Things I Learned From Studying Abroad

Hello!

Now that my study abroad program has ended I’m back home in Moore, Oklahoma. I wish I could say the semester went by in a blur but in all honestly it did not. Between taking difficult classes (Organic I & II accelerated), traveling during the weekends, and OUA events, sometimes it felt as if the semester would never end. Don’t get me wrong, I can not express how much I loved the past semester abroad. I would choose to do it all over again in a heartbeat. However, the semester did prove to have it difficulties. So in this blog post I’m going to reflect on my experiences juggling classes and traveling and lessons I learned as a result of any struggles.

If you’re going to try and study abroad figure out how to manage your time!! This applies to school and traveling. For example, don’t be like me and instead actually do your OChem homework before you leave for your weekend trip to Greece. This way when you get back on Sunday night you don’t have to worry about finishing up your homework problems before class on Monday morning. Don’t save your homework for after your trips because you will be tired and will not want to even think about studying once you get back from your trip. All you will want to do is sleep. If you really don’t have time to finish all your homework before the weekend, take it with you!! Trust me. Between all of the buses, trains, and airplanes you’ll definitely have free time to study.

Managing your time is also super important when it comes to traveling. If you only have two days in a city you want to make sure you optimize your short amount of time. Even if your are not a huge planner and would rather just wing it, skip the regrets and do everything you want by at least making the effort to create a rough plan. It doesn’t have to be exact. Simply create vague time slots for how long you anticipate on spending at each attraction. This way you can ensure you get to check everything off your list.

While I’m on the topic of planning trips, before you leave for your weekend destination buy your tickets to any museums, cathedrals, or attractions online beforehand if possible! This way you can ensure that you are guaranteed an entrance time and won’t miss out on any of your bucket list adventures. Popular attractions often have very long lines which could potentially ruin your schedule! Also warning… If you ever plan on traveling to Amsterdam with hopes of visiting the Anne Frank House be aware that it’s kinda difficult to get tickets unless you plan ahead well in advance. 80% of tickets for any date are released and sold two months ahead of time and the rest of the 20% are released on the day. I did not know this when I went. 🙁

While you can attempt to try and plan every detail of your trips, also remember to be flexible. This actually could apply for the entirety of your study abroad experience. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, especially when you are in a foreign country with an entirely different language and culture. If anything goes wrong it will be okay. Always remember to take a step back and just be grateful that you are able to embark on this beautiful adventure. I can confidently say from experience that the best stories come from things going not as planned. Just have fun and be ready to adapt for anything!

My last piece of advice is to make the most out of your experience! You get what you put into it. Try to learn the language and speak to locals! Who knows maybe you’ll make a friend. Get out of your comfort zone! You’re in a different environment so things will seem strange and intimidating at first but eventually daily things like ordering your food in the native language or having a friendly conversation with a local will soon become comfortable. Remembering to experience things in the moment will also help to make the most out of your experience. Trust me you won’t look at the hundreds of random pictures you took on your cell phone of the cities you visited. Instead you will be more likely to remember the memories you made at these cities with the people you were with.

I could probably go on forever with a list of things I learned this past semester, but I think these are the most important. I hope these help anyone planning on studying abroad!

AHHrezzo, Italy (Spooky Edition)

Happy Halloween!

Yesterday I celebrated Halloween for the first time outside of the United States! Halloween isn’t as widely celebrated in Italy as it is in the States. All Saints’ Day on November 1 is actually a more popular holiday in Italy. All Saint’s Day is a national holiday which collectively celebrates all of the Catholic saints. The celebration of Halloween in Italy is however becoming increasingly popular. Weeks before Halloween, I noticed the opening of a few Halloween shops around Arezzo and stores selling costumes. Many discotecas and clubs even advertised special events that they would be hosting on Halloween day.

With the goal sharing American Halloween celebrations with local Italians, my fellow OUA students and I organized a Halloween party for children from the Arezzo community. At the event, everyone came dressed in their best Halloween costumes. We had face painting, escape rooms, and door to door trick or treating set up in the monastery for our guests. The event was an incredible success! Dozens of Italian children attended and seemed to have had lots of fun. Handing out candy and seeing all of the different costumes was by far my favorite part of the night!

Realization a Month into Studying Abroad!

As of today, I’ve been studying abroad in Italy for almost two months! I can’t believe it’s been so long since said goodbye to my friends and family (or since I’ve had tea café ). I love living here. Arezzo has become my home and I cherish all the incredible experiences I’ve had traveling in Italy. Also, the people in my program are so cool! It’s crazy to me that I didn’t even know them a month ago and now I have such good friends.

As I mentioned earlier, Arezzo has honestly become my second home. I have absolutely fallen in love with the people, the land, and just learning from the different culture. It’s like I developed a daily rhythm, this is my new normal. I’ve mastered the art of dodging the fearless drivers, ordering my food in perfect Italian, and have had my fair share of experiences sprinting through train stations.

However, being so far into the semester, I’m beginning to come to the realization that I haven’t yet had the experiences I anticipated. I’ve been so distracted by homework and traveling that I feel like I haven’t been able to develop the relationships I thought I would with local Italians. So far, I’ve became friends with a University of Siena student who lives in the monastery with us. I’ve also had dinner at the home of a local Italian family’s home. I get to learn a lot about the differences between our cultures and norms through these interactions. Although, I’ve loved having the opportunity to getting to know these Italians, I would love to be able to make these connections on my own. I think building relationships on my own will help me fulfill the comprehensive experience abroad I was hoping for. To do this I think I’ll try to make more active efforts of getting to know locals and just switching up my routine once in a while. Updates coming hopefully soon!

Love,

Hima

 

Naples, Pompeii, and Capri!!!

Ciao a tutti!

I’m currently studying abroad at the OU campus in Arezzo, Italy for the fall semester. For our third week into the semester, the entire program took a weekend trip to Naples, Pompeii, and Capri! Leaving Arezzo early on Friday morning, we were able to arrive to our first stop in Pompeii by around noon. We explored the ruins of the city of Pompeii and were able to learn a lot about the history with the help of our incredible professors. In Pompeii we visited buildings and areas which once functioned as the city’s Forum, houses of citizens, an amphitheater, and temples. My favorite part of the ancient city was ironically the beautiful view of Mount Vesuvius in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

For the second day of our trip we visited the gorgeous island of Capri. By taking a ferry from Naples, we were able to make it to the island in only an hour. Once we arrived we quickly switched from the giant ferry to a boat which was going to give us a tour around the island. On the tour we got to see caves, beaches, and the numerous million-dollar houses and yachts of Capri. My favorite part of the tour being the quick swim we were able to take in the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. My least favorite part being the seasickness of course. Nevertheless, the tour was incredible and afterwards we were able spend the remainder of the day on our own. Me and my friends decided to split a taxi and make our way up to the town of Anacapri. There we shopped, ate a delicious meal, and got gelato of course! Anacapri was perfect. The architecture was stunning, and the environment was peaceful. After adventuring through the town, we decided to take a chair lift to the highest point in Capri. There we were able to enjoy the most spectacular views of the sea, the beaches and the horizon.

 

 

 

The weekend trip to Naples, Capri, and Pompeii was an amazing experience. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to these destinations!!