Before coming on this study abroad, I was informed by a previous student of the friendships I would make, of the challenges I would face, of the adventures I would embark on, and of the person I would become. To this I responded, “Super, now bring on the wine and pasta.” But upon my arrival, l looked across the room seeing many familiar faces, as well as a few unfamiliar, and a sense of standing at the edge of something exciting came over me. Maybe this student was on to something. Maybe this summer wasn’t going to be so much about finding the best pasta or cheese but more about exploring myself and how I want to live in this world.
That night I nestled into my bed (which by the way is surprisingly comfortable) and prayed for courage. My hopes for the summer were to make real memories, filled with real conversations, real experiences, and real people. I knew I would have to be fearless in my pursuit of these goals. I may have added in there a little request for pasta, wine, and cheese but it was definitely a secondary supplication.
As the semester began, I started to realize just how much time we’d be spending together. I made the conscious decision to throw privacy to the wind and embrace the opportunities to build meaningful friendships. This decision has paid off in spades. This experience has pushed me past any boundary that I thought existed and shown me that we are only limited by our own minds and incessant need for security. I will admit that I look forward to my own private bathroom back in the States, but the tradeoff has been well worth it.
Touring the small town of Ariccia as a class would soon turn into visiting the Sistine Chapel, which would then turn into hiking the side of an active volcano, and eventually flying to Greece in a group of twenty-two girls. One may ask, how do you travel with a group of twenty-two seamlessly? The answer is, you don’t. But it’s the seams and cracks along the path we travel that make life most interesting and memorable.
We all miss our moms, we all miss Chick-Fil-A, and we all want to explore Europe. We are a diverse group. We do bring a broad range of attributes to the table. But we have built a culture of twenty-two very different students who have found common ground and are building lifelong friendships through the exploration of new and different cultures together. I’m certain this summer will rank as one of the greatest experiences in my life.
Being surrounded by these students has brought out sides of me I had no idea existed. I’ve learned a lot about each one of them but more importantly I am beginning to discover my own true nature. I have been introduced to my adventurous spirit and I like her. My terrible sense of direction has been confirmed, but who knew I enjoy listening to Chinese love songs and I was cooking basically everything I eat incorrectly.
This experience has been wrought with extremes. My luggage was lost on the way here, I arrived with the flu, and came close to cutting my finger off in a cooking class. But I also have stood beneath the work of Michelangelo, strolled Las Rambias in Barcelona, and shopped until I dropped in Paris. It seems I have taken the leap off the edge of something exciting and even though I have hit a few jagged edges, the air is sweet up here and I plan on sticking the landing.