If you ever get the chance to study abroad anywhere during your college career, do it! I know how cliché it is to say how life changing it is, but it truly did change my life for the better. While I may be biased, I suggest that you study abroad in Italy. After living and studying in Florence, Italy for four months I can tell you it is an experience you will never forget.
Expectation #1) The food there is amazing!
Reality…the food there really is amazing! Never in my life have I had food that tasted so good. Everything is made with fresh, natural ingredients. The only downside to this is in returning back to America your stomach suddenly recognizes all the preservatives used in food here and will be upset when first putting it back into your system.
Expectation #2) I need to know Italian
Reality…if you know English you’ll be just fine! I went to Italy not knowing a lick of Italian. I suggest looking over basic phrases before you go; I just learned them as I was there. But most likely you are studying somewhere in Italy that is heavy in tourist traffic, which means most of the Italians in the area will know some (or a lot) of English. So if you’re not fluent in Italian, don’t worry!
Expectation #3) You’ll find gelato somewhere
Reality…you will find gelato everywhere! Have you ever been to New York City? You know how there’s a Starbucks on every block? Well that’s exactly what it’s like to be in Italy, except with gelato shops! A trick of the trade is if its gelato stacked high in the case, it really isn’t that good. Try to look for places where the gelato can’t be seen as easily or is even covered; they’ll taste much better!
Expectation #4) All Italians are going to be warm and welcoming
Reality…some will be, but most will not. Italian culture is very different than ours here in America. You will suddenly realize how much customer service we have in restaurants and stores once you go to Italy and rarely see it. While it may seem abrasive at first, you just have to remind yourself that these are merely cultural differences and not the people trying to be rude.
Expectation #5) I’m going to gain weight eating all that Italian food
Reality…I lost about 10 pounds while abroad in Italy. Yes, the food there is filled with carbs, but you walk everywhere! I rarely used transportation, other than the train for long trips, so I really got those 10,000 recommended daily steps in. As long as you don’t take a taxi or bus every time you leave your apartment, I wouldn’t worry too much about gaining weight. Enjoy the amazing food available to you and if you’re really worried about it, hit the gym there or when you’re back home.