Studying abroad was one of the most valuable but most frightening experiences that I have ever embarked upon. My name is Lauren Amador, and I took the courageous decision to study abroad in Florence, Italy, all on my own. I was not familiar with Italian culture, nor did I know the language. I didn’t even know who would be in the program! It wasn’t until I landed in the Florence airport that the nerves started to kick in. After some time, I was put in a taxi to go to the apartment. There, I grabbed my large suitcase and my carry-on bag, then went through the large doors that a CEA staff member had opened. I remember the hallway being dark, all with cement floors, ceilings and walls. When we approached the wooden door, all my roommates were standing in the kitchen.
I had a mutual respect for my roommates and had gotten to know them very well. We all came to Italy for different reasons and wanted to travel to different parts of Europe. Even though we weren’t the best of friends, we managed to live together quite well, and I always wished them the best.
I went into studying abroad with high expectations that I was going to gain all these friends right away. I thought that school would be easy and the culture shock would not have affected me as much as it did. I consider myself to be an outgoing person with likable qualities, but I learned early on that everyone is different and everyone comes from different backgrounds and cultures. I did not understand why it was difficult at first; however, if the biggest lesson I can take away from studying abroad is accepting and respecting those differences.
The first month was tough. Living in a completely different country and going to school with all new faces made me rethink my decision. However, I stuck with it and told myself that I would regret my trip if I did not try to make things better. I kept an open mind, talked to a majority of my classmates and attempted to make strong bonds.
I started asking if a classmate wanted to go out to eat that night or hang out at my apartment. Even though I did not want to get denied, I still found the courage to do so. My biggest piece of advice for someone who has not found their place yet in the program is to always be friendly, confident, inviting, and to never get discouraged. The next four months were everything and more. I made a group of friends who I call my sisters. I visited eight European countries and made friends from all around the globe. To anyone who is reading this, just know that you will be happy no matter what you choose. Maybe you want to travel on your own or make friends in your program -- whatever your goal is, it will all work out. There are many obstacles you may encounter, but the experience will help you grow.
I talk to the friends I made abroad frequently. We are all are scattered across the U.S, but we make the effort to keep in touch and visit one another. My two friends and CEA alumni visited me this past winter, and without the opportunity of studying abroad, I would have never met them.
Lauren Amador is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Florence, Italy, during the Spring 2019 semester. She is currently a student at the University of Arizona.
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