There’s a certain sadness that comes with realizing I’m more than halfway through an experience such as study abroad. But of course there’s also a great sense of gratitude for the adventures I’ve had, the things I’ve learned and the great friendships I’ve forged.
So as I turn the corner of my experience here in Venice, I’ve been reflecting on what a challenging but rewarding few months it’s been. My classes have pushed me to think and work in different ways. My environment has given the opportunity to really get a grasp on the Italian language. My experiences have given me a different perspective on life.
As I travel to new places, meet new people and grapple with new dialects, my perspective on this world grows and grows. I’m so humbled by the complexity of it all. Each place has it’s own feel, it’s own tempo and it’s own quirks. Each new acquaintance is a window into a different way of life.
Being able to absorb this all at a fairly rapid pace has given me a new way of looking at my own life. It’s opened my mind to new possibilities and different ways of living. And I think it’s made me more purposeful about how I spend my time, and who I spend it with.
This past week especially has been one of the most challenging, but also one of the most meaningful. I traveled to Sicily Friday to meet my parents for a bit of “spring break.” On our first day there, though, we received the news that my grandfather passed away. It was heartbreaking, to say the least. My parents had to turn around and go home, of course, and I remained in Castellammare del Golfo, the town from which my mom’s family immigrated. I stayed with a great aunt and spent the week reflecting and bonding with my family there before heading back to Venice for classes.
One of the coolest things about my time in Sicily was being able to immerse myself in the lifestyle of my great aunts. I didn’t have much to do during my time there, and that was amazing. I was able to fully experience my family’s town, and I have memories of that place and those people that I will always cherish.
I spent Easter and the day after (Pasquetta) at my Zia Anna’s house “in campagna,” or the countryside. I remembered that place vividly from my last visit, and it was great to spend more time there in that gorgeous landscape (see view from my bedroom, above).
It goes without saying that living abroad is life-changing. It throws you outside your comfort zone. It forces you to change your lifestyle. But it also gives you an immense opportunity to grow. Through challenges you find important lessons. Through sadness you find reasons for hope. And through distance, you remember to cherish the people and places you have in your life.