aside for exploring places in Rome, around Italy, or Europe as a whole. After spending over three months in Rome, I can honestly say I fulfilled my goals and am content with my accomplishments there.

You may be considering study abroad as well, but perhaps you’re stuck on how much time you’d be away from IU or the cost it’d take to get there. I could just tell you do go for it, but that wouldn’t be very convincing. Instead, I’ll share with you some of the big takeaways from my semester in hopes that it will persuade you to go abroad, too.

There’s so much out there to see.

The sun sets on Siena, a town in the Tuscan region of Italy.

This planet is huge. After some Google searching, I discovered that I’ve traversed roughly 4.5% of it, so obviously I still have some ground to cover. Despite that small percentage, I had the chance to visit five countries and various Italian towns within three months. Each place I went had uniquely beautiful qualities and left me with unforgettable memories. Even the simplest train ride through the countryside brought upon magnificent landscapes and an interesting story. I urge you to get out there and explore, to see new things, and to take in a wondrously unfamiliar environment.


People live differently everywhere. Embrace culture.

Italian opera is a beautiful art; I had the opportunity to attend one while in Rome.

My daily routine significantly changed while living in Rome. The biggest difference was that I walked everywhere. Internship meeting location is 30 minutes away? Better start walking now. I rarely thought twice about how much time I spent commuting because my apartment and school were only about a mile apart, but going there and back and everywhere else helped me rack up about 10 miles a day. And I thought my walk to Franklin Hall was long!

During our trip to France, my friend and I got to try raclette; delicious!

Another change for me was cooking and eating habits. Food was readily available just about anywhere I looked, but I went grocery shopping often to save money. Italian markets, even just the corner groceries, offer fresher and better quality food than in the States. That being said, produce, meat, and cheese expire more quickly without added preservatives. Picking up a few things every couple of days was normal for this reason. I’d pick up produce and challenge myself to try a new recipe, and order random meat and cheese from the deli with faith that I would enjoy it. When going to restaurants, I tried to order new things each time, one unique dish being oxtail (it was delicious by the way). The point is I went out of my comfort zone and did things the Italian way instead of sticking to what I knew; this really enhanced my experience.

It’s so easy to get swept up in your way of doing things, but I urge you to embrace a new and exciting culture! Not only will it increase your awareness, but it will also give you a better understanding of how other’s live around the world.

Gaining independence is a sure-thing.

Corinne, an IU friend who was also abroad, met me in Brussels, Belgium for a weekend.

Traveling to a different country solo is in it of itself a very independent venture. I had been on a plane by myself before, but this was my first time booking flights, planning itinerary, and organizing my travels alone. To add, navigating Rome was a different, and at times difficult, adventure. Google Maps was my best friend for the first couple weeks. As I explored further away from my home base in central Rome, the more my knowledge of city geography expanded.

It is such an amazing feeling to know a city back and forth that it feels like home, and getting lost is a part of the experience. Studying abroad will make you a quick thinker. It will force you to make decisions on the fly, and problem solve when things come up. It may even help with your future career.

I won’t be able to sell you on the whole leave-the-country-for-a-long-time idea, only you can make that decision. However, maybe this will push you to seriously consider it more. Are there bad days? Of course. Just like life here, there are ups and downs, chaotic moments and relaxed moments. The difference between days here and days across the world is that you will be more unfamiliar, more uncomfortable, more exhilarated… and you’ll grow as a person because of it.

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