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.
Hello lovely people I only have a week and a half left in Rome and all the feels are hitting me as I start packing up and reflecting on my time here. I'll save all the sappy stuff for next week's post though.
Besides the stress of final tests and projects, the craziness that comes with travelling, and this weird emotional tornado-thingy that is beginning, I am actually having a lovely week of beginning to enjoy the lasts and reminiscing with my friends.
People have been documenting their experiences in all different ways, but I definitely feel like it is a super personal and important thing to do to be able to look back and reflect on your experiences and all of the things that the trip did for you. Clearly, my blog was one of my ways of documenting my time, and I truly will look at my posts for years to come to be able to see that timeline and the changes within myself. I've taken thousands of photos and made some really awesome videos with the help of my friend's handy Go Pro (something I am really jealous of and totally wish I would have had my own but will be purchashing for future adventures). However, I have been working on a few other more personal ways of documenting my adventure.
I would definitely suggest planning in advance how you are going to document your time and stick to your plan, as some of the ways require more time or things that you might need to collect as you travel.
With that, here are some of my favorite ways I found of documenting my adventures:
1. Write a Blog: Pretty self explanatory as you are reading my blog right now, but it has been a great way to share my thoughts and advice with other study abroad-ers, make connections (I actually met up with a few travellers who contacted me after reading my blog), and let my family keep up with what I am doing without having to send a billion separate emails and whatnot.
2. Keep a Journal: This is a perfect one to do on the go because you don’t have to worry about wi-fi. You can keep your journal in your bag and write whenever you have a free moment whether it’s in between classes or on an airplane. This is much more personal than a blog because you will probably be the only one who sees it. You can choose whether you will write in it every day or maybe only once a week, but make sure to stick to it.
3. Create a Video: Take short video clips of everything you do, compile it into one (or several videos), add a fun song, and woooo you have a video that you can watch to relive your adventures. My biggest tip for this one is to film the random moments that may not seem so relevant at first. All of my friend's and I's videos are about half of us just eating, dancing around, or our reactions as we walked through the streets. Those actually turned out to be my favorite clips of some of the most special moments on my travels.
4. Take the Same Picture Everywhere you Go: This was one of my favorite things I did, and most of my friends did this as well! It turns out to be sort of a fun and quirky collection of you with your favorite thing or doing something funny all over the world. I had a friend take a picture of her drinking a coke in every country to send to her family because she loved coke so much. Another friend took her picture with the Iowa State Flag on all her travels. Of course, many of you saw mine- everywhere I went and I saw a fountain, I climbed in and snapped a picture. Weird, but it really reflects me and the weird stuff I like doing. Hot tip on that one though- sometimes fountain climbing adventures resulted in some question from security people and whatnot. I would possibly recommend picking an activity slighty less questionable by the authorities.
5. Make a Scrapbook: If you are an artsy person, this would be incredible. Personally, the two I've made aren't really scrapbooks, but they are awesome keepsakes nonetheless. I did one sketchbook that I filled with all of my sketches from around Rome. I did about 3-5 really nice sketches a week and am having them bound into a book this week. The other one I did for my mixed media class and it is a book that I filled with photos that I decaled, painted overtop of, and glued in items from my travels to tell the story of my experience here. It's pretty cool and it's actually being featured in an art show when I get home!
6. Collect the same item everywhere you go: I collected postcards and a charm for a necklace in each country I visited. I had another friend collect cheesy touristy shirts to make into a quilt when she got home. Something very basic but also cute that I wish I'd done was get a coffee mug in every country... more specifically a Starbucks mug. I have a bad coffee problem that forced me to drink Starbucks in every country I traveled too. The thing is that they actually sell the cutest mugs at each one with the skyline of that city of them. They're adorable but also totally would have been too heavy for my suitcase so ignore the last few sentences of me admitting my Starbucks problem.
That's all I have for you this week! Check out my photos from my last weekend trip ever to Budapest! Also go buy some tissues and send them my way for next week's blog post.
Much Love to you all.
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.