Photography by Brianne Lee

Photography by Brianne Lee

A Final Farewell

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ciao in Italian is both a greeting and a goodbye. It seems only fitting. It feels as if just yesterday I was packing up my suitcase, saying goodbye to my family and boarding a plane bound to this unknown, foreign land that has now completely captivated my heart.
Fast-forward four months: as I write this, it is June 15 and I am watching the city that I’ve grown to love get smaller and smaller as my plane takes off. There are tears rolling down my face as I say goodbye to what was, of course, “the best four months of my life.”

Any one of those worn-out clich├ęs, the ones so often used to describe the life-changing nature of one’s time abroad and the inevitable, yet bitter-sweet departure, would be fitting for this final post. For in many ways, I don’t think I can really put this whole experience into my own words yet, let alone comprehend the enormous effects it has had on me. That’s not to say that I’m unhappy to be journeying back to the States, quite the opposite. For while being abroad is wonderful, an essential aspect of this whole ordeal is coming home, reconnecting with loved ones, and reflecting on time spent gallivanting around Europe.

While thinking about all of my experiences these past four months, I am reminded of a quote from Mr. Bilbo Baggins: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to…” I think it’s safe to say that in this sense I failed at keeping my feet while abroad, and I couldn’t be happier for it. From Santorini, Paris and Prague, to Dublin, Edinburgh and Zurich, as well as the countless other amazing cities I got ‘swept off to’ this year, there was almost never a plan, but almost every trip ended up being full of ridiculous adventure and laughter… the way trips should be.
It may take a while to fully understand the ways in which my time abroad changed me; however, I can say with absolute certainty that these past four months have been absolutely extraordinary, and I plan on jumping at the next opportunity to get back to Europe (or anywhere really)… regardless of the fact that I have no idea where I’d get swept off to thereafter.

Study abroad is one of those rare life experiences that truly meets every expectation associated with it. Incredibly, it really is life changing. I got everything I ever could have hoped for, not in the way I planned, but on a surprising and more rewarding scale. I love traveling and embracing other aspects of the world, but physically living in a foreign country gave me insight in reverse: I now appreciate home more than ever.

So all I have left to say is thank you. Thank you study abroad for opening my eyes to see that the world is so much bigger than I ever could have imagined. For helping me grow as a person and get over my fear of asking strangers for directions. For opening my heart to more easily accept other people, and love the ones back home even more. For introducing me to the most amazing friends I am so blessed to have met. For allowing me to endlessly indulge in carbs, wine and gelato galore. For making me realize that I truly don’t need most of what I have to live happily. For helping me travel to places I've only ever dreamed of. But most of all, thank you for giving me the world. My life has been forever changed and I could not be happier.

To my family, friends, and anyone who has been following this blog these past four months, a simple thank you just doesn’t feel like enough. There is no easy way to express the amount of appreciation and thankfulness I have in my heart. But without your constant love, encouragement and support, I would not be where I am today. Grazie millie!


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