It’s Okay To Change Your Mind: My Adventures While Studying Abroad

Jun 13, 2024 | Main Blog | 0 comments

There’s a moment that occurs somewhere between the beginning and the end where I always find myself in utter disbelief. I cannot believe I am here. I cannot believe I have to leave soon. And in these moments, time seems to speed up. The briefness of my presence in an exact place at an exact time consumes me. My own hourglass sand timer begs to be acknowledged, though I don’t dare make eye contact.

Although in the deepest parts of my heart I may understand that my presence at every single moment is rare, it is hard to swallow. It was even harder when I found myself confined to four short months to appreciate and understand a new city, let alone dream of understanding a new part of myself. Though my adventures in both Florence and London over the past year have been some of the most thrilling I’ve experienced, there was also a sadness that lingered in the background of each day knowing that an end was soon coming. Most of all, I was scared that I would leave both cities feeling like I hadn’t had enough time.

In the past year I have traveled to 12 countries across Europe while on two separate study abroad semesters. My two favorite cities I visited were Venice, Italy and Vienna, Austria.

Venice had been a place I wanted to visit ever since I was a little girl. I dreamed of it being a place full of love, history, and hidden gems and found just that. I spent the entire day gasping for breath as I laughed my way through the narrow alleyways and around the colorful buildings with my new redheaded friend.

I initially found Vienna appealing because of Billy Joel but fell in love with a city so far beyond what I could have imagined. I loved Vienna because it felt like a city people genuinely enjoyed living in.

I often find myself getting caught up in the idea of having a good time and in doing so, forget to actually have a good time. Some of my favorite moments abroad happened because I paused my life so as to try to take in as much as I could around me. Though it has only been a month since my return home, I can still feel the warmth of the first sunny day in London after a terribly long winter or hear the siren of an ambulance in Italy and recall my surprise when I learned it was a different sound than heard in the US. In those moments when I was not thinking of my life as a story to tell someone upon my return and just enjoyed the moment I was in, I found myself a lot happier.

That being said, I was also ready to come home. At the end of my time in Italy, I thought eating another margarita pizza might just kill me. Only a couple days into my stay in London, I knew the gloominess of the city would be my biggest battle in enjoying my time there. I’m comfortable being at home and spending my days passing time slowly.

A couple of years ago I would’ve rather done anything than sit at home with my dog or my family, but lately that’s all I want to do. I used to think I wanted to live in a big city like New York, but after my time in London I know that I feel more alive when I’m closer to nature. These things could all change in a day, or a month, or nine years, but that’s okay. I’m thrilled that my mentality when I arrived in Italy in September was different than it was when I left London in May. In fact, I think that is exactly what I learned over the past two semesters – I learned that it is okay to change my mind.

Yes, the thought of someone else hanging their postcards and plane tickets on the blank white wall above the twin bed I slept on for four months in South Kensington makes me feel nauseous, that is how this works. I was filled with profound sadness when I realized I would never make my commute to school again on the Piccadilly line or that I won’t walk into my favorite trattoria where the staff knew me. I’m terrified that I won’t recognize the corner of the street I lived on once the construction scaffolding has been removed. My stomach drops (and growls) when I remember I won’t ever eat my favorite Nutella croissant from the school cafe in Florence.

But whether I like it or not, life continues on. Time still passes even if I am unsettled by it. As I prepare for my final year of college and dream of various possibilities for my postgrad life, I still find myself feeling uneasy. Maybe tomorrow, or in a month, or in nine years I’ll change my mind about time moving too fast. Ironically, only time will tell.

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Hannah Sobczyn

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