My journey to Italy has drawn to a close and I am now less than 12 hours from being at home with my family. The experience I have had in the past 11 weeks is one that words can only begin to describe. I never imagined how great the impact this experience would have on my personal growth and my outlook on the world around me.
I immersed myself into the Italian culture the best I could; I learned some Italian, ate more pizza and pasta than I care to admit, and became a functioning “local” once I finally understood the metro, buses, business hours, and cultural norms.
You always hear that study abroad changes people, and I spent the majority of my time wondering what would change about me when I got home. But now I’m beginning to realize that studying abroad does not change you, it simply brings your inner quirks to the surface so they can’t be hidden away. Growing to accept these quirks and let the world shed light on them has been gratifying. One small change I do hope to see come back with me to the States was my development in social settings; it is amazing how much you actually hear when you are really listening—without the noise of social media and technology buzzing in the background.
On my trip, I visited so many places that I’ve seen in movies and read about in books. Seeing the canals of Venice, spending time in Portofino’s yacht country, hiking the trails of the Cinque Terre, wishing my dad a Happy Father’s Day from Pisa, listening to Pope Francis speak in St. Peter’s Square, relaxing at Lake Maggiore near the Italian Alps, revisiting the beaches of Cinque Terre to celebrate my birthday with old and new friends, and relaxing before finals on the nice beaches of Nice were all luxuries for which I am grateful.
I never thought the goodbyes would be so hard. Two sessions of friends, each leaving after 5 weeks, made for twice the goodbyes and toasts to newfound friendships. The bond that I developed with my classmates is monumental. I’m already planning my trips across the United States to revisit new friends. This summer has been the most surprising, heartwarming, eye-opening experience I could have ever wished for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.