My return to the United States after seven months in Italy was less of a culture shock and more of a culture “Hooray!” Being gone for so long had left me with an appreciation of small things I take for granted here—the bathrooms in stores, the lower prices of clothes, the regular-shaped folders, the shorter lectures, and the Thai restaurants.
In the ten days before school started, I was able to see my family as I went through a barrage of doctor appointments, and have suddenly found myself back in the school routine, living in an apartment with my best friend.
It does not mean that I did not enjoy my time in Italy or its own cultural quirks; rather, I have gained the capacity to appreciate both cultures for what they have and to spend my time to the fullest wherever I am.
I brought small aspects of the journey back with me. A mocha (espresso-maker) sits in the kitchen, maps cover my walls, and blouses fill my closet. For the most part, everything seems the same, except…
What I most gained was confidence. In those seven months, I had, by necessity, found an apartment, found work, found a gym, traveled, cooked, got a passport, and attended classes all on my own. An ocean away, I had few lifelines and largely had to depend upon myself. Despite how shy I was or however insecure about my Italian grammar, I had to talk. I had to grab a bus and hope not to miss my stop. I had to ask strangers about apartment openings. I had to meet professors for oral exams. I constantly took leaps of faith to get organized or just to get by. The confidence that I earned is invaluable.
When I came back, it was with head high and a step not flaunting, but secure. I could carry conversations with strangers and tend to my own appointments. I can take responsibility for my own affairs, because I had to when I dove into the Bologna Consortial Studies Program.
I learned a lot about Italy, about my family, and about myself while studying overseas. I attained skills and characteristics—a courage, an open-mindedness, and a comprehension—that I will hold for the rest of my life, wherever I go.
But for now, I’m happy to be back home.