Overcoming Fear to Set Your World on Fire

This post is from our official student blogger, Gianluca D’Elia. Gianluca is a Junior Journalism major with a minor in Political Science from Rider University.


When I first arrived in Italy, I had not gotten the best start to my semester. And that’s OK. Because if you go into a semester abroad thinking it will be a smooth process the whole way, you’ll quickly discover otherwise — in the best way possible. My semester started with a 7-hour flight delay, food poisoning, homesickness, and most shockingly, an earthquake.

About a week later, I finally emerged from my bedroom worrying that I wouldn’t be ready for school, that I wouldn’t make friends, that I wouldn’t have time to see the rest of Europe or that I wouldn’t have people to go with. I sat down to write my first API blog post, thinking about what insight I could possibly offer on studying abroad when I felt like I hadn’t done much. This is what I started writing:

“It takes a lot of courage to remain optimistic about an enormous life change like studying abroad when some obstacles are thrown in your way. I spent a decent portion of my week questioning whether I’d made the right choice. I wanted to turn around and go home and watch the Olympics closing ceremony from my own couch rather than the terminal waiting area and go back to Rider University where I felt safe and comfortable, and life was much more predictable. The routine I got tired of at home was something I now missed — I wanted to go to the town pool with my parents, walk my dog at sunset, watch Pretty Little Liars after work on Tuesdays and eat at my favorite restaurants again. I wanted to be in my own bed in New Jersey again.”

Four months later, looking back at this, I can’t believe I had fallen into a thought pattern that studying abroad helped me get rid of — or if I haven’t completely gotten rid of it, at least I can better recognize it. Just because something doesn’t happen right away, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. My time abroad has taught me that nothing worth having comes easily. I am more patient, more kind to myself, and more willing to go with the flow. Had I held the same mindset that everything was going to be a disaster, I would not have been able to let myself enjoy going to school in Europe.

Different people will take different amounts of time to adjust, so even though it might seem like everyone else might be adjusting quicker than you are in your first weeks abroad, you will eventually start to feel settled. By the time late September had come around, I knew my way around the local supermarkets, had a few favorite restaurants, and found my best study locations. By October, I was a little too familiar with the Fiumicino Airport terminals, the white taxis, and the graffiti-decorated metros. By November, I felt like this was all normal for me. Then, December? We’ll see how this month goes!

As I walked through Rome every day, I felt reminded that I was taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It takes me half an hour to walk to the Trevi Fountain. I’ve met students from dozens of other countries in just one full day of school. Slowly, my feelings of anxiety and culture shock dissolved as I immersed myself in Roman culture.

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