The day I never imagined would come is actually here: I am returning home. Sitting at my gate waiting for my connecting flight, I can’t help but feel awestruck that the past four months are over. The idea of studying abroad has always been a dream of mine ever since my aunt studied in Spain when I was four. I now understand what people mean when they say that while achieving your dreams is spectacular, the after part isn’t so. My life is flipping from one filled with travel, high fashion, adventure, new friendships and pizza into one of working, heavy class load, routine and Cookout. I know I sound like a pessimist, but who would ever want to leave Italy? I can wallow in my sorrows on my flight home, so for now, a brief recap.
Mid-October to now I have traveled to Verona, Florence, Venice, London, Madrid, Turin and Paris. Out of every trip, I must say London was my favorite. I am originally from Seattle, Washington, and London reminded me so much of the artistic gloomy town I call home. Around each street corner I found unique shops, delicious foods of various kinds and aesthetically pleasing everything. One of my favorite parts of our weekend trip was going to Borough Market near Piccadilly Circus. The market was bustling with people maneuvering between food stalls, handing out samples and dishes with flamboyant colors and heavenly aromas. My friends and I slowly wandered through the market, taking pictures and commenting to one another about how marvelous it was. Samples of delicious paella, mushroom risotto and truffles were pushed into our mouths as we tried to stomach food on top of the large lunch we had consumed prior. We had high tea later in the afternoon and chatted like proper Brits, buttering our crumpets with cream and jam and drinking steamy tea. We spent the rest of our trip exploring, seeing a musical, meeting with friends and eating delicious meals. It was this trip when I decided that I want to eventually move to London.
After London, my parents were set to arrive in Milan, a plan that was quickly changed. My youngest sister got COVID-19, despite being vaccinated, forcing my parents to cancel the trip they had been planning for months. Luckily, thanks to their vaccines, they tested negative and were able to come visit two weeks later. My mom always dreamed of going to Italy, so showing my new world to my parents was amazing. Once they arrived, we embarked to Verona where we stayed at the most stunning Airbnb. The home was in an old church, filled with exposed brick walls, antique fireplaces and exposed wooden beams. We toured around Verona’s small streets and were able to meet up with old friends from Seattle! We went to Venice the next day, where we stayed in a quaint antique hotel with a lovely courtyard. We ate and drank our way around the city, enjoying our last moments together. Saying goodbye was sad, but I knew the next month would fly by and I would be home in no time.
Next came a weekend trip to Spain! My best friend Maria and I voyaged to Madrid, where her family is from, for yet another action-packed weekend. We started the trip with aperitivo on a rooftop and an amazing dinner of traditional Mexican tacos, something very hard to come by in Milan. It tasted like a restaurant back home and I cherished every bite. The next day was spent seeing as much of the city as possible. From the royal palace to Mercado de San Miguel, we walked around for as long as our poor feet could bear. For lunch, we had a flashy meal featuring pork, croquettes served on a pig platter, risotto out of a plastic duck and oysters that were flamed right in front of us. We explored parks around the city and ended the night with homemade churros and hot chocolate. I wish I had more time in Madrid, but I cannot wait to return.
Now for Paris, it was a dream come true. Paris has always been the dream destination, whether that was because of movies and shows, books, the fashion scene, or simply word of mouth. Standing under the Eiffel Tower at night while it sparkled like the stars was as magical as it sounds. My friend from home studies in Paris and we talked for hours over lunch at a Parisian café on the corner. I introduced her to my friends that evening and we hung out with her friends all night. The next day, I had the most amazing croissant I had ever tasted for breakfast. We spent the morning sightseeing at the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Paris Musees and the Eiffel Tower. After exploring all morning, we stumbled upon a quaint little Christmas market. We wandered through the crowded market, sipping warm drinks and stopping to purchase trinkets here and there. We had delicious macaroons before hurrying home to warm up and start packing. For dinner, we made reservations at another café around the corner where I had a delicious steak with potatoes, followed by exquisite pumpkin cake and creme brulée. The next morning, we were all sad to leave Paris but felt so inspired and fortunate to have experienced the city of romance together.
When we returned home, it was the week of Thanksgiving and I planned on hosting a huge one. I spent all day cooking stuffing, pumpkin pie, apple pie and mashed potatoes. The warmth I felt in my heart as each of my favorite people walked through the door with their favorite dishes was so special. Our spread consisted of mulled wine, apple pie, pumpkin pie, salad, stuffing, mac and cheese, rolls, brussels sprouts, gravy, mashed potatoes and a rotisserie chicken (it wasn’t worth finding a turkey in Italy). That day, we ate and laughed until our bellies and hearts were full. That day was one of my favorites in Italy and I felt true joy all through the night.
I could continue summarizing my last two weeks in Italy, but instead, I’ll give my closing remarks since this is already the longest blog post yet. I never imagined my time abroad would be as rewarding as it was. I left America unsure of who I was, burnt out from school and craving adventure. I now return to America knowing the most authentic version of myself, feeling more inspired than ever about school and with an even deeper hunger for adventure. The friends I made in Italy will absolutely last a lifetime, and my heart aches knowing how long we will be apart. However, the perk of having friends all around the world is that you have an excuse to travel and see them. If I could give any advice to people in college, it would be to study abroad. Take the risk, do the paperwork, save the money and go, because it will change your life more than you know. Until next time, Ciao!