Study abroad students confine themselves to a bubble and the only people allowed inside are other study abroad students. Students come to a new country for roughly four months, post tons of pictures and call it basking in the cultural glow. Many students make no attempt of speaking the new language, arguably the most important first step in becoming one with a culture. Study abroad students will speak English before even asking if someone speaks English; this is considered very rude in most cultures including Italian culture as is making no effort to speak Italian. Many students don’t fully realize that the city they study in is not a campus for them to make themselves comfortable by expecting the city around them to adapt to fit their needs. Each student is a tiny fish in a very large foreign ocean. The sooner a student realizes that the bubble of his or her home university is nonexistent abroad, the better. In addition, usually students will find a place that they like, where they know many people speak English and continually return to this place throughout the semester. Study abroad typically lasts for only a few months and while it is nice to revisit places where one feels comfortable, it is important to keep trying new things.
Slimbach mentions that students although don’t typically intentionally stand out as Americans, they are not “eager to relinquish many of the comfortable amenities and social networks at home” (Slimach, 35). He goes on to describe study abroad students as “unprepared” and “clueless.” Although I felt a bit more prepared than some other students abroad, I know I am succeptible to the things that Slimbach mentions can discourage a successful study abroad experience. These things distinguish a meaningful learning experience abroad from an extended vacation. I feel confident saying that I don’t walk around Florence with ignorance or as a “pampered twenty-something.” I do my best to speak as much Italian as I can, even when I’m greeting and spoken to in English. I provided myself with the money I spend here, I don’t call the States every week to beg for money and I have spent endless time budgeting. However, my biggest downfall is that in being an introvert, I don’t always see it necessary to jump into making strong connections and new friendships. I am happy wandering the streets alone and exploring and given comfortable safety circumstances, I would travel alone (although I have yet to.) I have maintained many connections with friends and family at home. I am in contact every day. It’s just so accessible and this in a weird way has helped me to feel at home here. This isn’t just an episode of Survivor for me anymore; I have reached the point where this can be a truly enriching journey for me. I intend now going forward to figure out how to stretch my remaining two months (how am I already half way done?!) to the fullest so I can return home with more to say than “guess how many cool places I visited?”
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.