I always knew that this was going to be the hardest post to write. Most people put off writing their final blog post or journal entry or scrapbook page for as long as possible because putting the words down on paper makes the experience officially over; but that’s not what’s kept me from writing this. I know that Italy is just the beginning for me. I know that this particular trip is over, but I also know that it has awakened in my a zeal for life that will always now be a part of me. The hard part, for me, isn’t saying goodbye. It’s trying to explain, trying to put into words what Italy has meant to me. I don’t know how to begin to tell you the ways that Italy has changed me, but this is the blog post where I try to do just that. I started this blog with a list; it only seems appropriate that I end it the same way.
Top Ten Things that I Learned from Study Abroad:
- I am brave. I don’t have to be the timid, homesick little girl that I used to be. I can travel to foreign countries, talk to strangers in a foreign language, and try new foods. I can run to catch trains in Naples, try octopus, and venture Paris at night.
- I am strong. I can take care of myself. I can wait on a train platform late at night. I can go four months without seeing my family. I can overcome the day-to-day struggles of interacting with other people with very different ideas, habits, and viewpoints than my own.
- I am capable. I can navigate a map of Rome, and Paris without one. I can book trips and plan excursions. I can translate from English to Italian and back.
- I am mature. I can let the immature people that sometimes populate my life scoff, roll their eyes, slam doors in my face, and whisper as I walk past without retaliating. I can acknowledge that such people do not need the reality check I’d like to give them, but instead my sympathy for whatever in life has influenced them to be so weak that they feel the need to lash out at others in order to justify their own emotions and actions.
- I am confident. I know that I am a worthwhile human being, and anyone who treats me otherwise is not worth my time. I am no more or less important than anyone else in this world, and I recognize that for the most part people are far more concerned with their own lives than scrutinizing mine; yet even if they did, I’m proud of who I am.
- I am worthwhile. My friend who I met in Italy, who also attended my program, Morgan, told me one afternoon as we sat in the shadow of Vesuvius that I deserve to have friends who are nice to me. Truly, completely kind. I am worth that much. I finally believe her.
- I am talented. I’m not great at everything; I have just as many, if not more, faults as the average person. But I can speak Italian. I can function in the Italian workplace, travel safely and successfully, and score a goal in an unofficial soccer match.
- I am happy. This is a big one. I tend to always be looking for something to worry about. Italy taught me that I’m allowed to be happy; to be truly, ridiculously joyful. To run into the salty water of the Bay of Naples, laughing the whole way, the sun glistening off my wet, blonde hair, and know that I am blessed.
- I am I am spontaneous. I bought a flight at the last minute to a place I’d never researched where they speak a language I don’t know on a whim after missing my flight home. Lisbon pulled a spontaneity out of me that I didn’t know existed.
- I have so much still to learn.
Of course I learned about the history of the area. Obviously I improved my Italian. There’s no doubt that I became more comfortable in airports and on public transportation. These were the things that I expected to learn abroad. What I didn’t expect was to feel so at home, to feel so free, and to grow so much. I didn’t expect to meet people that would change the way I viewed myself, life, and the world. I didn’t expect to find so much of myself in a place that I’d never knew I’d go. But I did.
People kept asking me, as May 10th approached, when I would return to Sorrento. This is my response:
Prima di venire in Italia, ho pensato che la mia vita era completa. Ma, in questo momento, dopo quattro mese in questo bellissimo posto, con queste bravissime persone, con il mare, con il sole, e con tutte le cose che imparavo, non posso immaginare di non ritornare.
So, in this final blog post, as I close the book (or perhaps the webpage) on this great adventure, I’d like to thank a few people:
Mom and Dad, for their financial and emotional support.
Will for picking up my FaceTime calls, and talking about nothing, like everything was the same when I needed a bit of normalcy.
Kyle for being the friend that I needed to desperately in this time of great change.
Morgan for teaching me to love myself and the world and that there’s beauty in every moment of every day.
Haley for teaching me that no matter what decision I make, it will be the right one.
Melissa, for listening and understanding when I didn’t think I could handle the world around me.
Nick for being my big brother and bringing a bit of home to Italy.
Doug for your infectious laugh and spirit.
Giacomo for inspiring in me a zeal for life and making me try new things.
Mama Teresa for all of the coffee, cookies, and five course dinners I could handle.
Viviana, for showing me that who you were born doesn’t have to be who you are.
Domenico, for showing me how to incorporate the lessons that the great writers can teach us into real life.
Serena, for being my Italian big sister, and always knowing when all I needed was un abbraccio.
All the staff at seven hostel, all of my friend in Sorrento, and all of the other study abroad students for teaching me that age is but a number, people are genuinely good, and family can extend beyond blood.