I understand that there's a stigma with the students that come back from studying abroad. When they come back and say things like, "I'm different.... studying abroad changed me", you are more than likely gonna shrug it off because it's what a crap ton of students have said before. BUT, there is a reason why so many people have said this (including myself). It's because studying abroad really does impact your life, in either big or small ways. I can honestly say that while eating my weight in paninis, I simultaneously learned so much in the short six weeks I spent studying abroad in Italy without even knowing it. 

Culture Shock

Christian Perez

From the second I got on the plane to land of pasta, I was already shook by my inability to communicate with the Italian speaking flight attendants. I mistakenly thought that Italians would respond better to Spanish, but instead, I got yelled at and was told to "speak English", as the flight attendant served me airplane meat when I was trying to ask for spaghetti. Despite this negative interaction that embarrassed me in front of my fellow passengers, it inspired me to take Italian so I could avoid being yelled at in the future. In the end, it paid off. Once I got acquainted in Florence, life was a breeze. I wasn't used to the gypsy's that would aggressively shake their cups full of pennies at me on my way to class, nor was I used to having to pay extra for water every time I was thirsty (water in Italy ain't free). After a while though, I found myself becoming used to the quirks of Florence. Before I knew it, I was ordering cappuccinos in Italian, making friends with the local panini shop owners, and even enjoying the very VERY long walks from the nightclubs back to my apartment with my friends (sadly there are no Italian Ubers). These were things that were foreign at first but became the norm for me after a short while. 

Food and Drank

Christian Perez

When I say I ate my way through in Italy, I mean it. I made it my mission to become the Italian version of myself and get lost in the culture that Florence provided. Every single meal I had never disappointed. I was eating pounds of bread, massive plates of pasta, and drinking many glasses of wine. I even went to a wine tasting and almost choked trying to learn the proper technique to taste wine. It involves breathing at the same time as swallowing to get all the flavors or something like that. I had panini's with my friends between classes, gelato with my roommates late at night, and was drinking pitchers of beer at my favorite local pub, "The Lion's Fountain". It was at this pub where my friends and I were always laughing, met other study abroad students, and listened to American music (a breath of fresh American air was needed every now and then). With the cannolis and pizza's aside, Italy taught me to expand my pallet along with my mind. I had always been a picky eater until recently and studying in Florence further introduced me to what I had been missing out on for so long. 

The Ultimate Experience 

Christian Perez

Now, this is the part that people often dismiss when they hear about someone's study abroad experience, but it's probably the most important aspect of it. The people I got close to in Italy, and even Italy itself, taught me so much in such a short six weeks. I learned to live in the moment and not be in a rush all the time. Italian's view eating out with friends more about the interactions, stupid jokes, and loud wine toasts rather than the food itself. Instead of rushing to get the bill (how I usually am in the states), I found myself just sitting and having a great time. I went to the Italian version of happy hour on a hillside overlooking the city while double fisting cups of Prosecco. I learned that the word "preggo" doesn't only mean "pregnant" or "marinara sauce". Most importantly, I learned to enjoy myself and realize that there's so much out there to see, and how we get caught up in our worlds that we fail to see other ones. Today, I officially declare myself one-third Italian and I have made it my mission to go back, eat some more bread, drink more wine, and live life to the fullest.