Studying Abroad Isn't What I Thought.

28 comments
White Cut Out Blouse: Forever21.
Tan Slacks: Zara.
Wide Brimmed Hat: Brandy Melville.
Black Loafers: TJ Maxx.

Studying abroad in Italy isn't what I thought it would be--at all. I know that may seem like an out of the blue statement from me after constant traveling posts, raving about all of the beautiful places I get to visit and see and do... but this experience has been so different than I ever thought. 

The feelings started creeping up on me during the first month of  being here right around the time I went to Paris for five days with my school. I knew about the "roller coaster" of studying abroad that our professors told us about. That we would start off high, being exhilarated to be somewhere new and exciting. Over time it would wear off and we'd be at the bottom of the coaster-- feeling home sick and frustrated with all the cultural differences. And in the end, we would be happy and elated again, not wanting to ever leave and enjoying the last of our 'ride." I knew I would probably experience things on this imaginary roller coaster a bit differently and quicker than others. Having only ever spent a month a most away from my family and being an absolute homebody, it was going to be hard, but I knew I would adjust and fight through it.

The problems weren't really just for the extreme home sickness I started feeling though after the first month or so, but just so many things at once I think. I wanted to do this trip to find things out about, discover, and develop myself as a person in this big scheme of life. The funny thing is, I suppose I thought I could pick the things I would discover out about myself-- that they'd be all good things. Unfortunately, the things I've found out about myself along the way of this trip have been difficult and nothing I was prepared for.

I've always known I like to be alone. I've been a loner since I was little, having only one group of small friends and staying in that circle. If you read my blog when I was in high school, I really only had my boyfriend at the time as my only friend and had some friends, but always kept them at a distance and they were more "school friends." I struggled for awhile in college making friends and keeping them, always feeling inferior and like I wasn't good enough... Being alone for me has never been a problem. It's just what I've always known and what I enjoy.

But here, I guess I didn't really realize how important this is to my personality and just my way of life. In college, I had my mornings and evenings to myself to recharge, write, blog, relax and think and I could socialize in the afternoons with my friends and go out for dinner and hang for a little bit, no problem. But when I got here in Italy, I found myself always being with people, constantly. It's inescapable really-- I live in a city, have three roommates, and am in a small program of about 37 other fashion students. I found myself getting sort of depressed and suffocated being with people 24/7. I couldn't think straight, I felt like I was losing myself, and Paris was the breaking point where I just realized that I need a certain amount of alone time to just...be okay. I need that to feel like myself, to have my thoughts straightened out and  my peace restored. After spending five days non-stop doing things with everyone and pushing, pushing, pushing myself to be this social person when I'm just not, I was exasperated and felt like I had lost who I was. I can't go, go, go like everyone I discovered. The constant traveling and new experiences and adversities were exhausting for me and I couldn't take it all. I couldn't "take advantage of every, single moment" like everyone else was. It was too much to go from morning till night without a break and without peace to just be. I felt like I wasn't seeing things and truly experiencing them, rather rushing through and just trying to shove as much as I could into one time period.

And all this frustrated me because I felt like I was the only one who felt like this. I didn't understand why I couldn't be like everyone else in the program and want to constantly see everything and do everything we could because "it was the experience of a lifetime." It made me feel guilty and strange because I just couldn't do this constant socializing like everyone else...I wanted to sit down in a quiet Parisian cafe and people watch over a coffee rather than running all over the city trying to see it all. I was angry and unaccepting of myself because I just felt like such a weirdo who can't talk and make friends and be in a social group. I'd rather be by myself. And I hate that, but I guess it's something I just can't change.

