Looking back on my arrival to the Boston Logan Airport brings back a strange feeling that I can’t completely pinpoint. As I walked through the long empty halls from the gate ramp to customs it was hard for me to process that I would be exiting to Boston, Massachusetts and not Barcelona, Nice or some other European city. Even as I walked through customs my mind was slow in registering that I was no longer a foreigner, but a US citizen returning to my home country. My mind was wandering all over the place between reflecting on my past few days in the Amalfi Coast to thinking about what seeing my family, friends, and boyfriend would be like. I began looking around me at all the people in customs and wondering what their story was: Were any of them coming back from studying abroad like me? Was this their first time in America? In that moment of waiting in line to see my parents on the other side of the exit door I felt alone. There was no familiar sound of the Italian language around me, no abroad friends or members of my communitas to confide in. Fortunately after seeing my parent’s smiling faces and big waves through the exit doors I was able to take a deep breath.
I was quickly met with my first challenge when I turned on my cellphone data. Texts and phone calls immediately began vibrating my phone in a way I hadn’t been used to in awhile and I became extremely overwhelmed. I rarely used my phone while I was abroad and it has been hard realizing how much they are used in America. Some of my friends and family have taken it personally that I would forget to respond to texts or that my phone would constantly be dead. The amount of attention that is centered on cellphones is an aspect of reintegrating with my home community that continues to be difficult for me. In addition, I found myself easily bored in my small town where there a very few surprises and changes. I began working as much as possible, visiting friends in other states, and doing anything to fill my time the way it was in Florence.
I decided to focus my attention to my family in my Reincorporation Letter as they will be the ones around me most this summer at home. I explained as simply as I could what the stage of reincorporation meant and how it was important to completing my rite of passage studying abroad in a way that would not only benefit myself, but also them and the rest of our community. They were surprised by how important their role was in my reincorporation and how much they could help just by asking about my experience and checking in every once in a while. My mom even suggested Italian family dinners where I can share what I’ve learned about the food in Florence. To summarize my many emotions I showed my family a picture of girl sitting on her suitcase and staring out at an airplane taking off. The girl’s expression looks slightly lonely and almost as if she’s thinking “what next?” or dreaming of the next adventure. The difference with the girl in the picture and me is that I have my family to comfort me through the process.
I would love to be able to carry forward the ‘gems’ I have collected during my abroad experience in Florence. For me, being able to participate in events at Quinnipiac that bring together past study abroad students as well as students who are thinking about studying abroad would be very rewarding. For example, being a panelist to answer any questions that students may have about studying abroad and give them some further insight from my experience. In this way I could also help excite students about studying abroad for the right reasons instead of just to party freely. Another way I have begun carrying forward my experience is cooking traditional Italian meals with my family and explaining the history behind the recipes and ingredients as I learned from my History and Culture of Food course while abroad.
I would also like to carry forward my experience by emulating my art teacher’s passion for art and integrating it into his life as much as possible. I have always loved drawing, however I find myself wasting time on my phone that could be spent focusing on my artistic expression and possibly “contributing something meaningful to the world” (Slimbach, 233). This focus on drawing would also be very meaningful to me as it is something I spent a lot of time doing in Florence.
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” Part of my heart will forever be in Florence, but I would pay that price again and again to experience loving another part of the world that is so different than where I’m from. I never knew that I could feel that way so deeply about a city and the culture and people that make it so unique. I can’t wait to feel it again.