I’ve been home for over a week now, and the fact that I’m actually home is now officially setting in. At first, the excitement of being home, seeing my family and friends, and my jetlag clouded my acknowledgement of the ending of my abroad experience. My dog and I had a glorious, glorious reunion, and we have been inseparable ever since. Then reality set in. I’m not in Milan anymore. My summer that consisted of gallivanting around Europe has come to an end.
I can’t help but worry that this experience will remain in my memory as an aside, as if my life occurs in a linear fashion while my time in Europe is a disjointed memory, separate from the sequence of my regular life. This is because my experience in Italy was incomparable to anything I have ever experienced- so incomparable that now it seems almost surreal. I hope this will not be the case. I want to take what I’ve learned with me, for in the words of Anita Desai: “wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow,” and I wish for Milan to remain a part of me forever.
I came. I saw. I conquered. This summer I was privileged enough to visit 5 different countries: Italy, Monaco, France, Switzerland, and Holland. Within those countries I traveled to 20 different cities and villages: Milan, Rome, Florence, Venice, Varese, Clivio, Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Lake Garda, Lake Como, Stresa, Monte Carlo, Nice, Lugano, and Amsterdam, all alongside some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
It’s true, every place I visited was absolutely incredible and I would return to any of them in a heartbeat. But when asked my favorite place I visited, I answer Milan without hesitation. Milan is an indescribably wonderful place, and I could not imagine a more prime location to study abroad. It’s atmosphere is up tempo and global, yet it is not Italy’s number one tourist destination. I believe this is at least part of what made my experience so wonderful- Milan is a hidden gem. I was a visitor, not a tourist. I came without a plan. I didn’t have an agenda for each day. I saw what I saw based upon the evolution of each day, and I am better for it. Milan churns, and its inhabitants churn along with it. The most rewarding experiences in my time abroad occurred when I allowed the city to take me and followed its rhythm. These were the moments in which I felt I absorbed the most, when I saw Milan from the inside.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Milan changed me: my outlook, my personality, and how I view the world. I learned, mostly about myself and about my place and purpose in this world. This experience has made me more modest and more appreciative, as I saw what a tiny place I occupy in the world. This experience truly opened my eyes. I look at things differently. I appreciate. I understand.
I'm thankful for all the times I said ‘YES!’ to doing something completely out of character and out of my comfort zone. I am thankful for my parents who have, quite literally, given me the world. I am thankful for the IES Milan staff who welcomed us to their city with open arms and guided us throughout our stay. I am thankful for my new friends and those who have become family to me. I am thankful for all the times they supported me, but almost more so the times they challenged me. They have shown me that home can be anywhere, as long as I’m surrounded by people who provide me with the kind of love and joy I experienced this summer.
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Milan- I will never forget.
Arrivederci! While this means goodbye in connotation, the direct translation of the word conveys something more: ‘a’ = ’to’ + ‘rivederci’ = ’we see each other again.’ I didn’t know this when I originally chose it as my sendoff, but with this understanding it seems more appropriate than ever- we will see each other again.
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<p>I'm Madison Qualy- a swimmer at the University of Miami. Saint Louis bred me; Miami deals with me. I am a junior, double majoring in Ecosystem Science and Policy and Marine Affairs, and minoring in Spanish. I hope to attend law school and practice environmental law. I love sports, animals, and wine. Follow all the tomfoolery I get into in Milan via my posts!</p>