Studying abroad is every college student's dream. For me, my chance to go abroad occurred at the start and full duration of my freshman year. During my two semesters in Florence, Italy, I learned a lot about being an adult. Here are the most important things I learned. 

1) Homesickness and Reverse Culture Shock

beer, wine, water, cake
David Zambuto

When you go abroad, one of the first things you experience is homeless and reverse culture shock. For me, it was missing small town life in Connecticut and being immersed in a culture that did not sleep. During orientation and the first few weeks, it was difficult to shake off that urge to want to go home. However after the second month had set in, I was fully adjusted. 

Tip: Homesickness aka reverse culture shock is a real thing and experienced on different levels depending on person to person. During the first few weeks, its okay to feel homesick. My best advice for dealing with this is to try and get immersed in the culture. For me one of my favorite things was walking to piazza Michelangelo and overlooking the city and realizing where I was and the challenges I faced to get where I was. The picture is from the art work called "Florence in a suitcase" which emphases there is always an element of home wherever you are. 

2) Reality v. Fantasy 

David Zambuto

During the summer before I left to Florence, my thoughts on my life in Florence was that every weekend I would be traveling to a new country or getting my fill of Italian food, wine and gelato. While I did a lot of traveling on the weekends, I didn't realize that I would be spending time studying for exams and writing papers for the five classes I would take each semester.  

Tip: While you're headed to be abroad and are going to travel, you need to realize that you're also taking part in academics as a full time student. I've found that doing class work during the week, gave me enough time to travel on the weekend. Additionally, I also found that traveling every weekend isn't a viable option and that every once in a while you should take a break and enjoy the place you are based in. 

3) Eating Italian Food 100% of the time doesn't work

David Zambuto

Yes, what you're seeing above is a meal I got at a Japanese restaurant in Florence. (Gasp! There's other options....) The reason I would post such a picture is that one of the discoveries I made in Florence was that having Italian food 100% of the time was not a sustainable diet. 

Tip: Italian food is great in Italy but you should make sure you have a well balanced diet. Try going to local vendors and markets to incorporate the necessary fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. 

4) Go to the doctor when you have a health issue 

David Zambuto

Months into studying abroad, I would learn from health related issues and illness that going to the doctor as early as possible if you start to feel sick. There's nothing worse than being sick in a foreign country during your study abroad experience. 

Tip: Plan ahead and schedule a visit to the doctor if you have that feeling that you might be getting sick. Additionally, you can also prevent yourself from getting sick by eating a well balance diet, exercising and practicing proper hygiene.  

5) There's no such thing as a gym in Italy....

David Zambuto

That's right, the concept of a gym is an unfamiliar concept to Italians! During my time abroad, my sole form of exercising was composed of walking 10,000 to 20,000 steps from one end of the Florence to the other end. I also did some running, which ended quickly due to the fact that the streets of Florence are covered with cobblestone. 

Tip: Walking 10,000 to 20,000 steps a day is a great form of exercise. Gyms exist in Italy, but to the Italians, they are a foreign concept and often expensive to join. During your study abroad experience, your school might offer sports and exercise clubs that can be used to replace the gym. You can also try running but just be aware that you'll have to master the cobblestone terrain.  

6) Not having WiFi or a cellular data plan is okay

David Zambuto

During my adventure abroad, I was shocked and had difficulty adjusting to the notion of having a fast WiFi connection and not having a cellular plan. While this was a strange feeling and a difficult thing to accept, it actually turned out to be a great life lesson as taking a nine month break from social media made me appreciate the world around me. After all, waking up and being this close to the Ponte Vecchio was more entertaining then Facebook. 

Tip: While you might want to get a cellular plan and convert to your American habits of constantly checking social media, not using social media and being plugged in the digital can make your study abroad experience a lot better. Instead, I'd recommend you explore the city you're studying abroad in  or enjoy the sites when you're traveling. 

7) You may end up traveling by yourself or with friends. Also your travel plans won't always turn out the way you'd expect them too. 

beer, wine
David Zambuto

Yes, that's right, this picture is from my solo travel to Milan in front of the famous duomo. During my solo trip to Milan, I learned that while I always wanted to travel with my friends, that its okay and normal traveling solo to an unfamiliar destination. My trip, which made a great story, involved missing my chance to see Da Vinci's Last Supper due to flooding and transportation delays, an angry mob that occupied the piazza and train transportation strike that almost prevented me from returning to Florence. 

Tip: It's okay to travel solo without your friends. In addition, its also great traveling with friends. The lesson here is to not fear the unknown and travel where you want to go with the time you are given. 

8) Speaking in a language other than English is actually really nice..but learning a new language can be difficult

milk, ice cream, ice, cream
David Zambuto

If you're a bilingual or multilingual, you're probably familiar with the feeling of being skilled and talking in a language other than English. For me, studying abroad was my first time learning a foreign language that could be spoken. While I thought learning a new language was going to be an easy task, I was mistaken as I struggled to properly pronounce and translate Italian. Two years since my study abroad experience, I'm better than ever with my Italian and expanded into learning some French. While learning a foreign language may be difficult, the important thing is to not give up and keep trying as one day it'll just click in your mind. 

Tip: Take at least 1 foreign language class in the country you study abroad. Additionally, if you want to become a better speaker try speaking phrases when you're ordering food (the gelato here was the first gelato I had when I was in Italy, I had to order it in Italian in order to get it.) 

9) Your time abroad goes by quick...

water, wine, beer
David Zambuto

While I had an additional semester, one thing I didn't realize as my study abroad came to an end was how fast the time you have abroad goes by. I remember on my last day in Florence, how grateful I was for being an amazing adventure and all the things and places I had experienced using the most of the 24 hours I had each day. 

Tip: Time goes by quickly during your study abroad experience. To make the most of your time, stay up and make the most of each day you have and plan where you want to travel accordingly. I would also recommend keeping a journal alongside taking pictures so you can remember what happened. 

10) Studying Abroad and Traveling isn't everything...

coffee, wine
David Zambuto

Shocked? Surprised? Thought I would say something meaningful about being abroad? 

While traveling and studying abroad is a great experience, there is only so much that can be done. While it's been a difficult experience adjusting to campus life in the United States, I've been able to do things that weren't possible being abroad that include leadership positions and learning some surprising skills that I didn't think were possible. 

Tip: Adjusting to home life and campus life when you return from being abroad will be difficult but stepping in and trying to be involved in campus life will make that adjustment easier. Also its important to realize that while you can always travel, there's only so much time you have to enjoy the splendors of campus life.