I’m sitting at my favorite cafe in Ariccia, Antico Caffè, having my Ciambella (donut) and Cappuccino. Sadly, I caught myself counting down the days left till I get to hug my family, and friends at home. Now, this may seem ungrateful, but I ensure you it’s not.
Coming to Italy I was over the moon with excitement about what was to come this summer. But now, I sit here wishing I was where I know, but also wishing this experience of a lifetime to never end. I’m still trying to find how to be in this moment and enjoy it completely without missing what I don’t have.
Every day in Italy is a beautiful, new experience for me each day poses a challenge in its own way. I remember the first day we arrived, and someone told me to learn to find comfort in things that feel like they have no familiarity. During the first three weeks in Ariccia, I was so excited to live my dream Italian summer. What I did not think to consider at that moment was how homesick I would feel at week eight, or how difficult it is to find comfort in an environment that’s not my normal. As silly as this sounds, I never anticipated missing peanut butter or lemonade with ice so much, not only because they taste good but because they are what is comfortable. This summer has taught me that throughout life there will be some periods that are more uncomfortable than others, and I must find ways for myself to find comfort in them.
Being so far from home has taught me that it is okay to miss these things but to embrace the new and exciting things a new country has invited to my life, as they won’t be in my life forever. So many experiences good and bad, new amazing fresh foods, and people of a completely different background than I, yet, have become some of my favorite individuals. This summer I could have sat in my uncomfortableness and counted down the days till I got to go back to America. Instead, I embraced the challenge and emersed myself in the Italian culture! I will always remember my time in Italy because it was uncomfortable and that’s what made my memories here.
Being out of my comfort zone is a vicious cycle of continually longing for the comfort of being in Auburn but also being so excited about my experiences here. I know that as much as I want to feel a sense of familiarity now, in two months’ time I am going to desire things from Ariccia and all over Italy that are not accessible in America.
Here is a picture of Paolo teaching me how to make a cappuccino! One of the many skills I picked up this summer!
Whoever said studying abroad for the summer would be perfect was not telling the truth. Do not get me wrong, this experience has allowed me to grow in more ways than I could ever imagine, but it also came with some of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. It has been an emotional rollercoaster that has changed my preconceived notions about what this summer would entail. Living with twenty-two strangers was one of my biggest worries coming into this. Thinking about going from living by myself for two years straight to sharing a bedroom with four other girls left me with extreme anxiety. Constantly, I filled my brain with “what-ifs,” but little did I know I would be forming lifelong bonds with these so-called strangers.
The individual days are exhausting and long, but, looking back, now I feel like I just blinked once and only have two weeks left. I had a fear of being here for three months and not being able to accomplish all the items on my bucket list, but all the places I have visited in Italy have exceeded my expectations. Sometimes, I might come back from weekends complaining from exhaustion, but deep down I know that the memories I have made along the way are far worth the temporary drainage I might feel. With that being said, the biggest lesson I have learned along this journey is that giving myself physical and mental health breaks is crucial for success in a foreign country. Taking time to breathe and self-reflect when needed has eased my nerves and homesickness significantly.
Some days I repeatedly say to myself “I cannot wait to go home,” but I know that as soon as I step foot out of Ariccia, I am going to instantly have withdrawals. I am going to miss so many memories, from as simple as cooking dinner in the palace to our long walking tours with Ettore, our tour guide. As time is quickly coming to an end, I am trying to soak in the last few weeks’ worth of memories by saying yes more to the spontaneous adventures with these spectacular girls. By doing this, when I blink on the last day I will feel completely fulfilled.
Nine weeks have passed now, and I am here in shock, feeling like I just got off my plane ride here. I have traveled throughout my time in Italy. So far I have traveled to many cities throughout my time in Italy: Rome, Lake Como, Venice, Sorrento, Capri, and Lucca. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time traveling and getting to explore every inch of Italy, but traveling every weekend can get tiring, and always am in a feeling of “wow, I can’t wait to go home”. Whenever I say this saying now on my long train rides through the countryside of Italy, I am always referring to Ariccia.
I love going to explore all these major tourist cities but getting to come home to my familiar small town and sit and watch the sunset almost every night is one of my favorite things and makes me fall in love with Ariccia every time I return. Going to the belvedere to watch the gorgeous landscape or sit for Aperitivo at Bar de Chigi and watch the sunset is my new routine of what I call home and is just as exciting as getting to see a new city.
I always catch myself missing some things in America, like my fluffy pillows, my cats, or even my favorite restaurant, but I know the second I get on the bus to the airport to leave my home of Ariccia, I will be missing these past 12 weeks like no other and will be missing so many things of my new home like my sunsets in Ariccia.
