The four weeks I spent in Taormina, Italy were undoubtedly some of the absolute best of my life. Studying in the beachfront town on the gorgeous, culturally rich island of Sicily was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the time I spent there passed entirely too quickly. Adapting to the laid-back Sicilian lifestyle was a privilege, and I try to remember to embrace their happy, “life-is-good” attitude on a daily basis now that I am separated from the land that I have grown to love. Studying abroad was not something I had initially planned on doing upon coming to Auburn, but when an opportunity presented itself, I took a chance, which turned out to be my chance of a lifetime.
My decision to study in Italy was solidified after completing two elementary courses in Italian language at Auburn. I fell in love with the language, and I knew there was much more to love. When I decided to pursue a minor in Italian studies, a summer program in Taormina seemed to be an adequate option; looking back, I laugh at my former self for my extreme underestimation. The classes I took while abroad were culturally enriching and intellectually rewarding, and I was surprised to find myself actually excited to make the fifteen minute scenic walk to class each morning at 8 am. Although the courses I took in culture, food and language contributed in large part to my enjoyment of my time in Italy, most of my development abroad took place outside the classroom. I was awakened to a slower, easier life where I emulated the Italians by relishing the simple joy each day brought. Food became a central element of social gatherings, (and life in general), which no one complained about considering the thoughtful, delicious preparation that went into every meal. Studying abroad initially intimidated me not only because I knew I’d be traveling to a country that I knew nearly nothing about, but also because I knew no one traveling on my program with me. This fear quickly faded, and through weeks filled with trips to the nearby winery, 3-minute gondola rides down to the beach, a nine mile hike up the active volcano, Mt. Etna, boat tours through the majestic caves of the Mediterranean Sea, and an international film festival held in the ancient Greek Theater, these strangers became my best friends. I bonded with my fellow students over shared experiences that we knew we would never be able to adequately explain to our friends back home. We remain incredibly close and often reminisce about those unforgettable weeks we spent together in Taormina. The entire experience was a dream come true, and I would do it all over, exactly the same, in a heartbeat.