So you finally bit the bullet and decided to look at various study abroad programs…that’s great! Studying abroad will truly change your life, and that of course, is coming from someone who spent a summer month in Europe. It can be both exciting and overwhelming, browsing through all of the available programs via the business school’s studying abroad website. There are beautiful programs in London, Australia, and of course, Italy. Those were places that I was looking for a program, almost strictly because of my comfort level. 2 out of those 3 places speak English, while the other…well, come on, it’s ITALY! My first piece of advice, look outside of your comfort zone. I ended up in Austria, of all places. I decided to look past country boarders, and look into what the specific program provided. Mine, for instance, allowed and encouraged students to travel on the weekends. Because of this, I was able to visit Munich, Paris, Rome, and Venice. I also got to stay in a homestay with a woman who spoke only German. This can seem like a turn off, but it allowed for complete submersion into the culture, something I craved.
When you are abroad, you will have good days and bad days. Some days can seem really great: the sun is shining, the temperature is great, the locals are friendly, and the meal is correct. However, not every day is like this, and that is perfectly okay. You’ll get caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella, the language barrier will cause a fight with a store owner, or what you thought was schnitzel is actually chicken liver soup. Things happen. But it’s up to you to deal with how you react to it. Some days, I just needed to go home after dinner rather than try to stay out later with the group, or I needed to separate from everyone, get my own gelato, and soak in the country by myself. Turn a bad situation into a better one (and chicken liver soup really isn’t that bad…it tastes like a meatball!).
My last piece of advice is to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. If you do select a program that allows independent travel (highly recommended), then you will need to get used to navigating the extensive train system through Europe. You will be knees-to-knees with strangers, passive aggressively fighting for luggage room, and have to do the occasional sprint to the connecting train. The best part? All train-traveling Europeans experience these same issues, so you’re not alone! Try the local food, check out new restaurants, and treat yourself to gelato. For some, it could be your first and only trip abroad, so you will want to make the most of it. For others who plan on visiting again, make this your opportunity to trial-test the train system, ordering at a foreign restaurant, and behaving as a local to make your future trips even more successful. Have a great time, you will love every second.
-Mandy Paganetto, ’17
B.S. in Marketing and Sport Administration