Phebe O. is currently a senior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from John Bapst Memorial High School in Maine.
We’ve reached the last month, the last blog submission, the last trip to Rome, the last class, the last bus ticket, the last school dinner party… the final countdown before we all board planes back to the U.S. For the seniors here, not only our time abroad but also our last weeks of high school are quickly fading. A few weeks from now I will be back at home in America having graduated high school after spending nine months abroad. Once before, I could never have imagined this would be my high school reality.
I remember when I first started researching studying abroad and found the SYA website. I spent hours scrolling through videos and blogs and schedules and descriptions of life abroad. I will be honest, I didn’t believe some of it. I remember videos of students hugging their host families, talking about the love and comfort of a second family. I remember school schedules, half of which seemed to be coffee breaks and trips to wander around Rome. I remember a lot of the phrase “comfortable being uncomfortable.” I have been incredibly shy for as long as I can remember. I could not imagine a bunch of strangers becoming a family to me in only nine months. I couldn’t imagine the concept of being comfortable in any uncomfortable social environment. And yet something was credible enough or exciting enough to make me want to try studying abroad anyway.
Coming out on the other side of the SYA experience I want to say that, for the record, all of the claims above held true.
Our schedule truly includes a daily coffee break followed by an hour long lunch period. And every single Wednesday is dedicated to some Italian adventure, usually involving ridiculous transportation mishaps. I can no longer count the amount of days I have spent wandering around Rome.
I have also truly become accustomed to the concept of being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Just the other day a friend and I accidentally got on the wrong bus trying to make it back home from a hiking trip we took, and ended up headed all the way to Rome. We simply looked at each other, started laughing, waited until the bus stopped, and then bought tickets and found a bus home. Once, I probably would have broken into tears if I found myself on a bus headed to Rome with no idea how to get home.
Another example. In a matter of days, every student will be presenting our final “capstone project,” complete with a ten minute presentation in Italian. I have always feared and hated presentations with a passion. And yet, I might be the least worried about this 10 minute no-note presentation in a foreign language than I have been for any I’ve given previously in my life. It has truly become an interesting challenge in my mind, rather than a daunting nightmare to overcome.
And finally, yes, my host family truly became a second family, my Italian family. I have typed a dozen sentences into this space, wondering how I can expect myself to express in so few words what my host family has come to mean to me, and ultimately decided I cannot express it better than simply, ‘family.’ We bicker and laugh and cry and love like a family. An Italian family. My Italian family. I don’t know how I will face leaving them to get on a plane home to America.
This year has had its ups and downs, as any does. But I have truly learned from the many thrilling, wonderful, and difficult parts of my time in Italy, and I wouldn’t take a moment of it back.
- Campus Reporters
- SYA Italy