The international travel I am used to involves walking from the United States of America to Italy in a matter of minutes.
EPCOT at Walt Disney World has this massive collection of pavilions called the World Showcase that I have visited no less than 15 times. These pavilions, sponsored by their respective countries form Japan to Morocco to Germany, are comprised of themed restaurants and miniature versions of their most popular landmarks, and permit guests to stroll through 11 countries in a very short amount of time.
This is how I have seen the world: through picturesque pockets of culture. They are bright. They are clean. The World Shocase is super fun to fill Snapchat stories with, whether one is drinking around the world, selfie-ing around the world, or, like I unabashedly admit that I once did, twerking around the world. The World Pavilion is very, very Disney. And I loooove Disney.
But I think I'm ready for the real thing.
Tuesday I land in Milan, Italy, not to return to the United States for four months. And as an anthropology and art history double major with an Italian minor, I could not possibly pick a more perfect way to spend my second semester of my junior year. I could not possibly pick a bigger challenge, either.
Besides a week-long school trip to Amsterdam (and those selfie sessions in EPCOT) my international travel experience is nonexistent. Besides on vacations and trips, I have never regularly taken public transit in my life. I lived in the same house for 18 years, before I moved forty minutes away from that house to go to college.
I have made the conscious choice to move thousands of miles away, to a large city where I will take public transportation every day, in a country I have never visited, where I know absolutely no one. It is exhilarating that my lifestyle this semester will be exhilaratingly, blissfully different from any experience I have ever had. Learning will happen this way, growth will happen.
My goals for this semester are threefold:
1. Speak Italian as often as, or more often than, English.
2. Read every museum label I possibly can.
3. Learn how to go out on my own, with no agenda or schedule, and simply be.
Back at SMU, all I do is fill my hours with activity after activity. I work two jobs, I take 18 hours, I am an executive board member of one of the largest organizations on campus and in a sorority. I don’t get enough good sleep, I don’t eat enough good food, I don’t focus enough on good things. I closely relate to those middle aged divorcees featured on House Hunters International who just “need a change of pace and perspective.”
That change of pace and perspective is exactly what I’m looking for. Prior to returning to Texas and stressing about sorority t-shirts and the GRE and post-grad life upheavals, four months of learning how to be unyieldingly myself in a new environment with far less structured time will be a wonderful change (not to mention the excellent food I’m going to devour and coffee I’m going to inhale).
No more EPCOT for me. No more simulated cultural pavilions.
This is my time to finally (figuratively) twerk my way around the real world, through Milan, through Italy, through Europe. It will most likely be four months of getting lost, humming under my breath, gaining weight, and embarrassing myself, but here I go.