The last time I set foot in Europe was spring of my senior year in 2016. I traveled to Santorini, Athens, Mykonos, and Turkey with my best friends on a two star cruise. The rooms were as large as a bathroom (and that’s a generous description), the majority of our fellow passengers were senior citizens from China who could not speak much English (if any) and we had little to no cell coverage- it was the one of the best weeks of my life. At that time I could not have imagined that any opportunity would trump that experience. Even three years out from that trip, I can still taste the salt of the Aegean on my lips, reflect upon the awe inspired by the Acropolis, and hear the soft laughter of Andrew and Emily from adjoining bunk beds.
Five months after our trip, I came to Southern Methodist University in Dallas in the fall. I left Emily, Andrew, and our memories of Grecian sunsets in Seattle, and wondered what people and what experience could possibly rival 8 days in one of the most stunning places in the world. And then I learned about the opportunity to study abroad: a chance to see a multitude of countries, cultures, cuisines, and people for not just 8 days, but 15 weeks; my heart leapt like it had when I first bought my ticket to Athens.
So here I am. Not a senior in high school embarking to Greece, or a college freshman intrigued but not yet committed to the prospect of studying abroad. I am a junior in college just days away from spending an entire semester in Milan, Italy, which I believe will not only match the joys of my first European trip, but exceed them beyond my wildest expectations. I am not certain of much beyond the fact I will be taking three bags, traveling 5,365 miles east, and living with three girls I have never before met.
How do I feel? I’m inclined to say nothing but ecstatic, which I undoubtedly am. But it would be an omission were I not to admit I am also frankly terrified. I thought that coming to Texas for school while knowing nobody would be the largest assertion of independence I have ever made, but I am beginning to realize that this semester may be an even larger feat in my eyes. Granted, when I came to SMU, I knew no one, but that also meant I had nothing to lose. Five semesters after arriving however, I have made dozens of relationships that I treasure more than anything in the world, and I am reluctant to depart from the people who have made me feel secure, valued, and loved over the past two and a half years.
Yet it is precisely because of these people that I have the confidence to go abroad. Their continual validation of my character and worth when I have lost sight of it myself allowed me to take the plunge, and when I am feeling lost in the streets of Milan, I know that I can always find my center in them. So cheers to my boyfriend, my friends, and my family who said I could do it. Thanks to them, I am. I cannot wait to see what friendships, trips, concerts, museums, foods, and all the experiences in between that lie ahead of me. Arrivederci Seattle, Ciao Milano!