Veni. Vidi. Amavi.

“Rules for Happiness: something to do,   someone to love, something to hope for.” – Immanuel Kant

“Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”
– Immanuel Kant

As the halfway mark of my study abroad program comes to an end and I return to Ariccia – joyful to see my Italian home again – I realize that this trip in Europe brought so many more gifts than I could ever have imagined possible. These gifts helped me to reexamine the experience I thought I was going to have in Italy and compare it to the one I was actually blessed with. An example of this is how in the program, our assignments fall under the “Veni, Vidi, Vici” or in English, “I came, I saw, I conquered” class titles. At first glance I thought this was an appropriate play on words for the experience I was going to have in Italy when I first arrived, but after seven weeks in Italy, I realize that I will never want to “conquer.” Seven weeks into this amazing European experience I realize that I came, I saw, and I loved everything around me.

Being a foreigner is undoubtedly difficult because I did not speak the language, I did not understand the culture, I continuously fumbled trying to adapt to a place that owed me nothing. However, the Joseph S. Bruno program worked diligently to give me the tools I needed to survive.

From the moment I stepped off the plane and was swept away on the whirlwind of fieldtrips, cultural excursions, and sitting through amazing lectures from Italy’s brilliant scholars, I was already accomplishing the “Veni” of my Italian experience. However seeing Italy with one’s eyes is not nearly enough in order to understand it when I simply “came” to the country. For me, the “Vidi” could only be accomplished when the program encouraged me to delve deeper and fully immerse myself through personal relationships with the Italians around me. Seeing became experiencing Italy through the eyes of someone who actually lives there and has a completely different view than those of a traveler. People like the “Mustache Man,” my favorite cappuccino barista, the students at the James Joyce High School I visited, my “Italian family,” and all of the lecturers and members of the Interlinea program, who took time out of their lives to show me an Italy I never could have imagined.

This is where the “Amavi” steps in. When I first came to Italy it made sense that in the end I would “conquer” or “Vici” my experiences. I would do amazing things, see wondrous places, and feel like I had actually “done something” worthwhile because I was having a European adventure. In reality, my experiences taught me that “conquering” is not important at all. As my time in Italy carried on, the things I was seeing and the things I was doing became important for an entirely new reason that excluded a how-much-can-I-do-in-three-months-to-make-it-worth-it mentality. Amavi means “I loved.” Rather than seeing every opportunity as a qualification for a checkmark on the bucket list or some preconceived idea of what a successful European semester would be, this program helped me see through the eyes of someone who simply fell in love with her surroundings and embraced her experiences on a much more personal level. As the next half of my semester awaits I now look forward to the trips, the lessons, and the people as a gift rather than simply something I can brag about or take endless pictures of for some Facebook album back home. Embracing the Amavi mentality for the rest of my stay in Italy means that I checked off one of the greatest bucket list item there is: to fall in love with a place that speaks to the heart and soul and loves me back unconditionally.

–Kelsey Sellers