Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Like most people who have also studied abroad, I would like to walk the streets of the place I called home for so many months once again. To see all of the monuments like it would be for the first time. I want to use the currency we joked about looking like monopoly money, and to speak to every restaurant owner in my poor language about my allergies. I miss hearing how the language sounds, even the simplest words, and how they fall out of the native’s mouths. I miss the sounds and feeling behind each pronunciation. I miss the various accents and dialects. I miss the spirit of the locals, and the excitement of watching a “football” game with them. To be in that heat and fiery emotion, to hear them sing their national anthem together and cry and cheer as their team wins. I want to wait for my train and stare up at the large sign listing the platform numbers. I miss the beautiful graffiti and street art, and the architectural masterpieces around every corner. I think what makes me most sad is that there are small moments from my time abroad that I remember from time to time that are hidden inside my memory. The little overlooked moments, not saved neatly in a photograph somewhere on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, are some that I cherish deeply in my memory. I want to hold on to those little moments that changed me and made me who I am today. To hold tightly on to all of those people I met along the way.
I read a quote just around the time I was coming home from abroad and it says, “You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place” (Miriam Adeney). I have never read words more true to depict how I feel. The experience of traveling is unlike any other experience and here is why I am going to do it all over again.
To escape to a place where no one knows who I am. Imagine arriving in a city where no one recognizes you when you walk down the street and no one knows your name. Sounds scary, yet exhilarating. Someday you will come to terms with the idea that everything ends. Although you want to hold onto your friendships and relationships with other people, you still have to do what is right for you. The important people and those who care will stick around when you return home.
To live free and travel while I am young and able I DO NOT want to graduate college and begin selling my soul to a job I am less than passionate about from 9-5 Monday through Friday. I just do not want to settle yet. There are so many ways to make money abroad, so I might as well do that now and experience life! Work exchanges, Au pair positions, English teaching, tourism, you name it! It is not going to be easy, and yes student loans will be rolling in soon – but I also have this tendency to save up all of my money and spend it all on my experiences abroad. I am in the process of selling everything, working abroad over the summer, and make money while I am abroad so I can live fully!
To practice a language in exchange for English Immersion is key to learning a language quickly and English is a global/business language that many places in the world are seeking native speakers to teach. I started learning Japanese with an app called memrise and brush up on my Italian skills with DuoLingo and before I leave for a new country, I download phrasebooks from the appstore. Although English is a global/business language, NEVER expect that the locals will speak English and can cater to your needs in that language. You should not be embarrassed to use the local language either because they will be glad that you even tried!
To immerse myself in a culture and live by their rules (not as an American) One thing I hate about Americans who travel abroad are the ones who expect to communicate in English, those who do not research cultural norms before arriving in the country, and the ones who only care to see the famous monuments + hang around at American/tourist restaurants and bars. Can you find people who speak English around the world? Absolutely. Should you expect it? Absolutely not. Perhaps my background in anthropology makes me more inclined to research cultural norms and show respect in a new country, but I think it is important whether you are traveling to London or Japan, Italy or Morocco. I LOVE conforming to the fashion in a new place and like it even more when I can blend in with the locals (this could also be my hate for people staring at me). While seeing famous monuments is such a cool and necessary thing to do in a new place, you should also branch out and experience some of the non-tourist places.
To show myself I can do it again and learn to be alone The first time I moved abroad I was afraid. Although I had a friend with me, I was nervous for being away for so long. I was nervous again when I stayed longer into the summer and realized I would be alone. You end up making friends with the closest Americans around you because you have at least one thing in common (language), and I ended up becoming friends with some Italians through tandem language exchange. Something I highly recommend! Above all, I hope this experience teaches me something about being on my own and making friends the hard way. There are no lessons to go to or universtiy events or meet and mingles to start knowing all knew people here. That is something that is both terrifying and absolutely exciting to me.
To return to the place I felt most at home and find a home in other places I have never felt more at home than I did in Italy. Even when I first meet Italian families for the first time, I have always felt so welcomed into their homes. I know where I am going is not the places I have lived before but I know I will find a home there quickly.
To practice minimalism and experience the richness of life itself I could definitely write an entire blog about this topic. Minimalism is not about removing all of the clutter in your life; in fact, it is not about having little to no possessions at all. It is about finding what is most important to you. Italians have this way about them. Where it is not about what you have personally but about what you can give to the people around you and the small moments you can share and experience together. I want to live each moment fully again, to have a wondering eye for everything I see. It is important however to not lose that sense of wonder when you return home but to find beauty in all the things you left behind when you return. I want to hold close to me my relationships with other people, my writing, my photographs, and a good pair of shoes to get me through all the cobblestone streets for the next year (because I went through more shoes in my 6 months abroad than I have in my life probably).
To discover my passions Fresh out of college. Not quite sure my direction yet. Ready to start figuring that out from the moment I step off the plane.
To reconnect with family and friends while making new connections Every day, I think about the people I met in Italy. Oftentimes I remember small moments during my day and my mind transports me back through small visions into the past. Sometimes it is driving through the streets and seeing all of the small Italian cars rush by, and other times it is a vision of sitting around the table with people I care about most in this world. Above all, I cannot wait to see my family and my friends again.
To learn to love myself again Not that I have stopped. I think I have learned a thing or two about self-love over the years. I, like many people, have come from a place when I never felt good enough or like I had to put on a face to be accepted. Italy taught me that I did not need to do that. This is still an ongoing learning experience; however, being abroad taught me how to be me. That is what I am looking for again. I want to leave with all of my belongings in a suitcase, my camera, and me. I hope you will consider living abroad; it will change your life.