Today I have to say goodbye to all of my friends that I’ve made, my teachers and mentors at IES Abroad, and hardest of all my host family. On the other side of the ocean I have found a loving second set of parents and three wonderful siblings that, without ever having met me before, welcomed me into their home with open arms from the first day. Together we have traversed language and cultural adventures, from “pitcher” vs “picture” to learning how to use a foreign washing machine and relishing that ‘Hakuna Matata’ has the same tune in any language.
My friends at IES Abroad – whom I didn’t know existed four months ago – have laughed and cried with me, gotten out of bed at 9am for one of my crazy last-minute day trips, waited patiently as I bought a postcard from every museum and city I visited (I have 100 even now by the way), and put up with my constant “mom” questions such as, “Where is your passport?” as well as my hilarious inability to pronounce anything in French. I have realized time and time again that the best trips are defined by not only the places you go, but the people you travel with.
I have to say goodbye to the city of Milan that somehow accepted me – a lifelong suburbanite – into its interlocking circles of spires and palaces and hidden boutiques with shoes that cost as much as a car. I will likely never be able to pass as a native Italian (please pass the SPF 90), but by the beginning of March I must have looked sufficiently local that tourists would occasionally ask me directions to Santa Maria delle Grazie and “The Last Supper” a few blocks away. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the British couple that I sent completely in the wrong direction.
Sometimes I wonder how I’ll ever begin to process everything that I’ve seen and done in my semester here, as I’ve never quite gotten over the feeling that I’m wandering around some incredible dream and will eventually have to wake up. In a way I will – tomorrow I’ll be waking up back in the States, in my own room and my own bed. However, when I wake up everything will have been real. The diary entries I’ve written, the pictures I’ve taken, the bonds with my host family and friends, and the memories I’ve made will last much longer than the jet lag I’m inevitably going to feel. So to everything and everyone I leave behind I say “arrivderci” – see you soon – instead of “goodbye.” I’ll be back again.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Elizabeth Benz is a lifetime upstate New York resident who never takes the snow brush out of the back seat of her car. Originally from Buffalo, NY, she is a senior Music Education/Violin Performance major and Italian minor at Ithaca College. These three passions were intertwined on a life-changing trip in 2006 to the International Suzuki Method Conference in Turin, Italy, where she not only saw the communicative power of music across young artists from many nationalities, but also fell in love with the language and culture of the country. Eight years later she is fulfilling the promise she made to herself to return to Italy, after completing her senior student teaching practicum. She is particularly interested in observing the emphasis and importance placed on youth music and arts programs across Europe, and returning with ideas to inspire and support her own program at a future teaching job.</span></p>