It feels weird packing up. For the past four months, all of the people and friends I have met, the places I have seen, and the adventures I have been living will now all be a part of the past. It is hard knowing that Italy is far away from me. Don’t get me wrong; I love seeing my family and friends, and to order something without having to act out charades. And yet Milan, and all of Italy really, has become a home to me. I’ve traveled its streets, explored its shops and buildings, and have gotten lost all over who knows how many times. Italy has become a part of me, not just my history. My great-great-grandparents emigrated from Italy to settle a new life in America, but kept some of their Italian traditions (namely food, thankfully!). I grew up hearing the tales and wanting to live through my own Italian adventure. Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to experience my adventure.
Being abroad reminded me how I felt about moving to Tuscaloosa away from Philadelphia, my home. Freshman year, I was nervous and anxious for awhile; I did not know anybody, I did not know much about the area, and I did not know what there was to do. Fast forward to junior year and so much has changed. I was well prepared for the first week or so navigating an area I’ve never been to before, plus a language that I did not speak as my first. It was fun, nerve-wracking, and memorable, even until the last day.
Returning home was easy, but staying home was difficult at first. After traveling across Europe for the past months, I felt trapped in a small area. Not only that, but transportation was also an issue. European countries do not have a ‘car culture’ like America. Anywhere you wanted to go was available for a low price, and usually could travel in a timely manner without hassle. Here, if you want to go somewhere, especially in the suburbs, you must be able to drive or have a reliable mode of transportation, and find a place to park, maybe even fill up gas and fill your tires! Italy, and Europe in general, you did not have to worry: a ticket could last a day for multiple uses in an area. I also noticed that Italians did not rush things. They take the better part of an afternoon to sit in a shop and talk; coffee might be two hours. Back home, I did not notice how we are always hopping from place to place, hurrying to the next thing. For me, it was hard trying to get friends to stay in one place and hang. It was a shock, but now it no longer bothers me; however, I try to make my friends decide on a place before we set anything else up. Italians dress for the season, not the weather. You’d see an Italian wearing every article of clothing they own in December, even if the daily temperature reached 70. Here, we dress for the weather, usually hoping it will be summer. There are so many other things I could write about reverse culture shock, but there is too much to describe in a simple blog.
The last thing I want to say is to tell someone who is thinking about going abroad is to do it. If you have the ability to go, and want to explore what is beyond the horizon: Go for it! From someone who has done it, you cannot lose anything by going to new places and experiencing different cultures. From firsthand experience, it will change you for the better. Yes, you will be homesick a few times, and the first week will definitely have its rough times getting acclimated to a different country. You are not the only one. I went through it all when I went, but I knew that the tough times roll with the good ones. I made many new friendships with people all over the world who I keep in touch with. I don’t have any regrets in traveling abroad, and I’d do it again if given the chance.