Things have been up and down since Paris and recently have been a lot more down. I'm not in love with Italy if I'm honest. At first I didn't want to admit that to myself. It made me feel so guilty and awful because everyone says they're so jealous and wish they were me and that this is the experience of a life time and I should take advantage of everything...I kept forcing myself to think that, hey, they were right. This is the best time of my life and I'm being selfish and dumb to think I don't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. But the more I kept trying to tell myself that this was the best few months of my life, the guiltier I felt for still feeling sad and down, and not being like everyone else. My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be here. All of my family has; they've sacrificed their money, time, love, and so much more for me to come to Italy and study abroad. And it just killed me to think that I wasn't having this amazing time like I should be, like I thought I would be. The guilt ate away at me, and I kind of just hid it and didn't even want to write about it on here because I felt selfish. I still feel selfish and ashamed. So many of you say how I'm living your dream...and to come here and write that I'm not happy feels so awful. 

Italy is just not for me. I don't love the city life-- I feel most connected with nature and being in it, and being in the center of a metropolitan life style has been hard. The weather, too has been hard. I never thought I would say this, but I miss Ohio's weather. I am so used to and love cloudy, rainy, colder weather. Here it is always sunny, always hot, and it never rains...not to mention there is no hint of fall here. Fall in the midwest is such a big deal and holds so many special memories and feelings for me. With no changing leaves here, no seasonal flavors, and no change in the weather; things feel so stagnant. Wheras in the US there are many denominations of Christianity, here there is only Catholicism. I've tried going to Catholic mass and it just didn't help at all quench my need for Christ and I found myself still feeling empty. I've really struggled with my relationship with God here because I don't have any other believers to talk with, no church to go to, and the wifi is too bad to watch services at home. To have all my resources stripped away, it has been difficult. These all may seem like small, silly things to be "sad" over, but it's a combination of all of this and just this culture that I cannot connect with and seem to adapt myself to where I just struggle. It's not that I am so nationalistic that I don't want to accept a culture that's not my own; I understand the Italian way of life and I find nothing wrong with the way people live over here. But I just cannot connect with it and it does not work for me personally.

I know you all are probably rolling your eyes reading all this (if you even made it this far) because it may just seem like a big post complaining and whining and crying when I should be more appreciative. But it's more than that. It's a build up of two months of feelings that I felt and the honesty of a situation.... I've only ever heard of good studying abroad experiences. That people have the best four months of their life. And that may be true for a lot of people, but for me, I can honestly say that it hasn't been the best months of my life and I don't think the next two months will be either. And that's okay to admit because everyone is different, everyone has a different experience and it's important to acknowledge all the experiences people have studying abroad. Maybe I went in with too high of expectations. Maybe studying abroad isn't for someone life me. Maybe I'm just an unappreciative brat who can't just enjoy what I have in front of me. I don't know. All I know is, that I want to be honest, and say that sometimes studying abroad isn't want you think it's going to be. 

Although this experience hasn't been the wonderful, life changing trip I had hoped, it has be life changing in a different way. I have learned so much about myself. Things I wanted to learn and learn this difficultly? No, not really. I wish it was easier, but I know that after this whole experience is done I'll 1. breath a sigh of relief  but 2. more importantly, be thankful for it. I don't regret coming here. Even though I am struggling and it isn't what I thought, I have never regretted coming here and I would never dream of leaving. The things I've learned about my personality, about my life, the people in my life, how to deal with situations....have been priceless and something I could have never found at home. Without this experience, I wouldn't have developed so much of myself as a person, and for that I am thankful. So I guess in a way, even though this experience isn't what I thought it was going to be, I have gotten out of it what I wanted-- to find out about who I am. It may not have been in the way I wanted (I thought it would be much more graceful and less painful), but I have and I am happy and satisfied with that.

I will make the best of my remaining two months here. I don't want to fake things, trying to make myself have fun and "the time of my life" when in reality, sometimes I just won't. But I can make the best of this time here and utilize these learning experiences, taking them as a grain of salt as I go along. 

In the end after this experience I think it will all be okay. Actually, I know it will  be okay. Life will go on, I will go back to life in Ohio, school, and home...But I will be changed forever by this experience, and I could never regret it or change the course of events I've had here.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 4:6-7

With much love, Lauren.
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28 lovely little notes:

Lavira said...

