On January 15, 2017, I boarded a plane to Arezzo, Italy, with no clue as to what the next four months would bring. The day was finally here, I was so nervous but beyond excited; after a year of planning, saving, preparing, and anticipating, the time finally came to start my four-month journey abroad.
Fast-forward five months: it is May 11 and as I make my way back to Oklahoma City I am watching the country that I’ve grown to love get smaller and smaller. I lived in the beautiful and historic city of Arezzo, ate the most delicious food, and experienced more in 4 months than most people will in a lifetime.
What we see on our friends’ Facebook and Instagrams— pictures of beautiful European architecture, fancy cuisine, and breathtaking pictures — is not all there is to studying abroad. It is an adjustment and it can be difficult. There are times when all you want is actual peanut butter to calm your crave, some actual Mexican food (for me Fuzzy’s or Tara’s), or just being able to lay in your own bed. You become frustrated because you can’t drive to the grocery store, and all you want is to talk, face to face, with your best friends who are going on with life back home in the states.
You will realize that you are in a city filled with the most amazing tiramisu and where wine is literally cheaper than water. You might not be able to drive to a grocery store, but you can walk along the beautiful cobblestone streets of Arezzo; walk down Corso Italia and stop in Bar Stefano for the best tiramisu you will ever have; and walk to the train station and go anywhere you want to go. Yes, you will always miss your friends — that never changes — but remember, these new friends are going through the same journey with you, and together you are experiencing things that only you can understand.
Never in my life did I imagine I could accomplish so much in four months. I traveled to over 32 cities and eight different countries. I visited the headquarters of the Catholic Church, rode on a gondola through the Grand Canal in Venice; had Belgium waffles, Belgium frites and Belgium beer all in Belgium; watched the sun set over the tuscan hills in Florence; partied until sunrise in Berlin; ate traditional Greek gyros while watching a Mykonos sunset; saved the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling; traveled all the way back to Oklahoma and back, mid-semester; walked down the streets of Pompeii; went on a boat tour around the island of Capri; remembered at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam; skied in the Swiss Alps; and drank beer at a Guinness Book of World Record bar in Brussels. I spoke a few phrases of Italian, which I think came out more Spanish than Italian, and ate 1,000 bowls of pasta (and probably even more gelato). I learned so much about myself and grew up in ways I never would have imagined, and I made amazing friends and memories that can never be replaced. Arezzo, I love and miss you more than you will ever know. You will always hold a special place in my heart. I will be back.