Me (left) and my friend Alex, enjoying a beautiful day in Florence

I am currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy, with the Syracuse University Abroad program. This is my first trip outside of the United States — I’ve never even been to Canada. As this is my first time leaving the country, I naturally want to do anything and everything. When I was planning my weekend trips over the summer, I had every weekend booked. I wanted to visit all of the places I had only seen in movies or read about it books. In my mind, this was my once-in-a-lifetime experience, my chance to see the world.

When I got to Florence, the reality of time sunk in. Sure, three months sounds like a long time, but trying to squeeze in everything I wanted to do was impossible. On top of that, most of my friends who I am traveling with have already been to Europe, so some of the top places I wanted to go were places that they had already seen. I had a very specific vision of what I wanted my abroad experience to be, and when it didn’t go exactly as planned, I started obsessing about it. For most of September and the beginning of October, I was constantly online searching for places to travel to, trying to find the cheapest flights, texting friends trying to convince them to travel with me for the fourth weekend in a row.

A few days ago, I was sitting in a piazza near the SU Florence campus, using an app on my phone to search cheap flights. I realized I had been sitting there for 45 minutes, completely oblivious to everything going on around me. I did not see the beautiful street art two feet away from me, or the man playing the violin in the center of the piazza, or the brilliant hues of yellow and red in the changing leaves. When I looked up and took it all in, it hit me: I was spending so much time obsessing about seeing everything that I wasn’t really seeing anything.

I’ve been trying too hard to make this experience perfect. Studying abroad is an opportunity to discover your passions, see new things, and embrace cultures different from your own. It’s not about getting the most stamps on your passport. It’s about seeing what you can, living in the moment, and stepping out of your comfort zone. I closed most of those tabs a few days ago. I’m ready to see where the rest of the semester takes me, and hopefully I will be more open to the beauty right in front of me.

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