I've been putting off writing this for a while. How do you wrap up an experience like this? I'm usually someone who's very in touch with her emotions (my family knows this well) and it's driving me crazy that I can not figure out for the life of me how I feel in these last, strange days. Weird. That's truly the only word I can use to describe the excitement, nervousness, relief, gratitude, sadness, nostalgia and all of the billions of other emotions I'm feeling.
My host mother and I have been talking lately about how strange of an experience this year abroad really is.. Move thousands of miles away, to live with a completely foreign family in a foreign country speaking a foreign language. Spend ten months there learning how to make that life your own and make it normal and then over the course of a 20 hour travel day..come back to what you left.. hah. Good one Rotary. It's really such an amazing experience and if I think about it, it's all that craziness that has taught me so much over this year.
I actually am quite a home body. I never really went to camp as a child, I didn't do many sleepovers and I've been planning to go to the university that's four blocks away from my house my whole life. Let's just say it came as a pretty big surprise to my friends and family when they learned that I wanted to undertake this experience. It wasn't a very "Stina-ish" thing to do. However, I believe that I'm returning, back to my life that I love and cherished oh so dearly, a much more confident, independent and open-minded young woman. I still have a ways to go to become the person I want to be, but now I feel like I know what I'm headed towards and this experience has given me a really good start.
I can't express how hard it is, in these days, to say goodbye to all the things that have become so normal and cherished in my life here. Fresh gnocchi with pesto, old Italian grandpas playing chess in the park, Lindsi's amazingly loud laugh, turning heads as we walk down the street in our shorts, the smell of ready espresso in the morning, Jasmine running to greet me even if I've seen her just an hour earlier, jamming on the guitar and harmonizing with my dear Damiano, the life of the market twice a week, tanning and talking for hours with Katherine...really the list goes on and on. However, it's comforting to know that any time I see an Italian flag, or listen to "Stand by Me" and so many other triggers, I will ALWAYS think of these times. I'm leaving them for now but I know that the impact of them will stay with me forever.
More than anything though, I am just so grateful for all the people that helped me out during the course of this year. I cannot express how thankful I am for the sweet group of Italians that reached out and were interested and helpful to me. The group of the other 6 exchange students in my town that I love so dearly and that will continue to be a part of my family for the rest of my life. And to all of the support from back home, from my friends and family, I am truly blessed to have you all. If it weren't for these people I'm not so sure I would be sitting here writing this.
If you dissect the word "Arrivederci" it literally means: until we meet again. In these days I say them to the people and country that I love, and hope and pray that it's true.
Once again, my deepest love and gratitude to you all. Veramente è stato un piacere. Non vi dimenticarò MAI.