Hi Lauren! I've been reading your blog for a while, I have always felt like I finally found someone out there who really seems to be like me. I never wrote a comment anywhere before, but this post really made me want to write to you. Don't feel bad about how you feel, you can't help it, you can't force yourself to feel like others do. There is no 'right way' to do things, everyone should do things the way they feel most comfortable with. I had a study exchange when I just started secondary school, 3 months in spain. I cried every night the first few days and after that I was just counting the days until I could go home. I did enjoy it and wouldn't change it now. I did see a lot and had a chance to experience something different, but I didn't love it like others did. I can't spend 24/7 with people, having constant activities with no break. Regardless of that experince I actually moved to the UK when I was 18 to start Uni and 5 years later I'm still here. Again, though, my initial 'being at Uni abroad' experince wasn't how it 'should have been'. I found it hard to keep up and make friends with my flatmates. The first year was bad, but I did find a few friends and a lovely boyfriend and ended up staying here and loving it. I just had to accept that I am not as sociable, enthusiastic and energetic as most people, but that's alright. There have to be some introverted people out there :) Sorry for the long reply, I just really wanted to let you know that it is fine to feel the way you do. It doesn't mean you don't appreciate your opportunity. I hope you will have a nice time for the remainder of this trip and that you'll look back and feel good about the experience and also, most importantly, about yourself. Love, Laura xx

Ariana said...

I completely relate to this post. A few years ago I went around europe for a month. The first 3 weeks was with a tour and the last week I was on my own. As much as I loved meeting new people, I was exhausted by the end of the first week at the constant socializing and partying. I also need quite a bit of alone time to feel okay. That trip was the best decision I ever made, but if I did it again, I would try so hard to be someone that I'm not. The biggest irony for me was once I was back in the US, I sorely missed everyone like crazy. It suddenly felt quite lonely not being surrounded by people 24/7.

I think you've been a bit hard on yourself. You're allowed to feel how you feel and it's okay that you didn't fall in love with Italy. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Zoe Grate said...

I relate to this post so much. I very much need time alone to relax and recharge. I love going on walks by myself and taking time to blog, draw, write by myself really recharges me. Even if you aren't exploring Europe like everyone else in your group, sitting in a cafe, or wandering and exploring on your own is still a great way to experience the culture and life of the city without going 24/7. I hope the rest of your experience gets better and you are able to find yourself again

Eccentric Owl said...

Oh, Lauren, I'm so sorry it's not the exciting thing you thought it would be, but I'm glad you came out and said it. It's really okay not to have these months be the best time of your life; nobody says they have to be. You're learning, even if it isn't what you thought you would learn, and just because it's not the amazing thing you thought it would be doesn't mean you're a bad person! I always imagined traveling and staying abroad would be fun, but at the same time I know that my personality is very much that of a homebody, a family person, and I think in your situation I would feel the same way. I definitely need time away from people, too; it sounds like a hard time just always, always going! I hate having busy days like that all the time. I hope you find a way to get a few hours or a day to yourself to just breathe and relax, and be with yourself, by yourself. I hope you find a way to replenish your soul with Christ, too! It's the worst not getting that time with God. And I hope that the coming months become more enjoyable, even if they don't turn out to ever be the best days of your life. It's an experience nonetheless, and one you sound like you're learning from anyway. Don't be too hard on yourself for not being like everyone else!
Much love,
Kristina
www.eccentricowl.com

Kezzie said...

Eeek,and this comes after me sending big excited e-mail saying 'spend the day with me!!!'- totally fine not to! But Hever is huge so you can wander alone- I'll go and play in the mazes!
Can I just say I TOTALLY understand this- did I write this to you when I talked about Bali?
It was the most incredible experience of my life in many ways and also the hardest. I discovered too that I am a person that likes to me alone. I frequently sought solace from the other students and just liked to walk by myself. I got ratty with the other 'foreign students' like me, also because I wasn't a drinker. On my 22nd birthday, I invited everyone round for a party and by the time everyone arrived, I just wanted them to go and they had a jolly time outside on my veranda whilst I sneaked off inside. I found it so hard at time- the culture differences, the longing for my home, the climate, the fact that everyone thought white people were rich and were there to be laughed at, the need for space, the fact that NO one turns up on time or tells you when they'll be late.

