Today is my 100th day in Italy. I started writing for this position sitting in bed wondering what the first seven would even be like and now I’m sitting on 100. This past week, I spent days in the sun next to the Mediterranean Sea reading a book on a boat and on the beaches of Cyprus and Crete, Greece. I took 2 a.m. taxis to catch 6 a.m. flights across islands and drove up and down mountains to visit the Balos Lagoon. I saw pink sand beaches and danced in my AirBnB’s kitchen late at night, holding a glass of wine with my two best friends.
This life is getting too normal, though. Now I have the privilege to be able to say that, however that’s my point. The constant travel and normalcy of weekend-country-hopping makes new scenery less shocking. It’s still beautiful and jaw dropping and a once-in-a-life-time experience, but I catch myself forgetting how insane this life I am living really is. How lucky I truly am, because how crazy is it that I get to say I spent a semester of my college education travelling all throughout Europe.
I live in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois and go to school in the middle of nowhere, Indiana. I love that part of my life and I can’t wait to go home to it, but the life I’m living right now reflects no part of the one I have 2,000 miles away and I keep forgetting that. You study abroad for those reasons, though — to try something so new that you have no choice but to begin a new life. Milan, and Italy in general, is not my home. I never expected it to feel like that, but it’s my new normal. It has been for 100 days.
For the most part, my friends and I have been traveling just us three for the past four months. After sitting down at our first meal in Crete, a wave of reality hit all of us harder than a train ever could. This was our last trip until we went home. We’ve been planning and talking about spring break since before we even left for Italy, and now it’s come and gone. Not only was that our last trip, but that fact that we were in Greece felt surreal. Before abroad, we dreamt of spending spring break in Greece, but lost hope over time. Unintentionally things worked out in our favor and everything came full circle.
I think Crete, from that point on, became our trip of gratitude. None of us wanted to miss a second. We all realized how crazy our lives have been, and how normal they are about to return to so soon. With anticipation, but some sadness, there’s only one reaction someone can have when you reach this point in your semester abroad, gratitude.
I may sound cliche, but when you study abroad perspective is essential. I’ve said this before, too. Otherwise you have two choices: become overwhelmed or allow the normalcy of this new life to take away its specialty. I believe I had a healthy balance between the two as well as dabbled in the center when reality-checks came to play; and, when they did, they often sounded a bit like this: for four months, 120 days, you devote yourself to finding a new life in a brand new country experiencing things that may have never been possible to begin with. You travel countries, islands and cities; experiencing cultures and history that could never compare to the ones you’ve known your entire life. I’ve had the most incredible, life-changing experiences that are impossible to wrap my head around.
Many students at my school choose to study abroad, other universities as well, but there is a vast majority of individuals out there who couldn’t even dream of spending a semester of their education abroad. Me and my friends are the lucky few, then. I get stressed about money spent here—a lot of it—and the trips I had yet to plan, but all of that becomes somewhat irrelevant when you gain some perspective in how lucky you are to even be here.
I know you know how incredibly insane this opportunity is. I do too, but it’s easy to forget to remind yourself of it when you have things to worry about or packed schedules to plan for. I have 16 days left here in Italy. I can’t wait to see the people I love at home and hug them with everything in me. I can’t wait to sleep in my bed and pick up my puppies, but I still have 16 days in Italy. How absolutely insane is that?
I keep talking about going home, because it feels surreal that it’s happening so soon, but I want to make sure that my anticipation doesn’t distract from the rest of my time here. This time abroad is so special, and quite literally once in a lifetime.
I began this journey of writing in my bed, at home, talking about the anxieties and fears that I had that I thought no one else had; but, truth be told, it’s not worth the fears and anxieties. If you let them swallow you up, you forget how incredible of an experience this really is. That is when you let reality slip away from you, and you forget about how lucky you are and how grateful you really should be.
Thank you for the most insane, incredible 100 days so far, I can’t wait for the last 15.
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<p>Hello, my name’s Gracie Weinstein and I am a junior studying political science and journalism. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved to write and have always tried to use my writing to tell stories with others about some of the best, or maybe worst, experiences in my life. I believe in the power of words and the ability it has to connect strangers with one another through their experiences, whether they are shared experiences or not. Writing humanizes people, and helps others relate to them — it cuts down on barriers such as physical appearances (how one’s life looks) and allows for strangers to understand each other. Whether or not those who read my work or see my posts have themselves studied abroad or plan to study abroad, documenting each scary, fun, jaw-dropping, or brand new experience I encounter is so special to share with them. I am very much looking forward to sharing my next few months abroad with others, and hopefully inspire them to make the same decision that I did. Ciao!</p>