I’ve been home for over a week now and I still can’t wrap my head around how much these past four months have meant to me. There truly is no better time to travel than in college. With no permanent responsibilities or a full time job, there is more freedom at this point in my life than ever. I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Europe and I’ve made memories to last a lifetime.
Meeting people from many different cultures is a unique, eye opening experience. Each person I met has their own stories and advice to share, which has added to my opinions and opened my mind to new ideas about the world. So, I will offer one piece of advice about traveling: be open to meeting new people, you never know what gains could come from those interactions.
With each new experience comes new lessons to be learned, and I wouldn’t trade a single memory I made abroad for anything; however, I wish I would have known:
How to bargain at the Florence leather markets – Confidence is key. It will also save you lots of money.
How to meet locals – We met so many amazing people around the city by simply being friendly and adventuring outside of the touristy areas.
Souvenir shops close on Sundays – When traveling on the weekends, it’s easy to leave souvenir shopping until the last day, but don’t. We learned this tip quickly.
Trust your gut on the simplest of choices – If the price for transportation is too good to be true, it just might be. If the restaurant looks sketchy, it probably is. And if the sellers around the touristy areas hand you a bracelet for ‘free’, its definitely not free and you probably ditch him.
Research before traveling – Obviously you know where you’re going, and often times how you’re getting there, but it will save a world of stress to plan out the smaller scale activities (Stay, activities and points of interest, transportation to and from activities, and so on).
No duffles – Backpacks or rolling bags are the easiest for traveling, trust me.
Be aware of your surroundings – Tourists are easy targets and Americans are easy to pick out by our clothing and loud voices. If you’re aware of the people around you and your personal belongings, you shouldn’t run into any issues.
Pictures don’t do justice – Take time to look up and enjoy the view with your eyes. Mental pictures and memories of those you’re with are just as valuable.
Adjusting back to the United State’s culture:
It has taken me about a week to fully overcome my jet lag. It’s odd jumping back into normal American life after living abroad for several months. I’m more appreciative of what didn’t come easily in Italy (free water at restaurants, grocery selections, cars for easy transportation, streets without sellers walking up to tourists, etc.), but I’m already missing what we’re not used to in the US (everything in walking distance, amazing/natural food, gorgeous views around every corner, relaxed culture, and so on). I can confidently say studying abroad is one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I would highly recommend the opportunity to anyone considering traveling during college.
I want to thank you all for reading my blog and keeping up with my travels these past few months. I received many great compliments and feedback, which has meant a lot to me. I hope you gained something from my posts and enjoyed everything I had to share as much as I enjoyed reflecting on my journey.