Changing Together: Leaving a New Family

“How has studying abroad changed me?”

A hefty question if I’ve ever heard one. I have been racking my brain for a way to answer this for almost two weeks now—my roommates can attest to this.

Currently, on a train back to Florence from Milan, I am thinking about how my time here is rapidly winding down, and I finally I decided that it is time to seriously consider it…so I’m going to address all study abroad students in an attempt to unite the change we’ve felt and maybe enlighten those who haven’t had the chance to think about it as much as I have.

Facing change, I believe, is one of the toughest things for people to do…which is pretty comical if you think about it; because here we all are, signing up for one of the biggest changes and commitments that a college student can really do.

We dove right into the unknown, that in itself is pretty amazing. We left home, friends, and life as we once knew to adventure out and we have survived.


In the midst of this survival you could definitely say that I’ve changed immensely. There are tiny things—like yes, I have grown to now pay more attention to change in my pocket instead of just focusing on dollar bills…and yeah, I guess you could say that I have gotten a lot better at learning how to do laundry only when completely necessary—but along with these small tweaks are the bigger things. The stuff that I can step back, examine, and say: ‘wow, to ever imagine I doubted myself in this is absurd.’

Those are they things I’m thinking about on this long train ride, and here’s what I’ve come up with as the most important:


1.My World is So Much Bigger
The second I stepped off that plane, my world grew immensely. Now it is coming to an end and I’ve seen a shift (or more rather a shove) in my priorities. Things are pushed into perspective when you aren’t knee-deep in the world you try so hard to keep up with at home.

The way I look at it is, people are living their lives without me at home. My friend is laughing on the other side of the world about an inside joke that I’m not apart of and my family is taking a picture that I’m not in. Yet, would I give any one of my days in this country up for it? Absolutely not.

What are a couple laughs and some pictures when I’m over here eating gelato in front of the Duomo, or dancing at Bamboo with my roommate all the way from Long Island? Our friends and family are still going to be there when we get back, and the fact that we have extended our circle to people and places outside of our normal hometown is completely unbelievable. Our world just got so much bigger…and I guess you could say that makes us pretty cool.


2.Future Plans aren’t so clear
We, as people, are planners. We like organization and a clear route that we can take. Before I came to Italy I had a specific plan for my life…extending even to places I wanted to settle and live in when I got older.

As of right now, I have no real idea. Sure, I know what I want to do with my life, but as for when and how I’m going to get there—who the hell knows? I grew up in a town where you see people do the same things everyday. Watching what seems like a pleasant, unbreakable circle. Coming here, seeing people everyday that don’t know where I’m from or who my family is, living happily and different is world-shifting.

I had a conversation with a good friend about where we saw ourselves living in the future, and I was surprised, not only from his answers, but also my own.

My ideas of what I want when I’m older have changed, along with what I see to be most important.

We are so used to seeing just the American point of view at home. As my roommate and her brother reminded me while I struggled to write this, the United States is so very egocentric. We don’t have the influence of other countries surrounding us like Italy does, and that has impacted me more than I thought I ever would.

There is so much that I haven’t seen, and to think I even thought I knew where I wanted to live before this is humorous. Who knows, maybe I’ll even end up raising my kids on the Italian countryside one day!


3.New Relationships
Now, this one has had a real impact on me the more I think about it, so I saved the best for last.

The people I have spent the last 5 months with have shaped me into the person that’s on this train now, and what’s funny is I didn’t even seem to notice.

It happens so gradually… when we’re screaming Drops of Jupiter at the top of our lungs, and when she pours a glass of wine for me and we sit journaling waiting for the wifi to come back on. Somehow, along the way, they went from being strangers to people who could pick out my favorite flavor of Powerade…and how on earth could that not change you?

Personally, I think it’s going to be harder going home than we think right now because we have changed. Like I’ve said: life went on without us, and we are forced to accept that. But what’s more important is life for us went on too. We’ve had experiences together that people sitting back at home could ever understand, no matter how many pictures you show them.

That’s what’s so extraordinary about the people I’m with right now. They get it and me at this very moment in time better than those people at home ever will.


So how has my life changed from studying here in Florence? Well, I think the same way most of yours did. I have become more aware of the world and the people who inhabit it. I have become better at sympathizing and compromising, because sometimes, you can’t get your own way. I’ve become more in tune with myself and what I deserve and want.

However—most of all, I think that the people have changed me more than I will ever be able to fathom, and I would like to thank them. I don’t know when we will all meet again, or if we ever will, but I hope they know I will never forget them. Every time I open my photo album of this amazing, fairy-tale of 4 months that was our time together, I will laugh and wonder where they are now.

So these next two weeks, I plan on sitting back with a bottle of wine and toasting to the magical time we ‘ve had here together. As my roommate always says, “Our stock has gone up” since we’ve first met. Whether you realize it or not, we all will leave a little piece of our heart here in Firenze before we get on that plane back to the States.

There was a quote (and no I’m not going to lie, its from the Office season finale) that makes me think of my time here in Florence:

“No matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.”

I now have another home here in Florence, and that in itself has changed me forever.



Cassandra, a biology major with a minor in creative writing at New Paltz, chose to study abroad to quench to her crave for adventure and search for understanding different cultures.

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