In Becoming World Wise, Richard Slimbach states, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (54). I completely agree with Slimbach here after my experience abroad. I know it is not over yet and that I still must reincorporate when I return home, but I feel that when you study abroad, you learn so much about yourself. Everyone grows up trying to make sense of this vast world we live in, trying to form some type of identity to establish who you are. Yet, when students like myself study abroad, “the sudden vulnerability we experience as we arrive in an unknown place stripped of familiar surroundings, people, and routines renders us acutely aware of who we are, or at least of who we’re not” (54). The last part of this quotation is what truly speaks to me. When I arrived in Perugia, I was lost and somewhat afraid. I didn’t know anybody here, but I did know what I liked and especially what I didn’t like. Because I was lost in such a new place, I was completely vulnerable. But it is often when one is vulnerable does a person grow and open up to new ideas, places, other people, and especially cultures. By opening up to all of these things, you can learn so much which in turn allows you to learn about yourself. What is more amazing is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is weak and vulnerable in this new culture and place so unfamiliar to all of us. The result is something more than spectacular: we are all free. Free to speak and think and play and act and feel in any way we would like, all the while simultaneously learning so much about a host culture that used to be completely unknown to us.
Early on in my semester abroad, two of my very new friends and myself wanted to find the Perugina chocolate factory. We knew we had to hop on a bus take it to some stop, but it proved to be a much more difficult challenge when everyone speaks Italian but you. Still, we hopped on a random bus hoping to arrive at the factory. We had no idea what stop the factory was at, but we knew the bus should be about twenty or thirty minutes. We saw no sign of a chocolate factory anywhere stop after stop, so we thought we should just get off at the next stop and try to find a different bus or ask for directions. When we get off at what we thought was a random stop, we step into an area that is filled with smell of sweet, delicious chocolate. We instantly burst into laughter at the fact that we had miraculously arrived at the chocolate factory after hopping on a bus that we weren’t even sure would take us to our destination. The point of this little story is to describe the freedom of our exploration and carefreeness to our adventure, and how even if you don’t know how you’re going to get somewhere there will always be a way to make it work. We were all just starting to get to know each other, all still learning Italian, yet we were all free in this new place together and it all worked out. It was pure bliss.
Being in Perugia as well as other places in Italy has made me realize that I am a small person in a huge world. I have been in Italy learning how to speak the Italian language and learning the culture in this community. Yet, there are so many other countries with their own languages and cultures that I have never even seen or been to. It may sound obvious to others but it is the truth. To call yourself a global citizen, a citizen of this world, one has to realize this and that we all have our own ways of doing things across cultures. But, this person must also realize that when it comes down to it, we are all the same. We’re all doing the same thing: living and loving life. I will not ever forget what it was like to be a foreigner and to be afraid in different culture, and I will always remember my experiences here when I return home.
I have met so many people here that I connected with and will truly miss. I will cherish the times and the laughs we’ve shared, as well as the memories we’ve made for as long as I live. I wish I could do something for all of them to show them this. A compliment and saying something nice can really go a long way, so I know before I leave I will tell them how great they all are. In addition to these great people I’ve met, I have also been to some great places. Before I go, I am going to take one last turn around Perugia to say goodbye.
It is strange to think how I did not know any of the great friends I have made before this trip. It is like we were all different lines so far from each other. But then each line intersected and met at one point to become one line. While we’ve been moving on the same line for long now, we will all soon separate again branching off to different points. While this makes me sad, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with everyone here. Maya Angelou once said, “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” And I feel I have done just that. I have shared many moments with the people I came to know and love here in Perugia. And I am so thankful for everything that’s happened.