Winter Break Adventures, and Why I Couldn’t Wait to Return

Katharine K. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Denver School of Science and Technology in Colorado.

I don’t think I realized how incredible SYA is until I left on winter break. Not even headed home, my adventures with my “real” family reminded me why I ventured to Italy in the first place, and more importantly, why I was thrilled to return come January 7. Break is a unique experience; one can either invite their family to Italy or travel abroad with friends. I was fortunate enough to have my family come to Italy, but then also travel outside the country together. For me, it was the perfect time to reflect, adventure, and refresh after an intense first semester.

My family arrived and we spent the first week in Assisi, a gorgeous town with a huge church, St. Francis of Assisi. This week, including Christmas, was relaxing, rejuvenating, and more importantly, quality time with my family. Not only was this first week relaxing, but Assisi is gorgeous. Each building, made from the same rosy pink stone from the quarry nearby, sits on the side of the hill on clean streets and the beautiful arcade of St. Francis of Assisi. It is very orderly, everything matching and clean, so it is definitely worth a visit. For me, because Assisi is much smaller than Viterbo, it was a nice way to separate my time with my family from my life in Viterbo, thus making it easier to return to normal life without my family. And, it reminded me why I chose to study in Viterbo. Of all places, Viterbo is a beautiful walled city with inviting families and the perfect small-town atmosphere so SYAers can find a sense of community so far away from home.

For the second week of my vacation we traveled to Croatia. This country, so overlooked and misunderstood, was fascinating and eye-opening. For one, Croatia was bombed in 1991. That means any Croatian over 30 is a war survivor. Secondly, it put my year in Italy back into perspective. It reminded me how lucky I am to live and study in such a beautiful country with good food. Croatians aren’t as attached to their food as Italians are, so the cuisine is international and less perfected. Coming home to Italy, I appreciate the passion for food in an entirely new light. My first night back we ate a hearty Italian dinner, and I couldn’t be more excited for my host mom’s homemade pizza and the pastries from the bakery on my block.  

The rest of my Croatian adventure solidified why I decided to study abroad, and I want to share a bit of that with you now. Spending time away from my host family, visiting a country with a foreign language I didn’t speak, and seeing churches I could place into history reminded me why I came abroad. I wanted a challenging, exciting, and education experience. I wanted to form strong relationships, and change my view on the world. Most importantly, I wanted to push myself to learn a new language and take initiative to live away from my community for the year. I didn’t realize how fluent I’d become in Italian until I tried to speak Italian to the Croatians, rather than immediately switching to English. Walking into the churches in Dubrovnik, I didn’t realize how incredible it was to be able to identify the different types of architecture and relate my personal studies at SYA to larger topics. Spending time away from my host family reminded me how lucky I am to have such a loving second family, and how I love every second with my funny, caring, and incredible family.

It was my winter break that put my year into perspective and gave me the energy to continue working towards becoming fluent, start my Capstone, and create a project for a conference I will attend with school in Luxembourg. It was being away from my life, my normal, that reminded me why I came. I came to learn and challenge myself, and Italy was everything I wanted and more. Now, my family is flying home to the United States and I could say I miss them and want to return to Colorado, but that isn’t true. I am where I belong and I couldn’t imagine anything but the amazing adventures I have ahead this semester.

  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA Italy
SYA China Rewind

For his final video, Sam K. looks back at all the memories he and his friends made in China.

It's Just the Beginning

Stella M. summarizes her time in France in her final blog and thanks her Rennes community for an incredible year.

Many Thanks

For her last blog, Ella thanks everyone and everything that has made her year in Rennes special.