Studying Abroad in Europe for any amount of time looks like an absolute dream to college friends stuck in the states… and I can strongly agree with them and say that my life is in fact an absolute dream; but, as they say, “life is what you make of it.”
For some, it can be an odd transition from a semi-boring college town where the weather dictates energy and time, (snow, snow, wind-chill, and more snow – thanks, Ohio) to living in a pleasant European atmosphere with views practically out of a movie. Not adjusting to this type of freedom can lead to wasting precious time. The 21st century memories of studying abroad of course will include sleeping in and aimlessly scrolling through social media, but they should never outweigh memories of the countless cafés or city views discovered. Why watch a movie when you can make your own? The biggest problem of this dilemma is the number of those that agree with that idea doesn’t equate to the number of those actually practicing that mantra.
I understand that I’m the minority of this college-aged mindset. I will never grasp how humans can be content with the mundane routine of doing the bare minimum when there is a whole world happening outside. The greatest element that separates the thinkers & doers is the drive of curiosity; the notion that there is always something new to help open eyes wider. The North Face has always been a favorite company of mine, with their campaign “Never Stop Exploring,” the encouragement is continuous and contagious. My hope it that through text and visuals I can contribute to opening up the eyes of those currently studying abroad, or those preparing for a future adventure.
My biggest piece of advice is to GET LOST… alone. You won’t always have the consistent security of being with someone who is a pro-navigator, or the promise that cell phone data can help – so why live with that mindset? Familiarize yourself with the main landmarks. In Firenze, the Duomo acts as a home base for us American students. Don’t let fear or frustration get in the way, stay smart and always study surroundings!
So, to answer the initial question of being content when it comes to studying abroad: Don’t be.
It’s not about how many countries and experiences can be checked off of a bucket list in a semester, it’s about what can be taken away from every contact with the world’s people, places, & cultures. The human mind should never be content.