Moving to a new country is terrifying. Terrifying to plant yourself in a place you’ve never known, with people you’ve never known. When I first came to Ariccia, I expected it to be a really fun experience and a more different semester than I’ve ever had. Even knowing this, I never could have prepared myself for just how much I’ve learned and loved here. The city of Ariccia and the entirety of the JSB program have shown me how to fall in love in a completely new way. Love comes in all forms, and to me it comes in the people I meet. Without the people, this place is just a small town outside of Rome. Add in the people, Cinzia, Lydia, Roberta, Cat, Ettore, Ryan, Maurizio, Francesco, and everyone else met along the way, and you create this beautiful Italian town with an abundance of love that I’ve never felt before coming here.
With almost ten weeks behind us, and two to go, appreciation and love have taken new form. I think love is always about appreciation and my favorite kind of love is through friendship. Gabriella, Sophie, and Elena, better known as Gib, Soph, and father, have meant more to me in the past 10 weeks than I could ever express to them. Home to me isn’t a place. Home is where you feel your most comfortable and is your safe place to land. It’s weird that people can feel like that to me, but they do. They’ve been my comfort, my laughter, my memories, and my love story for the past ten weeks. I’ve never met people who can make me feel the most like myself, and I will always know and see them for the way they show love and friendship.
Finding friends that feel like a Sunday morning, a sunset dinner after a long beach day, or a good book, has always been one of the most important things to me. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but it does in my brain. Their hearts are the best part about them and knowing them has made my heart brighter and more abundant. I don’t really think I would have had as much fun running through Roma Termini (multiple times), spending a very weird night in Malta after running through an airport barely holding any of my belongings, spontaneously taking a trip to the Hard Rock Café on a random Wednesday night, or having food poisoning the first week here, if I didn’t have them to do it with me. All three of them are so special to me in different ways and have become my best thing about this experience. Knowing them now, our lives align so much it’s almost insane we didn’t cross paths before this semester, but I think the pieces of our friendship fell into place right when they were supposed to. I feel so lucky to have met my for-lifer friends, and I’m so glad I get to take them home with me. I could never thank them enough for being my love and appreciation for this program, and I’ve never been prouder to know people!