There is excitement and anxiety that comes with the first week of every new school year. For many Stags on campus, the biggest concern of the week might be where the first party of the weekend is. Freshmen who are new to the school may be concerned with how to find a companion to eat with in Barone. However, for abroad students this semester, starting out this week has become a challenge as we are not only adjusting to a new school year, but new countries.
When I first stepped out of the plane after arriving in Florence, I realized that I was officially in a different country. Everything around me was unfamiliar. The air, the heat and the entire scenery was incredibly different from what I was used to. It was exciting, but also terrifying in a way. The tap water tastes different, the destinations take longer to get to and of course, most people don’t speak English. I began to question if it was only me who felt a bit overwhelmed this first week. It gave me relief to talk to some other abroad students and learn that they, too, were having similar feelings.
Junior Becky Hyatt found that the adjustment to Florence was a mix of emotions. “On the one hand I was very excited to be here and meet lots of new people and experience the new culture and food. On the other hand, learning how to adjust yourself to a new culture, with new cultural norms and a new language was definitely tough the first few days.” Hyatt continued, “To find your way around and try to not get lost can be a bit frustrating. Once you get the hang of it as we are now, it becomes easier for sure.”
For some study abroad students, the whole experience of adjustment seems similar to the first week of freshman year of college. “Honestly, the first day was a bit hard because I didn’t know anybody and I felt like I had to start over. Once I burst out of my shell, I finally met so many great people and I’ve been hanging out with them ever since,” said Sylvia Navarro ’17, who is studying in Prague this fall.
Despite how tough the adjustment can be, Fairfield has done a great job of comforting their students and creating a helpful and exciting program. Junior Will Martorano, who is studying in Florence, had this to say about the program: “At first, I was kind of nervous because I’ll be in Europe for the entire semester, but Fairfield and Florence University of the Arts have made it very easy to transition.”
With all the challenges Stags are facing this first week, directors from every program have done their best to hold our hands through this process. They have mapped out the best places to eat, the best sites to see and, of course, helped us work out where our classes are being held.
“The people here are amazing and the program directors are so nice and welcoming,” said Matt Parenti ’17, who is currently studying in Tanzania, Africa and finds support not only through his directors, but also through the native people around him. He personally found his transition shocking due to the large amount of poverty that there is in Africa.
“The hardest part has been trying to find out how I can help out in the community. You really want to do everything you can, but at the end of the day you still have classes and work. You have to budget your time and find something that fits in,” Parenti said.
Aside from the obvious challenges such as adjusting to a new place, new language, new time zone and new friends, students that are studying abroad have immediately immersed themselves into the cultures of their new homes. Navarro has found amusement in attending the live concerts and performances that Prague has to offer. “I love this city and all the music it brings. I can never get bored here. There is so much to do and see,” said Navarro.
“Being in a city filled with so much artwork and beauty is probably my favorite part of this experience thus far,” explains Hyatt of Florence.
Navarro advises students who are still trying to adjust by saying, “Do what you want. Just because others might not want to go somewhere you want to go, that shouldn’t stop you from going. Juice the time you have! I certainly am.”
The best comparison I can make of my first week in Florence is a repeat of my freshman year. Everyone is going out to party the week before classes. Everyone is texting their friends and families often. However, the main difference between studying abroad and freshman year is that there is a difference in responsibility. When you are a freshman, you are put into an orientation group, you have meals provided for you in Barone and you have RAs in your building to help you adjust to the new setting. The most difficult part of studying abroad so far is the wake-up call of growing up. No one will be able to prepare you for this feeling when you leave your own country. I think that the best part to come from this experience is that you will become more mature, more appreciative of the world and more independent.Study