When I think about my time in Italy, I think about the warm Mediterranean sun and the sweet friends I shared gelato with. Thinking about it feels like a dream and I almost can’t believe it was me who was there, at that time, in Italy. This study abroad trip was more than an academic experience; it was a profound exploration of myself and the world around me. The streets of Italy, with their history and passion, have radically impacted my existence and shaped the person I am becoming. It’s not just a tourist experience I had; it was a moment where I felt at home away from home.

Amidst the hues of Italy’s sunsets, I found a deeper appreciation for the tapestry of cultures that shape our world. The Italians’ have this profound connection to their heritage, something I’d only experienced within my own culture rather faintly. They have this innate ability to tell stories through architecture, art, and even the simplest of life’s chores. Their culture is a testament to the power of coming together and I was in awe. As I walked through ancient ruins and stared at Renaissance masterpieces, I realized that culture isn’t just an observation of the past; it’s a living, breathing way of life that
guides us through time.

Our professor played a key role in emphasizing the importance of observing the communication in Italy. He asked us to look around and listen in. To find the conversations happening beyond the words. Our course in effective communication across cultures truly helped me understand the importance of non-verbal cues and how they impact our lives.

When we’d order at restaurants or take a considerable amount of time choosing a pasta our waiters were not impatient or rush us to choose. They were slow to return and often full of suggestions with comments on their favorites. I loved this. I loved this because I find that in America we do not always like where we work, or the products of the place we work to produce, but in most of the places in Italy people liked where they were, and it was evident in their attitude and production. I am guilty of working in places I do not love or appreciate but stay simply out of convenience. Because I am too afraid to make a change or unable to see the possibility of someplace else. Italy was special to me in this sense because it taught me how inspiring it is to like or even love the work you are doing and the impact that can have on the people you serve.

Creativity was in every detail of Italian existence reminding me that artistic expression goes beyond visual imagery and aesthetic creation. The intricate designs of ancient architecture, the deep care for every meal, and the vibrant conversations
amongst the locals all crafted this overarching beauty and wonderful place that lives in my mind as one of the greatest times in my life. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I like to believe Italy believes it’s magical too.

Leaving Italy, I wanted to carry home every moment and memory. I never in my life wanted to have a photographic memory as much as I did when I was there. I took a couple cameras because I wanted to remember what my first time abroad looked like. I wanted to have something to look back at when I was old and relish in the disbelief that I truly went there and lived that time. My heart is forever enriched by the lessons and people I met in Italy. Storytelling, appreciation for detail, and hard work are ethics I hope to carry long and far into my life. My homecoming was sweet and comforting. But as far as souvenirs, the most valuable is this greater understanding of the world and just how inviting it is. At my core, I learned that the world is not as big as it seems, or as small as it can feel. And it’s not everything, but it’s enough to change something inside me.