Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone: A Semester Abroad
Written by Kennedy Smith, Account Executive
Ever since I stepped on Elon University’s campus as a freshman, I have always wanted to experience going abroad throughout my time in college. Little did I know, the opportunity would present itself so quickly. Junior year came so fast, and with a blink of an eye, I was spending my Junior Fall semester in Florence, Italy. Italy was such a surreal experience, as the country was still trying to navigate life with Covid-19. Having the opportunity to take part in the program and study during these times was crazy, and still uneasy at times. As a whole, I think I could say my program was on the edge of their seats until finally August 21st rolled around and I was headed to the airport!
As someone who had never been out of the country, going abroad was a huge step for me, especially after a year of staying home. Covid 19 definitely affected my decision on whether to go abroad or not. It not only pushed me to get out of my safe home environment, but it also gave me the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. Learning a new language and getting the chance to speak Italian to some of the locals, made Italy feel like my home away from home. At times it was hard being so far away from Elon and my family as I felt like I was missing out on some of the normal experiences I missed my sophomore year due to Covid-19 I even debated if I had made the right choice and if going abroad was a mistake. Looking back on the experiences that I have accomplished during my time in Italy, I wouldn’t change my decision for the world. I got to travel all over Europe using my Italian skills along the way. It was intimidating making sure you followed all the protocols, had the right forms to get back into the country, keeping up with the news and staying up to date was challenging but definitely kept myself and my roommates informed.
Not only was my time abroad a great experience for me personally, but also professionally as well. Intercultural communication literacy played such an important role during my time abroad and my findings will stick with me forever. Getting to think more from an outside perspective was a unique way to learn the language of Italy. Especially not being part of the main culture or a local of any sorts, getting to know many Italian’s on a personal level through my education, ordering dinner with the limited Italian I knew, and nativating the streets of Italy when traveling, all immersed me in the culture, stepping me out of my comfort zone. Italy definitely changed my way of thinking as a communicator. I feel as though I am more open to others and love hearing what they have to say whether it be in Live Oak, classes or even just casual conversation. I learned that many Italians were always so invested in our conversations, even if it was nothing important. I think that stuck with me as I listen more and more attentively and am interested in what my peers have to say!
Italy has changed my life for the better as I met some of my best friends along the way. Going abroad with one or two friends was nerve-wracking, but coming out with eight new roommates and bridesmaids was more than I ever expected. Experiencing the world and the stress of traveling will always be a memory that will stick with me forever. Pushing ourselves to try new things, experience a lifetime of travel, and not take anything for granted was huge. Living in a whole new country as a 20-year-old young woman was a huge adjustment to my life, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and will forever be grateful for the experience of studying abroad.