Now Boarding: First-Class Nerves and a Pre-Departure Perspective

7 days.* That’s how long I have left before I’ll be stepping foot into the warm Italian air and getting settled in Viterbo, Italy for a 5-week study abroad program through USAC.

To say I’m excited and nervous would be understatements. As a second-time study abroader and budding travel enthusiast, the decision to go abroad again wasn’t a difficult one. But any trip offers its own challenges and unique circumstances to work through, which always adds some level of uncertainty. While I cannot wait to meet my new host city, the weight of the unknown can be a bit frightening at times.

Before I even arrive in Viterbo, there’ll be three different flights, several bus/metro rides, a shuttle trip, and a journey by train. I’ll go from Baltimore, MD, USA -> Reykjavik, Iceland -> Paris, France -> Rome, Italy -> Viterbo, Italy all in about 36 hours.

I’m tired just thinking about it, and my program won’t have even started! Oh yeah – did I mention I don’t speak Italian? Or French?

It’s going to be an adventure, to say the least. Does it seem like a lot of details to get right in cities I’m unfamiliar with? For sure. Am I worried about something going wrong? Definitely. Do I know things will ultimately work out though? Absolutely!

And I think that’s the great part about studying abroad or just traveling in general. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and puts you in situations to learn things about yourself. Though some parts are scary, it’s certainly not impossible. Plenty of tourists visit these countries with little knowledge of the local language and culture and make it through just fine.

So while my nerves are a bit jumpy at times this week, I think it’s important to keep everything in perspective. I’ve done this before. Maybe not in the same place, but I know what it’s like to go somewhere completely different and settle into a routine with people from a completely different background.

When I reflect on the last time I studied abroad, what stays with me wasn’t the challenging parts. There were certainly some hard moments, particularly the first night when I was wondering why I had traveled so many miles from wintery Maryland to scorching, humid, and AC-deprived Costa Rica. After a few days though, I began to appreciate the place for what it was.

Now? I’d jump at the chance to go back there.

Studying abroad opens you to a whole new way of life, and it’s a thrilling experience that’s hard to even put into words. It doesn’t take long for a strange city to become a second home you long to re-visit.

That’s the mindset that’s carrying me through this week.

It’s fair to have concerns and work out my itinerary (I’ve checked the dates and confirmations countless times), but more importantly, I don’t want to allow any nervousness to hold me back from experiencing all these places. Because study abroad doesn’t last forever. And neither do the nerves.

So here goes. 7 days.

*From time of writing

Olivia Connolly attends the University of Maryland, College Park. She studied abroad in Viterbo, Italy in Summer 2018. You can read more about Olivia’s Italy study abroad on her blog.