I apologize that I am finally writing a little off schedule as my final week here has been crazy with final tests and reviews and packing. This is honestly so strange to be sitting here and writing this, as it felt like I'd never reach this point. I've been thinking about what I wanted to say for this post for weeks now. How do I even begin to sum up these last four months? So much has happened, and I have gained so much. I know that studying abroad looks different for everyone, but I wanted you all to know some of the things I'm taking away from this experience and some thank yous. I know you can read 100 cheesy blogs that tell you that this experience will change your life. I read them also, and I know that you won't notice until your last weeks wherever you are how much you've truly grown.
1.) Good things do come to an end, and that's okay.
You are going to fall in love with people and cities all over the world knowing it will end, and you have to form relationships knowing you will leave. Yes, you can keep in touch, but it won’t be exactly the same. Everything is going to go by so quick and seem to last barely any time at all, but it doesn't make it less important. If anything, I feel that all of this love I have for these people and places is some of the most special. It teaches you to, live for now and really appreciate things whie they are there. My favorite memory is when I was sailing around the Amalfi Coast with my friends, swimming in caves, eating good food, letting the sun hit my face. Once my friends jumped in the water, but I stayed behind and I just looked around and was like, "Wow. Look at where I am. In this big, beautiful planet, I am here, and I am so small. This is one moment and I will never return to this same spot with these same people, but that's beautiful. If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
2.) You will fall more in love with your home country.
All of my friends and I agree on this one. As I have traveled around and met people from all over the world, I felt this sense of pride in telling people where I was from that I never had before. As I went to all of these amazing places, I realized how many amazing things exist in the United States that I had been not seeking out and ignoring for years. I didn't think I would miss home, but I've continually thought, "Wow, I live in a really nice place with really good people." I appreciate that exponentially more now. I have been so happy over here, and I had thought that in going home I'd lose that happiness. If anything, I am excited to bring my happiness home and share it and explore all I can.
3.) Take a deep breath and keep calm.
There have been so many challenges I have faced. While it was the most wonderful four months, it has also been the hardest four months of my life but it makes it that much more rewarding. Things happen. Take a deep breath, look around, and think because chances are you know how to conquer this problem or know how to find someone who can help you. I was afraid to walk more than two blocks away from my apartment without someone the first few weeks, and now I'm like put me in any city by myself and I can conquer it. I can figure out the language enough, I can navgigate like a pro, and I will crush the public transportation system. You will feel so much more confident in your abilities and so much more flexible and idependent. When things go south, just look around and breathe. You know how to do this, and these moments of frustration and sadness will pass. For every foot of sadness, there are ten feet of happiness.
4.) You learn things you will never learn in a classroom or textbook.
You can’t learn how to interact with people in another country. You can't learn what it is like to work in a foreign office system. You can’t learn how to live abroad and travel and be a new individual. Sure, you can study about another government or culture in a book, but experiencing it is a whole new learning curve. I feel exponentially more knowledgeable from all of these expereinces that I have had. The world sort of becomes your textbook. It makes you so hungry to keep travelling and learning more. I am a better friend, daughter, student, designer, and person from all of these things I have learned and am now able to apply to my life. You learn to travel not to just check things off a list anymore. You travel now to be surrounded by other places and other people and to learn from them.
My final point is a thank you, probably similar to the thank you that you will write or say in your head to your city at some point. I will never truly have the words to thank Rome for everything that you have given me.
In any city, once you get past the initial lovey dovey travel phase you will learn that every city has its problems. Rome can be messy and disorganized, but it has taught me to appreciate chaos and find its beautiful parts, that sometimes I can be a little messy, complicated, and afraid and to show up anyways. Rome doesn't try to be anything but itself. It doesn't try to be the newest or the best and to compete with these other cities. It sits here in its own little corner in the palm of history, and it is beautiful for everything it already is. I think sometimes we can all form to the people that we are around and what they expect us to be. But if Rome, and entire city, can stand proudly itself for 2000 years, so can I. It has made me want to surround myself with people who appreciate me for everything I am and who value and appreciate the differences between us. Rome, you've rejuvinated me. I feel this new sense of love for life, other people and cultures, learning, and myself. I can't wait to go and spread this to other places, but I know that a piece of me will always be in Rome.
When in Rome I took risks, I learned to appreciate myself in my entirety, I fell in love with and learned about and appreciate people from all walks of life, and I now feel so full of happiness. I know that I won't be the same now going home, and that's okay. I went away so that I could come back. So that I can see the place I came from with new eyes and extra colors. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving, but that is so beautiful.
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust
Thanks for following my adventure, and I can't wait to for you all to have more of your own.
I'm Liz Bixenman, an interior design student living in Rome for the semester. When I'm not doing schoolwork, you can find me wearing a cat shirt, reading a book, and most likely eating more carbs than I'm proud of.