Different Country, Different Kelli?

Six weeks since arriving in Italy. Thirteen intimate relationships with women who were previously strangers to me. Twenty-one years of learning who I am as a person could have never prepared me for the experience of Auburn’s JSB Program.

To share that my time in Italy has been nothing short of a picturesque dream-come-true with perfection attached to every moment would be more optimism than my normally positive self could articulate. However, it has been the most worthwhile experience that has graced my life so far.

Studying abroad has been a goal of mine since I was a child. I adore learning foreign languages, connecting with people, relishing in new experiences, and diving into the unknown. Because I did not prepare for an experience that I crafted using imagination, I came to Italy with minimal expectations.

Living with, eating with, traveling with, learning with, and spending leisurely time with the same group of people has unveiled many aspects about my personality, interpersonal skills, and adaptability. As much as I feel energized by the company of others, this experience has shined a light on the parts of me that crave solitude, rest, freedom, validation, reflection, and predictability. I miss being able to cook three exquisite meals per day, exercise intensely multiple times a week, and take a walk without my phone. I miss planning my days in a way that is convenient for me and having a schedule that remains consistent.

I do not miss times where I was lonely in college—I have friends in Italy who have patience and love for me unconditionally. I do not miss the longing I felt before getting to live in another part of the world. I do not miss trying to learn a language without immersion—interacting with local Italians brings me immense joy. I do not miss the ignorance I had on how beautiful an Ariccian sunset is. I do not miss the opportunity to run away from my problems. I do not miss the effort it takes to drive a personal vehicle. I cannot conjure an ounce of my being that misses life without the JSB experience.

Although it feels as though I am learning more about me than the country I am in, I am still trying to decide if I am a different version of myself here. But, I do know that I am exactly where I need to be. I encourage every person who has the opportunity to study abroad to embrace the opportunity with open arms.

Kelli Graham

Beautiful sights in Tivoli with a cherished friend