The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

If you’re asking me

Study abroad; it’s worth it
Photo by Marisa Valdez
Fall time is the best time for improving your mental health.

Dear reader,

I have been waiting to write this article, but I’ve also been hesitating, because how do I write the perfect words to describe what I experienced this past summer?

Since before I even came to college, I knew I wanted to study abroad. Last fall, I decided to apply to study abroad in Florence, Italy for one month in June.

When I tell you I was so terrified to study abroad –– I wanted to travel and see the world, but I had never traveled alone before, let alone gone to a foreign country where I didn’t know the language.

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There was also the subject of roommates. I haven’t had the best luck with roommates at school, so I was convinced this would be the same. What if we didn’t get along? What if I didn’t have anyone to travel with? Would I be alone the whole time?

There were so many unknowns, and ultimately, that’s what scared me the most.

When I got on that plane and left my family, I was sure I was going to fail. It took me forgetting my laptop at home and only realizing on the plane to wonder, ‘how could it possibly go well?’

The day after I got to Italy, I was in a cab on the way to get my apartment keys when my taxi got rear-ended (don’t worry, we were fine). But one day there, and things were already going downhill.

Later, I ventured out onto the cobblestone streets of Florence, my big suitcase in hand, a big backpack on my back and directions to the apartment in hand.

My apartment was on a busy market street and was impossible to find, making the suitcase-lugging very embarrassing. The locals were definitely laughing at me.

When I finally found my apartment building, I had to carry all of my luggage up the staircase, so by the time I got into my apartment, I was dripping in sweat and panting.

I was so scared about making a good first impression on my roommates. I wanted them to like me, and I wanted to have people to depend on in this new country.

Luckily, my five roommates ended up being amazing, and we all instantly got along. I got particularly close with my three New Yorker roommates, who showed me how to assert myself and be bold, rather than scared and meek. 

With these three roommates, we went to Cinque Terre, Pisa, Siena, Rome and Venice. Without them, I would have been too scared to explore, but in just a month, I went to five different places in Italy.

Every weekend, we were booking tickets only the night before, the tickets being only about three euros each. We would spend all day in these places, taking pictures and collecting souvenirs –– along with memories.

We explored Florence, even climbing to the top of the Duomo, which stood proudly in the city center, the view overlooking all of Florence. We went shopping, tasted the food (Italian tomato sauce is unmatched), went to the Uffizi Gallery and found the best views for the best photos.

I took a Psychology of Art and Human Creativity class. While it didn’t get me credits, it was the best possible choice. It wasn’t overwhelming, so I learned a lot while also getting to travel. We also did art projects and visited local art museums.

The last weekend, I went to the Amalfi Coast with a girl from my class. We visited Positano, Sorrento and Capri. The water was bright and blue, and the small towns were bustling with people and the cutest things to buy.

While the crazy, big adventures were amazing, it is also the small things that I look back on and smile.

Getting brunch with my roommate every day, seeing the sunset over the Arno River, dark chocolate and strawberry gelato (an elite combination), the rain through our apartment window, the musicians playing music near the Duomo and Aperol Spritzes.

Going home was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I created such strong connections with my roommates and fell in love with Florence.

I hadn’t expected to feel such a loss, and it’s one I still feel today as I wear my Florence hoodie. I won’t get to have that experience again, but I’m so glad I took the leap and went because it changed my life forever.

If you are considering studying abroad, do it. It’s full of unknowns, but once you’re there, you’ll be so glad you did it. Studying abroad creates memories you will hold close forever.

My experience studying abroad shaped me into who I am today. It expanded my horizons, made me more aware of the world and showed me that I can do hard things and assert myself.

By studying abroad, you will not only gain new memories but also new skills you can use forever. The experience comes with so much value.

So take that leap. Go out into the world and experience something new while you’re still young and in college. I promise you won’t regret it.

Lots of love and hugs of encouragement,


Schad can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributors
Skyler Schad
Skyler Schad, Freelance Writer
Skyler Schad is a second-year social work and communication student, and this is her first semester with The Spectator. When she’s not writing or studying, she loves to hang out in cute coffee shops, take pictures of sunsets and teach kids how to dance.
Marisa Valdez
Marisa Valdez, Graphic Designer
Marisa Valdez is a second-year graphic design and multimedia communication student. This is her first semester on the Spectator team. She is active in the University Honors Program and UWEC InterVarsity. Additionally, she is employed at UW-Eau Claire's Learning Technology Services (LTS) as well as Printing Services. When she's not engaged in academic-related activities, she loves to crochet, watch movies, talk with close friends, hammock, hike, practice yoga, dance or read!

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