Now, I know that Bali has been one of the most exciting times of my whole existence but that didn't stop me being really glad when I got home.

I don't know when you have to go home on Sunday but even if we couldn't meet on another day, I'd be happy to take you to church if you wanted- All Souls is a huge church on Oxford/regent street but it's got a great vibe or come and visit my little local Christian church -you can raise you hands and praise. Or we can just meet to pray together. I will say a prayer for you now.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, I really do understand- it's OVERWHELMING what you are doing and also incredibly brave.

Take care xx

Fatima Mendes said...

Hi Lauren. I've been reading your blog for about a year and I love it. And I relate to you, a lot. I want to do Erasmus next year, an exchange program for europeans and what you said in this post my biggest fear. I like you, a loner and I need time to recharge, everyday. To be surounded by 'strangers' 24/7 is scary. I hope you feel better, maybe go to the boboli garden, i was fascinated when i visited them last year and it's the closest thing to nature in Florence. Much love!

Miriam W said...

Hi Lauren! I can totally relate! Before I went studying abroad, I had a hard time deciding whether I wanted to go to Berlin or to Pisa, but ended up choosing Berlin. The day I arrived, it was snowing, even though it was April! The first couple of days, I was freezing because I didn't pack for that kind of weather and I really really really regretted not going to Italy. I felt so selfish and silly, because I had this amazing opportunity and was wishing for something different, but with some time I realized that everyone would have felt this way. It's only natural to be disappointed when things don't live up to your expectations, so please don't beat yourself up!
Luckily, I ended up having a great time in Berlin and meeting a group of wonderful friends. But what I also really enjoyed was all the "me time" I had there. With only a few classes and no part-time jobs like I have at home, there was so much more time I could spend reading, running in the park and watching movies... I sometimes felt guilty when I did these normal things I could have done back home instead of sightseeing and socializing, but they made me so happy, so I stopped the guilt trip. Ultimately, it's YOUR semester abroad, so you should do whatever makes YOU happy!
I think everyone has a point when they just need some alone time, some people just need it more than others. Like you say, this is also an important thing to learn about yourself, and now that you know it you can try your best to get all the alone time you need! I hope this realization will make the remaining time easier for you.

By the way, you look radiant! =)
Love, Miriam

Hannah said...

Okay, kid. I know we've been texting about this, but this is a bit different. It's also been a long time since I've commented on a blog post.

The two of us are similar in the way that we enjoy stillness (though maybe sometimes you more than me). We enjoy just sitting and drinking coffee and watching the world unfold around us. We enjoy quiet and peace and simplicity. We find that comforting. But here's the secret that you're missing out on-there is beauty in that stillness. We're able to just sit and be and enjoy the moment around us because we recognize that type of beauty. Other people find beauty is rushing around and doing everything they can and living life at a faster pace. And that's okay.

I can't tell you how much I wish I could be the girl that gets up on stage and dances with the guitar player during that one song. I wish I could be the person that shows up at the station and gets on the next train. But that's not who I am. My 'scene' is my bedroom, watching New Girl on Netflix and dancing in my pajamas to my Van Morrison record.

And so this trip wasn't planned with an agenda that's suits people like us. Okay. Then we'll go on our own trip and we'll people watch and drink coffee (or in my case tea, I'm cutting back on coffee right now) and go out for dessert and talk about what Taylor Swift was seen wearing and how much cuter Ryan Gosling is now that he's a dad and we'll even squeeze in a church service or two if you want (my mom found this website where you can locate churches all over the country/world, it's actually kind of cool).

So get through this. Have fun in London and keep an eye out for any British YouTubers. Come home and get acquainted and then we'll try this all again later and it'll be awesome. Promise.

Ruby Sterland said...

