Nearing the end of my time in Italy I truly realized how sad I was to leave, the closer it got the sadder I was and then nervousness started to creep in. I was happy to see everyone and nervous that I would come home and that everything would be right where I left it. That nothing will have changed and worse that I wouldn’t have changed. As if the past four months were a vacation in that studying abroad would be just something that I did and it would sit suspended in a little stretch of time and wouldn’t stand out and be a part of my life in the US afterwards. Study abroad, while an incredible, irreplaceable adventure, wasn’t a vacation. I had school, I cooked and cleaned. I learned to live with six new roommates. I had to learn to navigate a whole new city. This was not easy for me, between my horrible sense of direction and my unreliable cell phone GPS, I was lost, for a long time.
My letter mostly included my newfound independence and self-confidence. I learned how to be safe in foreign cities, how to act culturally neutral when the host culture was unknown to me and the best ways to explore and learn about the cities I visited. Most of all, I learned to call Firenze, home. Many professors asked us at the end if we were happy to go home and to my surprise many students answered affirmatively while I sat among my friends swiftly shaking my head back and forth communicating a very strong, opposing “no”. My family and friends kept telling me how excited they were for me to come home and while I was excited to see them and I had missed them very much, I was not excited to come home because I already was home and getting on that plane didn’t feel like returning to the familiar, it felt like traveling to a much colder, less exciting and much less beautiful, unadventurous adventure. I thought I would be happy about Allie’s donuts and chicken wings and Chipotle but let me tell you, it’s no spaghetti cabonara con tartufo, I can’t even have a single glass of wine with dinner anymore! Reading my letter I think was honestly not what my family expected and not what they wanted, while I expressed how much I had missed them, I was honest and it was clear where I want to be.
Currently every other word out of my mouth is about “Oh I did that in (insert incredibly cool and cultured European country here)” or “well, you know, that’s not how they do it in Italy.” While my new annoying comments won’t last forever, I am searching for a way to make my memories last forever within me. Study abroad, especially Firenze, is more than just a place I lived, or a place I went to school or somewhere I hung out for a little while, and now I will never truly be come because I left half of my heart there.
In your readings from Richard Slimbach, he discussed ways to carry forward the ‘gems’ you have collected on your Education Abroad experience. Discuss one or two specific ways you will carry your experience forward (within your family, home community, university, future profession, etc.) so as not to lose what was gained.
I feel now as though I have to figure out how to not go back to living my old life but also how not to sulk, wishing I was in Italy. I need to retrieve the other half of my heart but realize that it’s engraved forever with Florence’s emblem, a red lily. Being home is the easy part, returning to Quinnipiac, returning to my major classes will be especially difficult, but hopefully my experiences in Europe will guide me through and I will try to learn to call these places home again.
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” –Mary Anne Radmacher
I chose this quote because the moon to me feels more constant than the sun. For a lot of the year, especially in New England I spend more time staring at the moon than at the sun and not just cause the sun will blind me. It reminds me that the world is smaller than it seems and that my new home is not so far away.