When I first arrived in Ariccia, I had an equal amount of concern and excitement for what this summer would hold for me. While I knew this experience would be something entirely new for me, I had so many preconceived notions about what a “summer in Europe” would look like. Within the first two weeks, these notions were completely shattered and replaced with reality. While many of the realities of living in Italy have proved better than I could’ve ever imagined, there have also been many unexpected struggles that have come along with it. Through this experience I’ve discovered just how much Americans glamorize European countries, placing them on unrealistic pedestals. The truth is, being an American in Europe is challenging and uncomfortable. The good news is that discomfort leads to growth. I had no idea how little I understood about my own country until I lived outside of it for a month and a half. Listening to people from other countries talk about the United States while simultaneously experiencing the extreme differences between Italy and the U.S. has given me an entirely new perspective. There are truly so many things I would have never noticed about the U.S. until stepping outside of it. One of the biggest differences being convenience and comfort. Whether for worse or for better, the United States seems like the most convenient, comfortable place on Earth after living in another country. To offer a few examples: air conditioning, cars, LARGE cars, free public restrooms, free water at restaurants, easily accessible food and drinks at all times, ice machines, TARGET, grocery baggers and every brand and style of anything you’ve ever wanted. All of these things sound like heaven on Earth to me right now, but if you’re reading this from the United States, I’m sure a summer in Italy sounds like heaven on Earth to you. What I’m trying to say is: this experience has made me appreciate the United States in a way I had never appreciated it before. I’ve also come to appreciate the reality of Italy in a way I had never appreciated it before. Considering how vastly different American culture feels from Italian culture, I can honestly say that I’m proud of myself for the adaptability I’ve shown as I slowly work to acclimate to my new home. I’m no longer surprised by men staring and honking, women reaching in front of my face at the grocery store without saying a word, inhaling cigarette smoke everywhere, ignoring men with accordions who walk into restaurants and play right next to me, historic ancient or baroque architecture surrounding me at all times, cars being driven recklessly on cobblestones streets, or cats everywhere you go (my favorite part). I’ve come to appreciate these little things as the traits that make Italy what it really is, rather than the perfect fairytale that’s been painted my entire life. My advice is this: if you’re planning to travel to another country at any point in the near future, go ahead and remove all of your expectations. Understand that adapting to another culture and attempting to view it fairly and without judgment takes work. Luckily, all of that work is worth it when you feel yourself finally beginning to truly understand and appreciate the beauty of that new culture’s differences.
As I get older, I find myself reminiscing on the past. I often think to myself “what I would give to go back and relive those moments.” From exciting experiences to simple times with loved ones, I wish I would appreciate those times more when I was living them.
When I was preparing to leave for Italy, I set a reminder on my phone to remind me every morning not to take today for granted. I have tried to appreciate every special moment and opportunity that I’ve had here. I’ve made so many great new friends and have seen so many beautiful things. The irreplaceable memories that I have made will forever be on repeat in my brain. I know I will miss this exciting time in my life but it is hard not to get caught up in a routine or bogged down by the weight of the season of life that I’m in. I am going to be a senior at Auburn and can’t help but feel overwhelmingly sad and scared. This rollercoaster of emotions is sometimes exhausting but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I am now about two months into my Italian journey. Some days I miss home and some days I never want to leave. I miss my bed, ice, air conditioning, my people, my dog, and so much more. However, I know in a few months, I’ll look back and wish I was here. In those moments, I’ll miss the palace, aperitivos, train rides, living with twenty two of the best girls I’ve ever met. So, for now I’m trying to take everything in and not take a moment for granted.
This week marks living in Italy for two months. The time has flown by, and I cannot believe I only have one month left. During my time in Italy, I have traveled to many different cities. I have seen the sunsets on Lake Como, swam off the Amalfi coast, and browsed the streets of Venice. However, some of my favorite memories have been right here in Ariccia.
Going into this experience, I was looking forward the most to traveling and seeing as much of Italy and the world as I could. This part of studying abroad has not let me down. I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit and absorb all that Italy has to offer. However, reflecting back on my time so far, I would not say that that would be what I have enjoyed the most. The memories that I will cherish will be the ones made right here in Ariccia. From morning cappuccinos at Anticos, sitting by the pool with Mary Lou, watching sunsets from the square, and to Wednesday night family dinners, it has been the smallest and simplests parts of this experience that have captured my heart.
I have one month left here in Italy. In one month I will return to Auburn to complete my last year towards my Bachelors Degree in Interior Design. I am excited to incorporate environments that foster simple and enjoyable moments for the user going forward in my projects. However, for right now, my goal for this last month is to not get wrapped up in the excitement of big trips and adventures to the point that the small moments become mundane. I hope to continue to find joy in the little things because I know when it is all over, it is the community here in Ariccia that I will miss the most.