Hi Lauren,

There's really, really no need to be feeling guilty, although I can understand why you might be! You could never know how you were going to feel when moving to Italy. How could you?! It's something you've never experienced before.
After reading this I feel like we're quite similar in some ways. I started university last month and I feel exactly the same way as you- I've loved making new friends, and I'm lucky that I love the city I have moved to, but sometimes I miss having time to myself! I spend so much time socialising with my flat mates- at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in the evenings when I'm not doing schoolwork. I'm craving some alone time too, even just to sit on my butt, eat ice-cream and read blogs for a few hours! It's important to just take a step back sometimes, I think. To just go and sit in a random little cafe and people watch, rather than exploring the city in a mad rush.
Props to you for sticking it out though, it's not easy being so far away from home, even with the internet and what-not nowadays to communicate with family.

I hope these thoughts of mine made some kind of sense! Sending big love your way!
Ruby x

www.totalmodisch.blogspot.co.uk

Anabell said...

Dont feel bad I had 2 friends in highschool and that was sometimes overwhemling. I loved being by myself or with family. Sometimes dealing with too many friends is a rollercoaster I tried it in college and it was just too much and I still lived at home not in a dorm. I like things simple. Too many friends was a headache I felt I couldnt please them all. So I pushed myself away. I love too read go to the movies be with family. Clubs and partying was not my thing but I did it to please my friends they didnt want to just hang out. Now Im married and I have my husband and our families and thats enough for me. Everyone is different and dont feel bad about who you are just be yourself and things will turn out ok for you. Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone and experience life to find out who you are and some people find out they already knew who they were. It did for me and I couldnt be happier.


Carly Maddox said...

Hi Lauren! Lovely outfit as always, and I just want to let you know I relate with this 100%. I'm so glad to know there's someone else like me, actually, so thank you for writing it all out because I know I wouldn't have the guts to do so. I've never been overseas so of course I can't really relate to that, but with the being alone thing, completely agree. I always thought I was weird as well for only having my two best friends and that's really it, but that's just how I am. In high school everyone asked me why I was so quiet, almost in a way that they thought there was something wrong with me, but that's just the person I am. I'm an introvert, I'm an observer, and if I don't feel the need to speak or I don't have anything to say, I won't. I realize that my desires to have a career in fashion and do things like being in photoshoots and magazines and things like that probably aren't the most fitting for someone like me who isn't the biggest social butterfly, but I'm learning every day with working in fashion and meeting new people that there's times where I need to turn it on and times where I can turn it off, meaning that if I have to somewhat fake being social and extremely outgoing, I can do that completely okay no problem, but I know in my mind that that's not me. Also, that's why I've never had a boyfriend! I'm so quiet and to myself that I don't think I could handle it, and even though sometimes I would love to have a boyfriend, it scares me. It may sound funny to anyone else but having to spend all this time with someone and then possibly eventually (if it lasted that long, of course) move in together? No way. If it's someone who loves me I guess they could respect my space of course and if it's someone who I loved that much I wouldn't need the space as much, but it doesn't seem that there are any guys kind enough in my city. I'm more career focused and I don't depend on anyone else at all, and when people ask me why I don't have a boyfriend in utter shock, I just tell them like it is, I don't really care. Having a boyfriend isn't something I sit at home and dwell over, and if it was I'd be getting a boyfriend, but I truly care more about my life and future and making a good life and getting a great career going for myself. If I meet someone along the way, that would be lovely, but I'm not going to spend all of my free time thinking about it and all that. I like being alone working, blogging, and cuddling with my cats. Some people may think it's boring but I'm completely okay with who I am :)

Anonymous said...

Lauren, can I tell you something? I think you should make the most of your time in Italy - on YOUR terms. If you want to sit in a cafe and people watch, do it. You will be recharging so you can enjoy other things, getting immersed in the culture, experiencing Italy in a more realistic fashion - I can't think of a better way to make the most of your time.

Set aside some time just for you and don't apologize for it. <3

Jeannee Waseck said...

