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How I Decided to Study Abroad

Gina Wierzbicki (UConn) tells us why she decided to study abroad, what fears she has overcome, and how her outlook has now changed.

When I think about how I decided to study abroad, I wouldn’t consider it much of a decision at all since it has always been something I knew I wanted to do. It was always a dream of mine to travel around the world. As someone who has lived mostly in the North East of the United States, I knew I wanted to experience a different way of life far from the small bubble I lived in.

However, while I knew I wanted to study abroad, the reality of actually going abroad posed some obstacles.

The biggest obstacle would probably be the expense of living in a foreign country for four months without income and with the hopes of traveling, which amounts to be a costly endeavor. For me, this meant many months of saving by working a school job during the semester and a full-time job over the summer. In addition, I also applied to as many study abroad scholarships as I could find at my school, which made the expense a lot more feasible. Lastly, budgeting was an important tool I used both before arriving in Italy, and continuously since I’ve been here, in order to keep track of my finances. It is important to have a set plan in place so that I know how much money I can spend on fun activities and travel after putting aside the right amount of money to cover necessities, such as grocery shopping and school fees.

Another obstacle I faced, was the fear of meeting people since I wasn’t going abroad with anyone that I knew. I worried about who my roommates, classmates, and maybe even future travel mates would be. I was nervous about being so far away from my friends, family, and home for a whole semester. Luckily, many of my fears disappeared once I arrived in Florence. I found it was a lot easier to meet and connect with people than I thought, since many people who study abroad are like-minded. We all made the decision to leave home and live across the globe – there’s a shared interest in wanting to explore new things and places, and we are together in this unique experience.

In terms of missing home, I realized that I am never really too far from those I love because Facetime, texting, and social media make it easy to stay in touch. I realized how short a semester truly is! Before arriving, I was so worried that the semester might feel too long; however, I now worry about time passing too quickly and that there’s not enough time to see and do everything. This has definitely taught me how important it is to embrace and make the most of every moment.

Overall, my personal outlook has changed tremendously since being here. Studying abroad has taught me to fully embrace new experiences and opportunities. While it may be daunting at times, stepping out of the comfort zone allows for growth and the possibility to find something great and otherwise unknown. This experience continually surpasses any expectations and I am so grateful for the amazing friends and memories I will take home.

Gina Wierzbicki
University of Connecticut