Un Anno Indimenticabile

Isabel M. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Avenues: The World School in New York.

I thought it would never end. I think to myself, watching the Italian countryside go by through the train window. But not in the way that one might think about a terrible movie they see, or a seemingly-endless final exam, or a brutally cold and harsh winter — not at all in this way. On the contrary, this year seemed like it would never end because of the happiness, the excitement, the love, the joy and the marvelous adventures that I experienced this year made it feel like it would last forever, like it was a dream that was too good to ever finish. When arriving, nine months seemed like a long time, but it has flashed by in what seems like an instant and I find myself in disbelief that now it is coming to a close. I want to put it all on rewind, to relive every moment — from the initial whirlwind of confusion and disarray, to my current feeling of truly being at home and everything in between — over again and again and again. Sitting on the train, I find myself doing just that. I think about all of the times I have made these journeys. From one of my first weeks in Italy, when I struggled through buying a train ticket and, once on board, had to confirm with five people I was on the correct train, until now, when the Porta Romana station bar feels familiar and homey and I can recite all of the stops the train to Rome makes by heart without even thinking. Each stop along the journey brings back some kind of memory and all of a sudden, my body is tingling with nostalgia and before I know it, I can feel the tears forming in my eyes.

I think about my first independent travel weekend, seeing beautiful Bologna at Christmas time and making many new friends. I think about the gorgeous view from the Capitoline Hill at sunset, or getting lost wandering through Rome’s windy streets. I think about spontaneously jumping onto a train at Pisa Centrale one Sunday and ending up in the charming Tuscan town of San Miniato. I think about the warm, salty Sicilian air and the memories of the beaches, the outdoor markets of Palermo and the indescribably wonderful night spent cooking fresh fish on the side of the street with all of my friends and teachers, learning the stories of a kind Sicilian man as he grilled up our dinner. My memories begin to head towards home and I think about calm Sunday afternoons or lively, talkative dinners with my host family and all of the incredible moments we have shared this year; traveling together, cooking,or watching movies on rainy days. My thoughts continue to spiral out of my control and I become lost in them, feeling as though I am genuinely reliving the moments. Just as I begin to reminisce about Christmas with my family — opening presents, having a feast and playing cards by the fire — the train slows to a halt and I am jolted from my reverie, back into the present. Putting everything together in my mind, I reflect on how truly incredible this year really was. I saw so much, did countless things I had never done, met amazing new people and grew as a person in so many ways that I previously could never have imagined. Every day held something new and it truly felt like that would be endless. I have become so accustomed to this routine by now that I cannot imagine living a different one — not even the same one I knew so well just nine months ago. As much as I miss my family in the United States, I cannot picture going to bed without receiving a “buonanotte” and a heartfelt kiss on each cheek, or starting the day without a “buongiorno” as I put my shoes on and head out the door. My reality has changed. Over the course of this year, everything I have here has become my norm. By now it is my world, my language, my family, my friends, my community and my memories that surround me in this moment and I am no longer a foreigner, but at home. Although I know that “all good things must come to an end” and “when one door closes another opens” (although this one is not really closing because I will be back before long), I am just not quite ready to say arrivederci to what has been, without a shadow of a doubt, the most incredible year of my life.

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