How absolutely tremendous, a real God-gift, to discover all these things about yourself that I didn't realize///know about///acknowledge, until I was in middle age!!! That's HUGE, Lauren, HUGE! because if I had known these things at your age, what tremendously different choices, what a much more peaceful life, I would have had - no trying to fit the square peg in the round hole kind of crap, for me. This is so wonderful, so life-changing... such a real gift!!! May God continue to bless, and reveal, to you!

Jeannee Waseck said...

How absolutely tremendous, a real God-gift, to discover all these things about yourself that I didn't realize///know about///acknowledge, until I was in middle age!!! That's HUGE, Lauren, HUGE! because if I had known these things at your age, what tremendously different choices, what a much more peaceful life, I would have had - no trying to fit the square peg in the round hole kind of crap, for me. This is so wonderful, so life-changing... such a real gift!!! May God continue to bless, and reveal, to you!

Erin C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin C said...

God often uses these hard experiences to grow us-- which sounds like exactly what's happening. :) As many others have already said, never be ashamed of or scared to just be yourself-- even if that means saying "no" to busyness, so you can have some down time. There are more introverts in the world than you realize (it's theorized to be about half and half).

Rebecca said...

Thanks for sharing such an honest post. I think a lot of people may feel the pressure to force themselves to feel a certain way (they way they expect)!

I also did a semester study abroad program and I also kind of regret doing it. I missed out part of an amazing class at home, I didn't end up going to the school I wanted to... etc. etc. I was poor the entire time, hardly traveled at all because I couldn't afford to!

But now, I've been living abroad for 7 years, and they've been some of the best years of my life! It's great when you live somewhere for such a long time, you have the time to explore it at a more comfortable pace. All the rush, rush, rush of cramming everything in during a short trip is totally exhausting and overwhelming!

So good on you for taking time for yourself. Be kind to yourself and just accept. And consider yourself fortunate that you have such an amazing ability to reflect on yourself and your experience (and you do DO it gracefully!). :D I hope that helps. And you never know, you may feel differently again once your time abroad is over.

-Rebecca
Idealism never goes out of fashion

Sammi said...

I always seem to miss your like, "big moment" posts and have to go back and see what I missed! So now that I'm caught up: you, my dear friend, are an introvert (which is NOT to say that you don't need social interaction or that you're "shy"). It simply means that you need time to recharge when you are over-stimulated. I think you also qualify as probably being a Highly Sensitive Person, which makes these traits all the more true for you. There is NOTHING wrong with these things. AT ALL. It's simply part of who you are. The reality is that there are always going to be people who don't understand what it's like to be that way, just because it's hard to put yourself in that position if you haven't been that way all your life, like we both have. I think what you're doing is absolutely amazing. I never had the courage (or desire, if I'm being honest) to study abroad in college. I'm very much a homebody and not at all what one would consider to be adventurous. But even if this trip wasn't what you thought it might be, it doesn't make it any less illuminating or important for you. Some people study abroad and have an incredible time and never want to leave. And some people will just want to come home. I'm sure you'll be glad to took this leap of faith after all is said and done, and you may end up liking the experience in the end more than you do right now. It's a HUGE adjustment, and if you're anything like me, you may end up flourishing in a situation *just* as it's coming to an end. But don't be discouraged by the fact that it just may not be your cup of tea. The important thing is that you did it -- you took a chance, and that is to be commended. Thank you for sharing this with us. It's actually very comforting to know that we are so similar.

xoxoxo Sammi

Sammi said...

