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Before we actually started using the word pandemic every day, I had had a plan in my head – obtain my master’s degree in Italy. At that time, I was mostly concerned about whether I wanted to move to another country and leave everything behind. I debated whether I should quit my job or continue working part-time online and what I should do with my apartment. All these questions became less relevant when the pandemic hit, and the question, whether I will be able to go there at all – became the main one.

Anxiety reached a whole new level when a month ago, the faculty decided to renew my studies in presence. I was not ready. I changed my opinion about going versus not going so many times that I was simply tired of this constant hesitation. Nevertheless, currently, I am looking through my new apartment’s window in Milan’s lovely neighborhood and thinking about things I have noticed during this change of scenery.

Don’t fall into the trap of ‘experts’

Almost everyone got a bit addicted to the news throughout the last year. A thousand comments follow every single update, and interpretations of management of Coronavirus measurements are getting wild. Once a circle of my family and friends heard that I am going away, I started receiving tons of ‘expert’ information about which tests are better, how is the epidemiologic situation in Italy, and what I should know before traveling there. I felt overwhelmed with all pieces of advice, even though I am sure people just wanted me to be safe. But I was the one who was moving to another country and had to check all information by myself to get the whole picture and not just rumors.

Tip: If you want to be sure that you are not missing any information regarding safety guidelines, check the local information outlet only a few days before going, better – the day before traveling. 

Don’t expect prices to be lower now

Throughout the year, I have read many articles about how rental prices in big cities are decreasing as many people are no longer able to afford to rent a place, and they move out to live in less expensive areas or even back with their parents. Giving this information, I was eager to find a sweet dig in a good location for way less money. Sadly, reality soon hit, and I figured that renting a place in Milan will not be cheap as I expected. I spend hours browsing various websites, and on the departure day, I still had no place to stay. It didn’t make me considerably worried as checking into a hotel or Airbnb was always an option. However, it did not make me feel confident about starting a new chapter in another country, especially when you never know what will happen in a couple of days.

The same story was with airplane tickets. It is difficult to predict if we will go back to times when a roundtrip ticket to almost every European capital was ranging between 50 to 100 Euro without any questions. Now, many airlines offer a possibility to change your ticket date while paying just a bit more – use this. It is neither a place nor the time to grudge an additional 20 Euro as the situation is unpredictable. This is a piece of honest advice, as I wasn’t that wise in the first place, and in the end, I had to pay four times the usual price for a ticket to Milan, and it made me cry inside a bit.

Tip: Choose airplane tickets with the possibility to change their date. 

Be empathetic

Everyone has had a different stressful experience since the start of the pandemic. Some could not cope with themselves, and others lost someone they love, while some are still very worried about their health. When I came to Milan, the quarantine rules were way easier there than back in my country. Which meant I could easily meet people, hang out in the cafes and restaurants. It felt like such a gift to be surrounded by people and to talk to them in person, but it was a shock too. It felt so normal, yet it was missing a human touch. I found myself not knowing whether I can hug people, let alone touch them, and it made me very cautious about my behavior. I talked with others about whether they feel the same. However, you can never know how another person is feeling, and it is wiser to ask for permission rather than feel how a person’s body gets all tense because of your touch. It is not a situation you find amusing, nor it’s easy to fit the question – “may I touch you?”. But this is where we find ourselves nowadays, anyway.

Tip: Always ask a person if they feel comfortable meeting you in person or having any physical contact. 

Be ready not to be sure about anything 

It has been three weeks since I have settled in a new place. I know routes to my favorite places by heart and don’t need to use GPS that much anymore. Yet, the quarantine rules have already changed three times. From almost a total freedom we got again to more rigid restrictions. Nobody knows how a next week is going to be like, but it is OK. Living in a foreign country during the pandemic makes you more cautious and sometimes causes even more anxiety than at home. Yet, if you find yourself debating whether now is a good time to make drastic changes, remember that we have already survived a year of uncertainty and became more resilient than ever.

Resilience is the new cool. It may not be a quality you will put on your resume, but it will definitely help you in any future turmoil.

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