The best way to prepare for a semester abroad is to familiarize yourself with the local language. No matter how excited you are or how much you think you know about a certain culture, nothing will prepare you for that moment when you step off the plane and realize that English is now the second language. I remember my first month in Padova. Even though I had studied Italian for 3 years, I still found expressing myself to be difficult. I wanted to be able to talk- to be myself- and, at first, I couldn’t!
If you follow these simple steps, you may be able to avoid these feelings of frustration.
1. Read books in Italian. If you’re a beginner, try children’s books. If you are more advanced, pick up a newspaper or novel.
2. Watch Italian films. Those with subtitles are helpful but make sure to really listen- don’t just read the English.
3. Arrange to meet with a conversation partner once a week or listen to instructional tapes.
4. Start thinking in Italian. This is the best way to ease yourself into la bella vita.