I read my separation letter to my parents ten days prior to departure, when both my parents and I were running around finishing up last minute errands for my departure to Florence, Italy. My mother particularly has been making sure I have everything I need in Italy in order to make sure I have safe travels and a wonderful experience, making my trip her priority. When I introduced my separation letter to both of my parents it began to resonate with both my parents and I that my trip is approaching very soon. Although we have been packing and ordering euros for my trip, it did not seem to register that I will be leaving for the next 4-5 months as much as it did when I read my letter. I was far from nervous reading my letter to my parent’s as they are so supportive of my decision to go abroad. If anything, it made me excited to be able to convey to them just how thankful and excited I am to have had their help to make this trip happen. My parents weren’t expecting the letter and it was nice to see them smile when I told them how much I appreciated them. I wanted to show them how I am hoping to make the most out of this trip by allowing myself to be there in the moment and embrace being apart of European culture. I really wanted to express that this trip will be more than what many perceive a semester abroad as; a four month vacation. To me, I want this experience to be much more than that, by implementing myself into Florentine culture and challenging myself in order to leave my trip a more resourceful, aware, and compassionate person towards the global community. My parents thanked me for the separation letter I read them as it was a great way to sum up what I am hoping to get out of my trip while saying thank you.
The quote that I read them that really resonates with me is by Bill Bryson: “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted”. I went to Italy for a ten day school trip when I was in high school. We traveled to approximately seven cities. However what saddens me, is that I cannot truly remember all seven cities I visited while on my trip. I failed to document the wonderful experience I had and depended on memories. Of course, my memory of the trip is that it was spectacular. However memories can only go so far with age. Additionally, I was too young to appreciate the wonders that were in front of me. That is why I want to experience my time abroad through the eyes of someone who depicts that quote. I want to record through a blog and countless pictures, my experience, whether that be a wonderful recipe that I found, the best gelato I have ever had, or a wonderful local Florentine that I met and everything that he opened my eyes to in regard to his culture. I hope to look back at my experience and no matter how much time goes by, not have to depend on my memory as I will have physical records of my experience.
A healthy separation will permit me to experience a side of life that I feel most people cannot say they have experienced. I will have the opportunity to become apart of another culture, which will allow me to adapt and learn new things, enabling self discovery. Although one can surmise that they have already discovered themselves when they have only known one life, and one culture, I believe that there is so much more potential for every person when they allow themselves to challenge themselves and try a new lifestyle. The only worry I have that may abstain me from separating in a healthy way would be social media. Although I am hoping to capture many moments through it, there is a large difference from experiencing a moment through the lens of a camera versus your eyes. I want to depend much less on my phone and social media, a challenge, and change in itself.
A successful education abroad experience for me would be leaving the experience understanding the city I lived in for four months. I want to be confident in my answer as to why the people and the city is the way it is and how it came to be. My success will be measured in my knowledge towards European culture, and myself by identifying the changes I have undergone. I am expecting to experience many moments that are unexpected, good and bad. I don’t think I can truly predict any experience that is ahead of me, however I could not be more excited to discover all that is ahead. I am a very independent person that is far from afraid of change. On account of this, I could not be more ready to appreciate the diversity and changes around me. I want to leave the experience with memories consisting of a localized and more native experience. By that I mean, Florence is a very Americanized city due to the vast amount of tourism and students studying abroad like that of me. The only way to truly understand Florentine culture is to eat, shop, and speak with the locals. Oh, and of course, abstain from eating the decorative gelato with hiked up prices that the tourists go, because for my time abroad, I don’t want to be just a tourist and I want the ‘real’ stuff (gelato).
This picture is of me in Rome, in 2012, my Junior year of high school. This depicts my journey so far as one that can take me much further. I can look back this photo and recall the moments I wish I remembered better however it also reminds me how much that trip will always be apart of my heart as I took so much away from it. I was so happy experiencing this wonderful culture that Italy provides and it pushes me to want to experience that and so much more this time around.