Every year around the New Year I get pretty emotional. As silly as just a singular date is marking the start of a new year, I like to take it pretty seriously. But this is the first year I am taking it a bit more seriously as I look back and see how much has changed for me in the past 365 days.
I started my year boarding a plane on January 3, 2016 to Florence. I was anxious, nervous, and had doubts of even getting on the plane. For me, doing things alone has always been a piece of cake, but abroad is different. You are thrown into a new life, in a new place, with a new language, and no one is there to tell you the “right” way to do it. The first 2 and a half weeks there I was lost and didn’t know what I got myself into. The thing is no one tells you about that part. The beginning part, where you don’t want to be alone and all you want to do is have someone make you feel like you’re home. But luckily one day it just clicked for me and I knew I was in the right place.
I learned a lot of things when I was abroad. I know everyone says they do, but for me I truly did. I learned that it’s okay to be fearful and uneasy in another country when other people aren’t. I learned that if you are someone who is a planner and always needs to have organization, that mentality isn’t going to cut it abroad. It’s okay to literally just see what happens and go with the flow. I learned that slowing down is the most important thing to do at our age especially in a city like Florence whose pace of life is ten times slower than here. I learned to not stress over the places I didn’t get to go, because I know I will get to go back.
But the most valuable and harsh thing I learned about abroad was that it is just a fantasyland. Those people you met, in that exact place you lived, at that exact time, will never happen again. If we try and mimic the same experiences when we get back to reality, it’s just not possible. Abroad is a memory and one we need to cherish forever for teaching us lessons and awesome things we didn’t know about ourselves. Or maybe even not so great things we didn’t know about ourselves. I think for me I have the hardest time with change. And once abroad turned into my life, going back to reality hit me harder than I ever expected.
I will never forget my professor telling me before I left for Florence to seriously just relax. He said the more I talked about abroad, the more I was going to ruin the experience if I keep talking about what I will and won’t be able to accomplish there. He said to me, “Plan some trips and know you won’t do half of what you planned, do something really crazy that you wouldn’t normally do here in America and get yourself in some trouble, and find an awesome romance and know it will most likely come to an end.”
I noticed myself feeling different this past semester, as I felt the organized, structured part of me slowly diminishing, my stress fading away, and my constant looking into the future shift gears into the present. This could be such a bad thing for a lot of seniors in college getting ready for the next step, but for me it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was finally able to take my professors advice and learned how to act on a word that I never really new how to, relax.
Sometimes I look back at the beginning of 2016 and I wish I looked deeper into the meaning of all of these things then instead of now. I wish I laughed at things I cried about and was more aware of the silly situations that just don’t matter anymore. But then I remember that basic cliché of everything happens for a reason. I think every single day in life if I didn’t go there, do this, and act this way, I wouldn’t be where I was right now. Sometimes that makes me wish I could go back and change things, but then you remember that this is exactly how it’s supposed to be. For me it wasn’t abroad that led me to realize all of these things, but just a time and place for me to put everything together that I’ve always been trying to figure out.
Abroad is over, my first semester of senior year is over, and so is 2016. So now as I said I will take every lesson I learned and make 2017 an even better year. I have the funniest, most beautiful friends in the world, an awesome family, go the best school, and know I only have good things coming my way. So here’s to enjoying my last semester of college and slowly, just living in the moment. Thanks 2016. You were more than good to me, you were great.