I always seem to miss your like, "big moment" posts and have to go back and see what I missed! So now that I'm caught up: you, my dear friend, are an introvert (which is NOT to say that you don't need social interaction or that you're "shy"). It simply means that you need time to recharge when you are over-stimulated. I think you also qualify as probably being a Highly Sensitive Person, which makes these traits all the more true for you. There is NOTHING wrong with these things. AT ALL. It's simply part of who you are. The reality is that there are always going to be people who don't understand what it's like to be that way, just because it's hard to put yourself in that position if you haven't been that way all your life, like we both have. I think what you're doing is absolutely amazing. I never had the courage (or desire, if I'm being honest) to study abroad in college. I'm very much a homebody and not at all what one would consider to be adventurous. But even if this trip wasn't what you thought it might be, it doesn't make it any less illuminating or important for you. Some people study abroad and have an incredible time and never want to leave. And some people will just want to come home. I'm sure you'll be glad to took this leap of faith after all is said and done, and you may end up liking the experience in the end more than you do right now. It's a HUGE adjustment, and if you're anything like me, you may end up flourishing in a situation *just* as it's coming to an end. But don't be discouraged by the fact that it just may not be your cup of tea. The important thing is that you did it -- you took a chance, and that is to be commended. Thank you for sharing this with us. It's actually very comforting to know that we are so similar.

xoxoxo Sammi

Sammi said...

I always seem to miss your like, "big moment" posts and have to go back and see what I missed! So now that I'm caught up: you, my dear friend, are an introvert (which is NOT to say that you don't need social interaction or that you're "shy"). It simply means that you need time to recharge when you are over-stimulated. I think you also qualify as probably being a Highly Sensitive Person, which makes these traits all the more true for you. There is NOTHING wrong with these things. AT ALL. It's simply part of who you are. The reality is that there are always going to be people who don't understand what it's like to be that way, just because it's hard to put yourself in that position if you haven't been that way all your life, like we both have. I think what you're doing is absolutely amazing. I never had the courage (or desire, if I'm being honest) to study abroad in college. I'm very much a homebody and not at all what one would consider to be adventurous. But even if this trip wasn't what you thought it might be, it doesn't make it any less illuminating or important for you. Some people study abroad and have an incredible time and never want to leave. And some people will just want to come home. I'm sure you'll be glad to took this leap of faith after all is said and done, and you may end up liking the experience in the end more than you do right now. It's a HUGE adjustment, and if you're anything like me, you may end up flourishing in a situation *just* as it's coming to an end. But don't be discouraged by the fact that it just may not be your cup of tea. The important thing is that you did it -- you took a chance, and that is to be commended. Thank you for sharing this with us. It's actually very comforting to know that we are so similar.

xoxoxo Sammi

Madeleine said...

What a brave post, Lauren and major props to you for your honesty and introspection! I can only repeat what so many others have said: be kind to yourself, don't feel that your introvert nature (needing alone time to "recharge") is wrong or something that needs to be changed, and accept yourself as one of life's thinkers and quiet observers. It's a gift in itself.

Since you are pining for the countryside, beautiful though the city of Florence is, here's a tip: when city life gets too much, take the number 7 ATAF bus from the Santa Maria Novella train station to Fiesole. It's a lovely, quiet hilltop town set amidst gorgeous countryside. Edwardian expats used to go there to escape from the city and the heat. Pile your hair on top of your head, wear a white dress and pretend to be Lucy in A Room with a View. Oh, and read that lovely little EM Forster story, and/or watch the Merchant-Ivory film version, too! And best of all, these are things you can do on your own!

~ Maddy

Amber B said...

Don't be discouraged Lauren! Always remember that your Creator loves you & made you in His image. I will be praying that He gives you peace, & that you'll feel close to Him & spiritually fed, even if the church situation is difficult/unfamiliar while you're over there.

Mary said...

I don't know if you read my blog while I was studying abroad (back in the day!), but girl, 20-year-old Mary could've written these words verbatim. It was the hardest, unhappiest time of my life up until that point, and EVEN then it was still the most transformative, important five months of my life. It's when I really was forced to strip away the old to make way for the new, which hurts. It's hard. I would never have gotten to this amazing, happy, authentic place in my life where I am now without those years. Anyways, just thought it might be helpful to hear from the other side of the spectrum. I think lots of people talk about study abroad as this awesome wonderful thing not because there's not struggle, but because growing through it changed their lives in ways that only something so transformative can. Here's my favorite quote from that time-- it helped me, maybe it can help you :)

"“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” --CS Lewis

Hannah Rupp said...

