I have dreamed of studying abroad for as long as I can remember. I envisioned a semester spent swimming in front of Positano or climbing a mountain in the Abruzzo National Park, two items just checked off my bucket list. I wanted to dive deeper into culture and learn about the traditions that make a city special, also something I am grateful to learn each day. However, what I did not dream of, simply because I never could have imagined such great joy, was making new friends around the world.
When I first landed in Italy, I was nervous about making friends with both my program companions and Italian neighbors. However, wherever I went, I was greeted by the bright smiles and welcoming arms of people eager to share their stories. I quickly learned that no matter where I was or who I was talking with, people just wanted to feel seen and listened to. This can be as simple as asking a person what their name is.
Committed to this newly learned lesson, I asked every person I met what their name was. We traveled city to city, week after week, and I began to make friends everywhere I went. Before I studied abroad, I thought my most memorable moments would be my wildest adventures, like dancing in the gardens of Villa D’este or reading a book in the shadow of the Pantheon. These memories are wonderful, moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. However, the place I have found the most peace, the most joy, is seated at a table with new friends and old friends alike.
It is at a table that we ate pasta and became best friends under a little bridge in Ariccia.
It is at a table that we meet every morning to sip cappuccinos (type of coffee) and dream of what the day might offer.
It is at a table that we held gelato (ice cream) in our hands and laughed as the Roman sun made it drip to our elbows.
It is at a table that we sit eagerly every day to learn about the beauty of Italian history and culture.
And it is at a table that we will celebrate all that we have learned and all that we have become over this summer in just a few short weeks.
Thank you for those who have always left a place for me at their table.