I’m fascinated by the way our experiences weave into a perfectly knit-together story, often without us even realizing, until we take the time to reflect. When I first arrived here in Ariccia, Italy, I took on the title of Momma Mela, the Italian word for apple. The students were divided into fruit groups (bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes) for the purpose of sharing responsibilities for chores here in the Chigi Palace. I spent the semester studying Galations 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” As a nutrition student, I have always loved fruit, with apples being my favorite food since childhood. This was a topic I could easily connect with and share with the students.
By the final week of classes, our history lecturer, Marco Antonini, left us with a quote by the French author, Voltaire, “We must cultivate our garden.” Marco recently turned 90 years old, and is still sharper than most tools in the shed. He’s lived a full life, and he documents it all in a daily journal he’s been keeping since the 1940s. Marco encouraged us to find a moment and a space to develop something of our own, hence cultivating our own garden. Marco stressed the importance of being present throughout the fleeting nature of our lives.
“One can be with your feet in the past, and your head in the future. Use the new technology, but don’t forget the old ways.” –Marco Antonini
As I reflect on this semester abroad, I am proud to say that I have cultivated a garden of brightly colored fruits, fresh ideas, and everlasting values. I am my own garden. I have grown, I’ve been pruned and nourished, and I’ve blossomed. This experience has taught me more than I could have ever taken away from a textbook. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but now I say a mela a day helps cultivate a garden along the way.
Fall 2016 Graduate Teaching Assistant