Indiana University Overseas Study

Megan Shaffer

I’d had a long, six-week winter break to relax, prepare for the trip, and spend time with family and friends, yet on my last day in the states, I was feeling uneasy.  As I sat on my bedroom floor, trying to cram 4 months of stuff into a fifty pound suitcase and a carry-on, I began with the “what ifs.”  What if I forget to pack something?  What if I get pickpocketed?  What if I cannot find something I can eat?  What if I get homesick?  What if I get lost?  (And so on…)  My fears were not entirely irrational; I had reason to be nervous.  I do not know a single person in my program.  I am gluten intolerant, and will be living in the land of pasta and pizza.  I have a terrible sense of direction.  I do not speak a word of Italian. (Actually, I take that back.  I know the words “si,” “no,” and “ciao.”)

Despite these fears, I was still looking forward to leaving for Rome the next day.  Last semester had been a difficult one for me, both academically and on a more personal level, so I was ready for a semester of new places, new people, and new experiences.  I was a bit nervous to face the challenges that a different country, different language, and different customs could bring about, but having lived my entire life in Indiana, the thought of living in a foreign country was exciting to me.  When I look back on my life, the times that I felt that I experienced the most personal growth were the times that change was introduced into my life.  I believe that change forces you outside of your comfort zone, allowing you to discover insights not only about yourself, but also about the world at large.

After saying my last goodbye, I was overcome by a rush of emotions: sad to leave my family and both nervous and excited for what lay ahead.  As I sat in the Indianapolis airport waiting to board my flight to Rome, I tried not to let the negative emotions overcome me.  There are sure to be obstacles in my way during my study abroad experience, but no matter what, the positives will outweigh the negatives.  Living in Rome for four months, I know I will have the opportunity to meet new people, see new places, and learn new things.  I will be living in one of the oldest cities in the world, so full of rich history.  I will be in a school with nearly 100 students from all over the United States.  I will have 7 roommates, including a native Italian.  I will be interning at an Italian company.  The list goes on.  I know that studying abroad will be an incredible learning experience, and I hope that it will give me a broader sense of the world around me.  Plus, I expect to have a whole lot of fun while I’m there.

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