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When Pieces of Home Visit Your New Home

Gracie Weinstein
April 11, 2022

Last week, my parents came to visit me in Milan. They visited Rome and the Amalfi Coast for a bit and made their way up to Milan as their last pit stop of their trip. I’ve been looking forward to their visit for a while now—it kind of became an important landmark in my abroad experience. Studying abroad can be really overwhelming and, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s incredibly easy to let four months scare you; so, finding landmark events like your parents visiting really helps to break up the time and gain a better perspective. It’s crazy that they’ve already left, but that’s just time and life for you—it always flies by. 

Anyways, as crazy as it was that the time had already come for them to visit, boy did it feel good. They arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, just after my Italian class and in time for lunch at my favorite spot near the Duomo. Beforehand, though, we stopped at their hotel so that they could unload their bags and get a bit more settled after their long train ride from Napoli. When I tell you, being in a hotel has never felt so good in my entire life. I’m beyond lucky for my current living situation and how new it is, but there’s nothing like a nice hotel with your parents that screams vacation—even if you’re not staying there. 

My favorite spot in all of Milan is Obica, the Mozzarella Bar above the Gallerie. It sits above everyone and thing in the downtown area and you have a great view of Milan and the Duomo; so, logically, I took my parents there. We sat there for hours sharing a pitcher of their “Sungria” and plates on plates of cheese and prosciutto. I told them stories about trips I’ve taken and funny mishaps that have happened over time—careful to leave out any story that would worry my mother. The sun was setting and it started to get cooler out so eventually we headed back and went for a stroll through Milan to show them more pieces of my home. We shopped and walked and shopped some more. I took them to my dorm building and gave them their gifts I had been keeping over time from previous trips and we said our goodbyes for the night. 

I noticed that for the first time in months, honestly, I was no longer worried about myself. I wasn’t stressing about money—which, heads up, gets incredibly old over time here—or school work or anything I usually stress about as an adult living in Italy alone. For 72 hours, someone else was taking care of me. Living here alone is extraordinary and gives you an incredible amount of freedom to do whatever you’d like in a completely new environment. It’s rivetting and adventurous, and crazy to say the least; but, living here can also become exhausting trying to navigate and figure out each detail of a new life and culture on your own. Getting to leave pretty much everything up to my parents for the weekend to figure out and plan was the biggest relief of my lifetime. I got to be a kid again with their parents take care of them. I didn’t know how much I needed that they showed up. 

The next day we all woke up bright and early for our train to Bergamo to see the Città Alta (the older, higher city), which was a lot cooler than I thought. We grabbed some coffee and breakfast, walked around the older city and headed back by around 2 p.m. We weren’t out of Mialn for long, but the few hours became the best escape from reality. When my parents and I took the day trip to Bergamo, I wasn’t going as a study abroad student anymore. I was going as a child of my parents, on a family vacation. Again with the child-like feelings, I know, but you’ll realize how much you cherished that feeling when you no longer have it. 

More than anything, though. I was incredibly excited to show my parents my new home. The pieces of my new life like aperitivo and I Navigli and the café I go to everyday before and after class. I was excited to show them the life I had, by some miracle, built 4,500 miles away from home. I took them to a more popular aperitivo place with my favorite small snacks near the Duomo as we people watched and laughed until it was too cold to stay out any longer. We took pictures and videos and then each piled onto the tram for their first experiencein a street car. 

The next day my best friend’s dad arrived to visit her, so dinner all together seemed right. We all dressed up later that night for dinner and met up in a restaurant near the Gallerie. We talked all night, told a few more dumb stories—stories that should have probably remained between us—and laughed over our own stupidity. It felt good to not only be there with my two best friends and my parents, but theirs as well. We were all kids on vacation with our parents. 

I’ve talked about the emotions that abroad creates, and how unfortunately, but naturally, they’re not always positive. You can get overwhelmed, burnt out or sad while you’re here. I’ve talked about wanting to keep a more open discussion about these feelings because just because you go through them doesn’t mean you aren’t enjoying your time abroad. It’s about a balance. Apart of that balance is a mental break, and that was given to me when my parents were here. I wasn’t overwhelmed anymore, I couldn’t be burnt out and I wasn’t sad. My family was in the same city as me for the first time in over three months. 

I know not everyone’s parents or family will have the opportunity to visit them while they’re abroad—and that’s okay. But for those who do, consider yourself very lucky. You’ll get to experience the feeling of being home away from home a bit more genuinely. For 72 hours, I was able to just breathe and hand off the reins to my life to someone else.  

I now have about a month left here in Italy. Spring break is next week which means by the time I’m actually back, April will be almost over and finals prep starts…along with the two week countdown. Am I excited to go home, yes of course. Is there still a part of me that’s sad that my time living in Italy is running out, of course. I’ll probably never get the chance to live here or visit to this extent ever again. Like I said, it’s all about balance. I think the one thing my parents gave me when they visited, besides the extra cash and delicious food, was the courage and motivation to finish this trip strongly. This week is a busy week before we jump into spring break, but once spring break is over time here is pretty much up; so, I want to enjoy every moment of this that I have left. 

Sometimes we underestimate the effect home has on us. Once we’re reminded of it, we are reminded of who we are. I know I would have been fine even if my parents hadn’t visited, but now that they have, I’m ready to make the most out of the rest of my time here. I miss my pieces of home already, but I’ll see them in one month. Until then, see you in Greece for spring break and every other adventure in between. Safe travels.

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Gracie Weinstein,

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Gracie Weinstein

<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>

Destination:
Term:
2022 Spring
Home university:
Indiana University
Hometown:
Elmhurst, IL
Major:
Journalism
Political Science
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