• Phoebe LaForge

The Study Abroad Chronicles

I had this plan of writing about all of the amazing adventures and unforgettable experiences from my time studying abroad in Europe, but when do things ever really go to plan? After moving back home from my second semester of sophomore year, I had two weeks to prepare for 1.5 months of living in Florence, Italy and studying with other UF students. My family was so excited for me to break out of my comfort zone and move across the world by myself and constantly expressed how proud they were that I had stuck with my plan.

The first three weeks lived up to the hype and I genuinely felt like I was living in a Pinterest photo. I spent my mornings learning photography techniques from my Italian professor and the afternoons exploring Florence’s sights. My roommates and I went out to dinner almost every night and ate gelato like our lives depended on it (Italy has definitely perfected the art of gelato). Each street I walked by was picturesque and I constantly couldn’t believe that I was there. I was living the Italian lifestyle each day and woke up to a new adventure every morning. On the weekends, we traveled to Milan, Lake Como, and Venice to experience the variety of cultures that Italy has to offer.

However, the universe decided that my fever dream in Italy was over. While on a long-weekend getaway to London, I fell on the edge of a pothole and fractured my fibula. After 8 hours in the emergency department, I walked out wearing a boot and crutches and with countless medications to keep track of. While it may not seem like a good thing to have gone through, I’m glad it happened because I experienced a lot of scary things alone and still managed to keep a smile on my face. Being in the ER by myself and not being able to talk to my family at home because of the time difference, enduring the pain of breaking my leg and having to relay all of my concerns to the nurses and doctors, and being in a foreign country with only one other person all contributed to my growth as a young adult. I learned a lot about my own strengths and that I was capable of problem-solving on my own when things go astray, speaking up for myself when I felt something was wrong, and staying positive when it seemed like nothing was going right, which is something that not everyone our age can do.

Once I was back in Florence, I had to deal with the repercussions of my injury. I was taking medications to manage my pain, injecting myself each day with blood thinners to prevent blood clots, and learning to walk again with crutches. The only thing I wanted was to be home with my family in my own house, not in a foreign country, where I could recover comfortably. But I still had the second half of my trip left. The results of my injury took a toll on my mental health as I was very distraught that I couldn’t go on the trips I had planned because they weren’t disability-friendly. While my roommates spent 4 days on the Amalfi Coast, I stayed in our apartment and watched movies all weekend because I couldn’t walk around the city on my own. I wallowed for a couple of days because I felt like my trip was busted because my reduced mobility affected everything I did. However, I realized that I only had 2 weeks left, so I decided it was worth trying to make the best of the situation over which I had no control. I ended up listening to my body and participating in activities that were suited to using my crutches, while still making some amazing memories.

Throughout my trip, I kept wondering why this had happened to me and why did it happen when I’m supposed to be having the time of my life studying abroad? I couldn’t wrap my head around how this had happened. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, but what was the reason for this? Once I got past the barrier of negativity in my mind, I realized how much stronger of a person I am now that I have gotten through these obstacles. I learned to adapt to life’s curveballs and not to let the bad things in life completely swallow up the good things. I also discovered so many more life skills that I know will make me more confident as I enter adulthood. I feel more comfortable managing stressful situations by myself and my decision-making skills have improved.

My time in Florence was definitely memorable and although it was not how I had planned or hoped it would go, I have no regrets about my experience. The moral of my story is that life happens the way it wants to, whether you like it or not. Nothing you see on social media is the real truth and there is always another story behind each picture you scroll past. It’s important to know that life isn’t always smiles and rainbows. Not every day will be amazing and fantastic like it’s portrayed on social media. Things happen. Plans change. So, it’s crucial to understand how to be flexible and roll with the punches.

I’m not trying to persuade you not to study abroad or say that it’s all fake because there are countless happy moments from my trip that outweigh the bad times. I want to be transparent about how expectations are only that: expectations. I expected to eat pasta, take cute photos, and go to beautiful places, but, instead, I spent weeks recovering from an accidental injury. Not everything goes how you think it will, so don’t let the bad times get you down. Instead, think about how you can improve from your experiences. What can you learn? How can you change your mindset?

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