Applying to and preparing for my upcoming semester at the University of Bologna in Italy felt like a class of its own. After the applications, the language test, the pre-approval, the final approval, the Visa process, and the pre-departure paperwork, I finally found myself at home over winter break with two weeks to go. I rushed to unpack my things from college, re-pack for Italy, and on top of all that, prepare to move out from my family’s home of sixteen years, which will go up for sale while I’m overseas.
Behind every tedious logistical task, there was a growing apprehension about this whole leaving-the-continent-and-everyone-I-know-for-five-months plan. Trading in a semester at Georgetown for one in Italy had seemed like a fantastic idea during finals season last spring and as classes were intensifying this September, but by winter some of the drawbacks began to sink in. When I come back to campus, social dynamics will have changed without me, my friends who are seniors will have graduated, and my parents will no longer live in the town I call home.
I know I’m incredibly lucky that I get to stress about acquiring an Italian student visa and packing for a semester abroad, that I get to choose to leave my friends and family temporarily and try something completely new. I’m lucky that I get to challenge myself by taking classes in a language I started learning two and a half years ago, and go on the kind of adventure that’s difficult to find outside of college. Knowing that didn’t eliminate my fears or my stress, but it did help to remember I chose this program for a reason. I want to challenge myself, academically and personally. I want to immerse myself in another language and navigate social interactions in a different culture.
As I watched the lights of New York City become smaller and smaller through the tiny airplane window, I began to remember the curiosity that had driven me to make this choice in the first place. So here’s to all the mistakes I will inevitably make – to every time I will address someone important in the familiar “tu” form, every time I’ll ask if I can pay “in contadini” (farmers) instead of “in contanti” (in cash), and every time I will trip on the cobblestoned streets. And here’s to every idiom I will learn, every problem I will solve, and every friend I will make.