Leaving so much behind, I came to Milan with no expectations and not knowing a single soul. And with four months of crazy adventures, long days, fun nights, and endless memories coming to an end, I’m leaving here with so much more than I came with. Some things I’ve accumulated may be more physically noticeable, like the number of souvenirs I’ve bought or the extra dimples on my cheeks (or should I say extra “happiness” ); while many others are intangible, like the relationships I have formed, the sights I have seen, and the things I have learned.
Over and over again, I have read countless blogs and articles that say when you study abroad, you “discover yourself”. And as clichè as it sounds, it could not be more true. Without being completely aware, there’s a part in each of us where ethnocentrism dominates our way of thinking and our days find security in comfort and regularity. Up until this point, I hadn’t given much thought to how set I was in my ways, knowing that each day would bring something a little different, but not enough to deviate from my regular routine. Here, all schedules are thrown out the window (considering I don’t think Italians ever actually follow a schedule apart from their own) and each day is what you make of it.
While there are so many things I am looking forward to when I get home, I’ve come to learn that there is so much more to life than “yoga and kale”. Ok, so do I miss the aforementioned things? Sure. But would I replace it for the invaluable knowledge, unforgettable experiences, irreplaceable opportunites and genuine friendships? Not a chance.
With that said, I thought I’d wrap this up with just a few of the many lessons I’ve learned on this study abroad experience.
You only have one today, so make it a memorable one.
I like to think of myself as an intelligent student such that I try my best to get good grades. But I’ve come to realize over the past four years, with my second to final quarter being abroad, that much more of one’s life is comprised of things other than what grades one gets. Yes, it’s important to get good grades, but are they going to be written on your tombstone? Are you going to remember that one time you got a B on a midterm, or the time you rode camels into the sunset in the Sahara desert? There are many moments along these past few months that my past self would have surely chosen studying over any opportunity that would have gotten in the way, but choosing to indulge in moments of joy and experiencing unforgettable adventures were much more valuable than any extra grade points I could have received.
Live lightly and live in love.
This one is a bit close to my heart, as I am someone that sets high goals and strives for so-called “perfection”. And while having determination and drive is never something that should be looked down upon, being here has also taught me how to “loosen-up” and be okay with it. Did I make mistakes? Did I gain weight? Did I not study enough? Sure. But will life still go on? Will tomorrow still come? Will I still graduate? Will people still love me? Absolutely. Everyone falls and gets back up again and being here has shown me that my life is not meant to be measured against perfection, but measured with grace, goodness and love.
Never stop changing.
Coming back, I hope I’ve changed. For better and/or for worse, I truly hope this experience has changed me. Maybe I’ll come back dressed differently, speak differently, or even act differently, though I can’t know exactly as I myself am not fully sure of all the slow but small changes that have happened since being here. All I know is that going home, I don’t want to be static and unmoved, to leave what I learned abroad and revert back to my old routine. I hope to integrate the two worlds; bringing my last few months of whimsy and culture, the desire to seek new perspectives and be an active participant in the world, and pushing myself out of my usual way of thinking, and blend them with familiar days ahead and places I know all too well yet am eager to return to.
The world is so small.
It’s funny that I, as one of over 900 international students, a with 9-hour time difference and about 5,365 miles away from home in one of 195 countries in the world, the world can be considered small. And yet, across oceans I have gotten together with other UW students studying abroad, reconnected with old friends I’ve met in other countries, and found friends as close as family that though are half way around the world, are only a plane ride away. No matter where I am in the world, I know that I am never completely alone and for that I am truly thankful.
People and relationships are everything.
Which brings me to my last blurb. My friends. You know who you are. Not to get all sappy, but truly from the bottom of my heart, thank you.Though some may be farther away than others, you are all near and dear to my heart. From taking me to my first club or aperitivo on Navigli, to sleeping in rifugios and riads, to watching movies in Italian to stuffing ourselves at all-you-can-eat sushi, and even going to Ckn Ckn at 4:30 in the morning, it’s the little moments with the people I love that I will remember and miss the most. Each and every one of you have taught me so much more about who I am, who I want to be, and that the best kind of beauty, productivity, and success is being surrounded with those who make you happy. I can’t imagine my life without you all and though it’s not a goodbye, I sure hope the “see you” happens sooner rather than later. And when you all come to visit Seattle, know you have a friend to stay with.
To come full circle, I want to leave the same way I came in; in prayer. Prayers for the rest of Europe and that the reoccuring destructful and hateful actions come to an end, prayers the the victims and their families can be washed over with goodness and peace during the holiday season. Prayer for safe flights and travels for everyone on study abroad going home, for joyful reunions and extra love awaiting their arrival. Prayers for those adapting to reverse culture shock and adjusting back to their own routines. Prayers for the new students coming next semester and getting ready to start their own journey. And prayers overall that everything I’ve learned, experienced, seen and done only helps me continue growing into the culturally-refined, travel-enthusiastic, Italian-speaking, joy-giving, adventure-seeking, unconditionally-loving, God-fearing, passion-driven woman of the world I strive to be.
So to Milan and the people I met here, all I can say is arrivederci per adesso…
And to the people at home…sono in arrivo!
Un bacio forte,