Emily McCoy shares what returning to the United States is is like after being abroad in Milan, Italy, for a semester. You can read her personal blog about her experiences here.
What do you miss most about your host country?
I’ve been back from my trip for about a month, so I’ve had some time to reflect on my experiences and every day life abroad. I think the one thing I miss the most is all of the markets selling fresh fruits, vegetables, pastas, and pastries every day of the week. You could walk downtown on a Saturday, or even near the school campus on Monday mornings, and find vendors lined up down the streets selling their goods. It was so easy to cook fresh meals.
Also, there were seemingly no drive-thrus. Although there were a few McDonald’s and Burger Kings in the various cities I visited, you still had to go inside to order. It was a lot easier to eat healthy abroad and not be tempted by the convenience of fast food.
Did anything surprise you about returning to the U.S.?
When I returned to West Virginia, it really surprised me how much we as a nation depend on cars as transportation. I had never paid much attention to it before. We take cars everywhere, even if we’re just going to the store down the street.
In my host country, it was really common for people to walk where they needed to go or simply take public transportation. Italy had trains, subways, trams and city buses, but it would be hard to get around West Virginia on foot or just by public transportation in the same way.
What is your favorite memory from studying abroad?
I have so many unforgettable memories from being abroad that it’s hard to choose just one. Some of my favorites happened when my mom and boyfriend came to visit me. You meet a lot of new friends that you make lifelong memories with, but making memories somewhere that far away with people you love is amazing. I’m really blessed that I was able to show them around Rome, Venice and even Paris.
Were there any negatives to studying abroad?
The only negative I found while studying abroad was missing out on holidays in the United States. I was abroad during Thanksgiving and that was really hard for me. It was just another day in Italy so I was in school while my family was spending time together. It made me really miss home, but the friends I made in Italy helped me through. I’ll always appreciate being at family gatherings from now on.
What other countries did you visit while you were abroad, if any?
The only other country I got to visit while abroad was France. I flew to Paris with my mom while she was visiting and we spent a couple days exploring the city. We visited Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and the Christmas market set up on the famous street Champ de Elysees. We also had lunch inside the Eiffel Tower with the most amazing view.
After lunch, we walked as far as we could up the tower (over 600 steps) and then took the elevator to the very top. The elevator to the top had glass walls and I got motion sickness, but it was definitely a trip filled with memories I’ll cherish forever.
If you could give any advice to students wanting to study abroad, what would it be?
Just do it! Save your money, pick up extra shifts wherever you work, switch around your course schedule, whatever you have to do, just do it. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back from something you really want to do.
Going abroad is an amazing experience and you’ll grow a lot as a person while away for a semester. It also looks great on resumes and you’ll meet lifelong friends. You’ll also come back home viewing the world in a totally different way, and who doesn’t love checking things off their bucket list?
Photos from Flickr.com.