Study Abroad Advice: A Letter to My Past Self

As students gear up to head off to study abroad, I can’t help but reflect on my study abroad experience. This year officially marks five years since I studied abroad. Five years! I can’t believe it. I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on the study abroad advice I'd share - via a letter I write to myself back then. So join on in this reflection party. 

Dear Amanda,

This is it! You've been googling "study abroad advice" like it is your job. You've practiced your Italian with Rosetta Stone. Right now you are frantically unpacking your suitcase that you’ve overpacked to such an extent that it topples over as soon as you let go of it. Chill - these are wasted tears. You’re going to wear about the same 7-10 outfits and you’re definitely bringing too many articles of clothing. It’s not going to get cold at all so don’t bother with those jeans. Or those jeans. Yup, or that jacket.

Let’s talk Rome.

I know you’re still not 100% confident in your decision to go to Rome. You were thinking London and theater for so long. But this absolutely is the right choice. We maybe just don’t have to tell people you were inspired by Eat, Pray, Love.

But listen - you are going to fall in love the second you get there. You are going to fall in love with a city that looks nothing like what you imagined from The Lizzie McGuire Movie. You are going to fall in love with a language that confuses and enchants you. Little do you know, you’re still going to be hooked on learning Italian with Duolingo five years later. You are going to eat some amazing food, but don’t eat it all at an aperitivo. You’re embarrassing yourself. And don’t worry - you are going to walk to and from school everyday, so nobody is gong to have to roll you on the plane home.

Speaking of planes, girl, take advantage of Ryanair while you’re over there. Yes, the fees are ridiculous. But you’re going to pay €9 for a last minute flight to Paris. Enjoy that while I (well…you) currently mourn over paying over $200 to fly last minute to Chicago.

Where money is concerned - you need to chill. And you will need to chill the entire four months you are over there. You survived countless water balloon days and mediated elementary school spats every day this summer. You scooped ice cream while smiling your face off to get an insane amount of tips. You’re only going to study abroad once so really live it up. You should really get a souvenir or three. Otherwise you’ll be sad when you decorate your Christmas tree and don’t have a Rome ornament.

Ahhh, while we’re on the topic of sadness...

You’re also going to be incredibly homesick. Who knew? But you’ll get through it. There are going to be moments when you can’t translate what you want and tears will start to well up as you sigh and point frantically instead. Your boyfriend is going to get pickpocketed and you are going to question everything. You’re going to miss pumpkin season and Thanksgiving. You’ll be okay! Plus, you’ll still be making the pumpkin mac n’ cheese you discover in November five years later. You really will be okay.

Because there will also be times when you don’t even realize you got through an entire conversation in Italian and didn’t even bat an eyelash. You’ll get to meander the streets of Trastevere, which you will dream about for years to come. And you will become a different, more confident person. And you’re going to have the time of your life, as corny as that sounds.

You want my study abroad advice?

Just please, go on that 13 mile tour of the Aurelian Walls. Your 25 year old self is kicking herself for wallowing instead.

Speak less English, more Italian. It’s scary, but you can do it.

Oh, and start drinking coffee like yesterday. That same 25 year old cannot believe she missed out on all of that spectacular coffee and espresso.

Take more pictures, because eventually you're going to be a travel blogger and you're going to smack yourself for your poor quality pictures.

You know what…just say yes to everything.

And when you toss that first coin over your shoulder into the Trevi fountain, just know that I’m working on it. You’re working on it. You’ll be back soon.

Love & Gelato,


P.S. You’re going to come back as a second semester junior and change your major completely. My bad.

Let’s Chat!

  • Tell me about your study abroad experience. What study abroad advice would you write in your letter?
  • Know anybody studying abroad this semester who might need some study abroad advice? Anybody who wants to, but is anxious about it? Send them over to my contact page or introduce us on Twitter. I’d love to chat! 

*Friends who may have taken these pictures - I don't know if they're your photos! They're just all photos on my external hard drive. So let me know if you want credit!