Well I have officially been back in the states for one week so I'm finally able to catch up on a lot of things I've been forgetting to do, like blog!
First of all I apologize for not posting anything since Spring Break! Since then I had visited Berlin, Pisa, Lucca, Montelcino, Venice, Verona, Vicinza, Pompei, Sorrento, and Capri! If I remember I'll make a whole blog post about the highlights of those places, but I just wanted to write about my overall experience this semester as far as what I learned, what I'll remember, and what it's like being back in America!
First of all I want to give a HUGE shout-out to the University of Oklahoma in Arezzo. They are a phenomenal staff and super welcoming, this semester would not have been the same without them and how easy they made our transition into Italy. From picking me up at the airport, to helping us get settled into our apartments, making us feel at home, putting on events, and so on. Cannot thank them enough.
When I was back at my hometown church yesterday, I got a lot of "Would you do it again?" It did not take long at all to answer that question. Of course! I would love to re-live everything, even the bad days. If the opportunity arises I would go again, and stay longer. It's not that I have anything against home or anything, there is just SO much to see in the world and I feel like I only saw a very tiny portion of it. The day after I got back I was ready to explore more, so a week later that feeling has just intensified even more.
As far as "have I changed" I really don't think I came back as a completely new person because that doesn't happen in less then 5 months (at least for me), but I do think I am more aware of things around me and how I react to them. At the very beginning of the semester I was really bothered by the people trying to sell me knick-knacks when I'm in a coffee shop reading a book! I wanted to yell at them to leave me alone, but that never worked. Or the people around the Vatican that wants to sell you advanced tickets into the museum, no thank you I will just wait outside in line with everyone else. It still bothers me whenever those people try to sell things, but not as much as it did at the beginning of the semester.
That is really my only complaint and the thing I found annoying, the beggars, but that is only a small fraction of my impression of a city. And most of the time they congregate around big cities and monuments so I learned where and where not to go. Besides, the cute little towns are normally more enjoyable anyways! For example, Lucca was one of the cutest towns I visited in Italy and because it isn't as well known yet, nobody bothered us there! We might have gotten a few weird looks from the locals because they weren't expecting to see tourists there.
Also by the end of the semester I was able to understand a lot of a conversation that I would overhear! Normally it was at the beginning of a conversation, the "hellos", "how are you", "I'm good", but then things would get more complicated and I couldn't follow, but it was a definite improvement from the beginning! I have found myself using Italian words instead of English at times, just because I have been using them for 5 months. I feel bad because people think I'm crazy, but I really don't want to stop using Italian so I don't forget it. So if you ever hear me say "Come?" "Vai!" "Allora" "Pronto" "Grazie" "Cosi-Cosi" "Tutti Bene!" just play along with it :)
Along with missing the language, I will incredibly miss the people there. Even in my small town of Arezzo I made life-long connections with people. Those good-byes were the hardest because I have no idea if I will or ever will see them again. The best thing about going over with OU students is that I can see them! I'm really glad those good-byes included "See you in Norman in the Fall!"
When I think about my favorite moments this semester so many things come to mind that I cannot chose just one. It's always those moments when I look around thinking "this is one of the happiest moments of my life." Like sitting at a dinning room table with new friends from Germany eating traditional German food and an impromptu Piano playing. Or listening to the Beatles while driving down one of the prettiest roads and pulling over on the side of the road to run in the wild flowers. One memory that will always stick is at the farewell dinner when we are going around giving toasts. That moment I was just able to look around, listen to my friends give heart-felt, hilarious speeches about our time together and think this was truly a once in a lifetime experience. There were also sad memories that I will never forget, like packing up and leaving Arezzo, going to my favorite cafe and the owner Massimo telling me "Tanti Auguri" which means "I wish you all the best", and pulling away from the Arezzo train station and seeing my second home slowly disappear behind the tuscan hills.
Leaving Italy was one of the hardest things I've had to do, probably harder then leaving the States because I knew I was coming back after the semester ended, but I have no idea when I will be back in Italy. Finally getting home was such a weird feeling, whenever they announced we landed in DFW I really couldn't believe that I was back, although my exhaustion told me otherwise. Seeing my mom and dad at the airport was just what I needed and my bed at home felt amazing!
When people ask me how it feels to be back, it feels really weird. I feel like life has just slowed down immensely and things here are very laid-back. I go to class everyday from 1-5, I now have a job, and my exciting weekend plans include either going home or going to Dallas to see friends. I wouldn't say that it's boring here, because there are plenty of things to do and people to see, it is just the same as I left it in December. Although we did have an exciting day yesterday seeing if a tornado was going to hit Norman or not, I did not miss severe weather. However I did miss family, friends, tex-mex, hamburgers, free water, driving, being able to use my phone as a phone, and being able to sit on a couch and watch TV in English.
Long story short, if you ever have the chance to either live or study abroad do it! And don't go for a week or two, because you cannot even begin to experience the culture that way. I hope you've enjoyed reading about my adventures and stories, I have plenty of them to share if anyone wants to hear them :)
Until then, ciao!