Probably the number one piece of advice I was given before embarking on my study abroad adventure was to have no expectations. I definitely tried this but there are a lot of things I wish I had known before leaving.
The first is that apparently not everyone enrolled in university is a bleeding heart liberal. I’m kind of exaggerating, of course, but it can be off putting to be around people that don’t have the same views as you (and most of the people you know at home) – both the host culture and other American students. My advice would be to stick to what you believe in but don’t try to push your beliefs on others too much, especially the ones you have to see on a regular basis…
The second is that life does go on without you back home. This has probably been the hardest thing I have to deal with. When you are trying to befriend people in your new city, your good friends back home always seem like they’re having a lot of fun. It is hard to stay in touch and you might feel out of the loop but it is alright because hey, you’re abroad!
Now, in particular to Italy, you may want to be aware of these things:
1) Walking on the sidewalk and crossing the street will never feel more terrifying than it does in Italian cities, stay alert!
2) There are more mosquitos here than I have ever encountered camping, I think we are particularly sensitive to them because they are a different kind than the ones in America. Buy bug spray!
3) Starch is a part of every meal, make sure to walk a lot to balance it out.
That’s all for now! Hope I didn’t scare anyone but you live and you learn. Italy is a beautiful country with lots of beautiful people (in and out)! So thankful to be here.