Your thoughts & feelings are completely valid. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise! I personally find it refreshing to hear your story from this perspective. Travelling is not all glamour and fun (OH I KNOW!) and I think this can be helpful to others who are considering travelling abroad. No matter what, good or bad, you're creating some memorable stories to tell in the future. God is watching out for you every step of the way. Just count on Him for continued strength on your journey. :)

CR said...

Hey :) I just stumbled across your blog and even though I NEVER leave comments, this post really spoke to me. I never studied abroad in school and sometimes feel so jealous--but like you, I feel the same way when I travel--even though I love travelling, it's hard to just go, go, go, and in this world it's easy to feel like there's just something defective about you if you are not big on socializing, etc. Thank you for expressing your feelings so clearly and honestly. You've helped soothe my heart, kind of :) Best of luck to you and thanks for writing a thoughtful blog

Lana Sydenstricker said...

Hey Lauren, It's Lana! We talked a few years ago and you just saw on my Instagram that I am going to be studying abroad in Vienna, Austria! I am currently reading/catching up on all of your blog posts and wanted to say thanks for sharing your experiences! I, too, like to be alone and need my quite time to think and be away from others! I hope when I go abroad I get to have some of that time for myself. I know how you feel! Don't be too hard on yourself. I've been learning to accept the differences between myself and other people! It's okay to be different and take care of yourself! I just want to say that you are beautiful on the inside and out! I'd love to email/message you about studying abroad (what to expect/packing/tips).. Have a great semester! -Lana

Megan Cécile Radford said...

I am reading through your old blogs, and came across this honest post. I'm on the other side of this, having just come back to Canada from Egypt six months ago... There was a time when Egypt felt like this for me, and somehow now I am missing it to death. I blogged about it on Instagram and my blog (@megancradford, girlinaglobalvillage.blogspot.com) Reflection is so important, and for the past few months I have been hiding in my little apartment, roaming Toronto alone, and only coming out to see very special friends every once in a while. We need to let ourselves be introverts- life is more beautiful when we recognize the needs of our souls. And Jesus is there every step of the way in our self-discovery.
Thank you for the constant inspiration- fashion and otherwise <3

Che said...

Even though it's been 2 years since you wrote this blog post, I find it very relevant for me today, as I am studying abroad right now. Well maybe it can't be called abroad, because I live in Belgium, which admittedly, isn't that far from here. But still, it feels like I'm on the other side of the world. I've been in Seville, Spain for a little over 2 weeks now and I'm supposed to stay here until February. I've also noticed that there's a lot of pressure to 'enjoy the experience because it's a once in a lifetime opportunity'. However, that's what scares me. Why do I absolutely 'have to enjoy it'? Why is it so abnormal for me to miss my home and my normal course of day? How come everybody here seems to be adjusting just fine and is already having the tie of their lives and I'm anxious all the time, trying to ignore that feeling in my gut that's telling me I should take it easy. I'm a relatively outgoing person, I like to go out and drink and have fun with friends. And I like to have lots of friends, I just hate the idea of being forced to make friends. Because that's another thing that's very much insisted on: that you have to make lots of new friends while studying abroad, preferably international ones so that they can change your entire vision of life. Now, the problem or blessing (whichever one you prefer) is that there are lots of other Belgians here and it's comforting to speak in my own language and with people who will definitely get my jokes. Why is it so important that I make other friends? After all, I'm only staying here for a few more months so it's not like I can build any real relationship or connection with them. I'm going to try and make more time for myself here, even if it does make me feel extremely guilting for not 'reaping the day'. But on the other hand, what's reaping the day' if you can't be yourself? So what if I like to be alone and sit and read or watch something? Everybody is different and not everybody can LOVE studying abroad. If anyone ever gets to this point of my ranting, I'm sorry, but thank you for listening and I hope you can relate and feel better about taking some time for yourself too. Thank you for your post, Lauren. It's helped me a lot, and I will now continue to explore your blog a little bit further because it looks wonderful.

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