When I first stepped foot on Italian soil in August, I had little concept of what to expect over the next 3 months of my life. I did not know the array of experiences that awaited me, the variety of foods I would try, the relationships I would soon form, or the sights and stories that would light my eyes and ears with wonder. I did not know the combination of growth and inspiration that would transform parts of me for the better and fill my soul with gratitude, but I soon found out.
Let me back this story up a little. Before joining the Joseph S. Bruno team as the graduate teaching assistant, I studied abroad several summers ago with a program outside of Auburn University. I had the time of my life, learned a lot about the world, and formed some quality friendships – I could not wait to be a part of a similar adventure but as a teaching assistant this time around. Serving as the TA allowed me a unique vantage point of this experience: in a way, it has been like putting a mirror to myself during my own abroad experience and seeing it all through different eyes. Not only was I an international student and peer alongside my students, but I was also able to watch each of them learn, experience wonder, and form lasting friendships at the same time. At times, it has felt surreal, at times, it has been very challenging, but overall, this journey has been one of the most wonderful, formative experiences of my life.
In addition to experiencing great personal growth, I learned to live in and love a richly cultural country. Italy’s ways are simultaneously so vastly similar to and different from my Alabamian background: we both value food and the community inspired by long nights spent around a table, but Italians do so in a way that is slower – more patient and carefree. Living in Italy has reminded me of the importance of slowing down, taking the time to fully observe and experience everything happening around me rather than moving through the motions and rushing to the next task. In hearing simple stories, like that St. Francis of Assisi “invented” empathy or that Michelangelo had an enormous sense of humor (and talent!), I developed an admiration for Italy’s entire art history and unique world perspective.
To sum this all up, I would like to share a few favorite memories throughout the semester. Watching the Auburn game until 4:00 in the morning with Lauren and Kelsey the first week, hearing to Asheley shout “scusi!” on field trips in Rome, seeing Mallie stop to pet every cat she ever met, watching the Eiffel tower sparkle for over an hour with Skylar and Grace, randomly ending up in a bumpin’ night club with Bailey and Maura, having deep life chats with Ansley and an Englishwoman we met on a wine tour, learning about Olivia’s passion for the world, being with Skye and Mecca for their first Indian food experience, admiring Lindsey’s perfectly-executed outfits, having deep chats with Payton over sushi in Rome, smelling all of the yummy food Eleanor cooked up every time she was in the kitchen, line-dancing with Mariah at the Porchetta festival, Ivana trekking down the steps in Positano, sharing aperitivo and happy hour at Fortini Lab with Cinzia and Abbi-Storm, saying “Ciao bella” to Roberta each morning as she walked in with a smile on her face, cooking with Mary Lou, relating to Lacey (and looking to her as a great mentor) on our love for all things nutrition and mental health, and laughing at pretty much anything Ada ever said. My absolute favorite nights of all, however, were spent with everyone sharing a big meal in the kitchen and lingering for more wine and laughter afterwards.
Ariccia, I will miss you for your sights, sounds, and tastes, but most of all, I will miss you for your people.
Signing out as your Fall 2019 GTA,