Studying abroad – for me I saw it as an opportunity to live my life in a completely new way, a test, and a chance to develop a new perspective on the world. It had the potential to be an unparalleled experience, but there were so many questions to tackle first. Where would I go? When? How long? Having little to no experience with foreign languages, I was afraid I was going to be very limited with this endeavor. However, I’ve learned how the only true limitation occurs when you are too afraid to step outside of your typical day-to-day.
So I dove in one hundred percent and didn’t allow myself to second guess or back out. After I found the program that would best fit me, I went ahead and committed, filled out the application and never looked back. It was the perfect combination of being scared and excited.
I honestly don’t think it hit me that I was going to be leaving my home, my family and friends, and my comfort zone until I was on the way to the airport. I barely knew anyone in the program and knew even less Italian. I remember waiting in line to check my bags and wondering what it would be like when I was standing there five weeks from now after it was all said and done. To say I had no idea what to expect was an understatement.
Twelve hours and 5,000 miles later we had made our way to Taormina, a place I had googled a hundred times, but now I was living it and calling it home, narrow streets and all. As the program progressed, each week seemed to have a theme. One week we were almost overzealous, running around trying to find new restaurants to eat at, clubs to experience, and new things to try. The next we would want to just hang out by the pool or down at the beach, planning to pick up the closest thing to a burger and fries on our way back. From these extremes, we found a balance that evolved into a feeling of no longer being a tourist, but more of a local. We got to know the business owners, adjusted to the laid back lifestyle by embracing siesta, and walked the familiar streets on our way to the grocery store and truck vendors to buy some of the best fruit I have ever eaten.
The adventures and the food were easily essential parts of my time abroad. It’s what I had wondered about most before stepping into this new chapter of my life. However, the friends I made along this journey were what really completed the experience. From chanting “Bodda Getta” in the middle of the Alcantara Gorges, to deciding between midday gelato or granite runs, to dinners together splitting every pizza flavor imaginable, these were the people that added the support and humor along the way and the ones I still reminisce with when we’d rather be back on a boat jumping into the Mediterranean Sea instead of studying for finals…I mean who wouldn’t?
Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have made and a reminder that anything is possible. Looking back to the days leading up to my departure, everyone kept asking if I was ready. I now realize you can never be fully prepared for this experience as there are surprises behind every corner. That’s what I truly needed to be ready for, to be able to let go and let the experience take control. All that’s left is to enjoy the ride and the people by your side.
— Susie Pratt
AU Liberal Arts – Summer Program in Taormina, Italy