Here are a few reasons why staying in Florence (or whatever city/town you chose to move to) may make your experience abroad even better:
Why You Should Stay in Florence
My roommates let out a “whoop” of exhaustion as they opened the apartment door and tossed their luggage through. I was sitting on our windowsill looking out over the Italian piazza with a cup of tea in hand as I did my homework. They were just getting back from a weekend trip to the islands of Greece. As we recapped their trip, they told me about golden sunsets, muddy ATV rides, and showed me their beautiful necklaces they got after spending a night with some Grecians on a quiet beach with sand as pink as the sunset.
It sounded amazing! But I wasn’t jealous in the slightest. I immediately launched into my crazy adventure with the Italian friends (that my roommates were too nervous to get to know). It was full of translation dictionaries, Fiat’s doing doughnuts on top of a mountain in the snow (and learning the Italian word for seat belt); dancing in a discoteca that had been transformed into the Avatar movie, discovering a rope swing by the emerald-green river right behind our apartment, and winning a soccer match against a local team who was incredulous when they saw a girl step onto the field.
My weekend was filled with thrills, knowledge, and culture; and as my friends lugged their backpacks off another bus and sleepily struggled through the week, I was thriving — just by simply staying put.
Sometimes, the travel bug pushes you too far — and you need to take a step back and look what’s right in front of you, instead of what’s on the other end of that Ryanair flight. But just in case you’re still not convinced, we have a few considerations for you to think over before you fill every weekend of your study abroad with getaways:
You Will Miss Out on Festivals and Culture at “Home”
When you chose to study abroad, you put a lot of thought (at least we hope you do) into choosing your destination. So why leave this place every weekend? The weekend is when fun things like concerts, festivals, and special events are happening. It’s when the locals come out to play, enjoy the sunshine, food, and all the best parts of their city and country. Why would you want to skip this in the place that you loved so much that you picked it to study in?
And if you do attend these fests and fun, the likelihood that your language will develop (even just by listening in on other conversations) will increase. You may meet new people in your city who share your interests and perhaps even lead you to more unique and personal experiences!
Of course, you can meet people while traveling too, but they can’t meet up for a coffee after class next Wednesday. Facebook friends cannot even come close to city friends.
You’ll Get Better at Your Second Language
If one of the reasons you wrote down was that you want to learn Italian, but you travel every weekend, the chances of becoming fluent (or even proficient) drops dramatically.
Instead of living surrounded by a language for a while and getting accustomed to it, every Thursday through Sunday your head will be muddled with different vernaculars and jargons that’ll put you out of practice. Not that this isn’t awesome, but if you really want to work on your second-language skills, then traveling outside Italy every weekend isn’t for you.
However, if you do take day or weekend trips inside your country or to a place where the same language is spoken, you can be a traveling guru, get some serious travel time in, and be able to babble in a different tongue when you get home.
You’ll Save More Money
Flying off to hit up a six-story club in Prague or race sled dogs in Sweden sounds invigorating, but all of these things do have a price point (and so does the method of getting to the destination). Traveling every weekend is what takes up most of a study abroad student’s budget — and then they may not have the money for other adventures that could quite possibly be just as awesome.
Need an example? Instead of spending 100 Euros for that video of yourself skydiving (that no one really wants to see except for your mom anyway) you could spend that money on a new bike to get around your town, explore a larger area of Florence, and maybe even make a few new friends, find a cool new hangout, or just get a really great shot for your Instagram that no one else has. #awesome
Of course, I’m not bashing travel! Just try to maintain a balance between being away and being “home” in Florence.
You Won’t Really Mark Your Place in Your Abroad “Home”
I have lived in Florence for over six years now and worked very closely with students who did travel every weekend. I have seen people lose connection with a city that they say they love – because they’ve forgotten why they’re here.
After heading back to school and normal life in the US, the feeling of wanting to come back to your study abroad town is overwhelming, and some have visited for vacation during the next summer or after they graduate. I even did this when I booked a ticket back to visit a friend the following year who was studying in the same program I had. The thing is, if/when you return to Florence, it won’t be exactly like you remember — especially if you were gone every weekend.
Your roommates will be gone; you won’t have your school schedule to give you a solid routine. Most students that come back to visit come back expecting the local bartender to still be their best friend and that their old tour guides will want to hang out. Unfortunately, if you didn’t make any true friendships, the likelihood of anyone remembering you are slim. Many come back excited, only to be let down that they feel like nothing more than a tourist in their home-away-from-home. Conversely, it’s the students that didn’t travel as much and made personal relationships with locals that feel welcome upon their return and can jump back into their life abroad for their short stay and leave feeling refreshed. They can feel like they’re back home again.
During my last week abroad, I wasn’t flying back from one more weekend vacation. Instead, I was at a going-away dinner with my friends. That was too many years ago now.
But, just a few weeks ago I got a message from the driver of that car doing the doughnuts. “Lisa! I will be in Florence soon! Are you still there?!” he messaged me. This time, I could speak to him in Italian – without the dictionary.