By Jirika Dylan Kitchen Nikoletopoulos
Be careful about going abroad. You might not want to leave your host country! You could be stuck in paradise.
As a junior journalism major I decided to go abroad in the fall of 2013. I thought it would merely be a semester. However, it did not take me long to fall in love with Italy and everything around me in Florence.
I made connections with the staff at my university and others in the city. About halfway through my semester, I was presented with the option of staying in Florence for the spring semester of 2014 to take part in a newspaper internship. How could I say no! I immediately started doing my research and was able to make the stay work with my degree and graduating on time. The staff at the UT International Office and my academic advisors were a great help and with only a small amount of paperwork I was able to stay an extra semester in Florence!
Many of my peers said things like, ‘That is so cool! But I could never do anything like that…’ I think everyone can, all it takes is a little bit of faith and planning. Don’t get me wrong, part of me missed home, but it truly was one of the best life decisions I ever made. During my second semester I more than doubled my proficiency in Italian and became closer to the city of Florence than anyone in my program. Interning in another country also gave me a different perspective on the culture that I only thought I understood.
The end of my second semester wasn’t the end of my stay either. One month before I was supposed to return home to the US my host family asked me if I wanted to stay with them during the summer in the vacation home in Sicily. I could not refuse! As soon as the spring semester ended I packed my bags and headed south to a small island in the Mediterranean where almost no one spoke English. I spent 3 months connecting with others and becoming fluent in Italian. I became a part of a new family that I will always have in my heart.
When I was finally ready to leave I went to give my host family my keys to the house. However, they wouldn’t let me return them. “Keep them. Anytime you want to come back you are always welcome.” I was speechless and could not believe what had happened to me over the past year. Besides having a house and family that I can always return to, I mastered a completely new language, became a part of a new culture and made friends that I will have for the rest of my life. All this would not have happened if I had not been open to the possibility of staying and having faith in the unknown. So what are you waiting for?
Get out there and start your adventure!