Dear Future Study Abroad Student,
By the time you’ll be reading this, all of my things will be all packed away and I’ll be flying home. I haven’t started packing yet, but I’ll probably need one of my roommates to sit on my suitcase. Preferably not the one that doesn’t even reach five feet tall, but we’ll figure it out!
I’ve spent the last 110 days in Europe. I didn’t count the days for any personal reasons, the government wants to know these things. You’ll eventually know this too after filling out your VISA application.
It hasn’t felt like 110 days.
Honestly, it didn’t really feel like time was moving at all until everyone started posting Instagram stories of, “Countdown Until Home,” or a photo of the Duomo with a caption stating: “It’s not a goodbye, more of a see you later!” Which is fine, maybe one day I’ll too visit Florence again. Maybe when I’m closer to 30 than 20. Then, I’ll be working full time, but somehow be able to escape from that life for a couple of days to go back and relive my European Sojourn.
I’ll walk around, gelato in hand or maybe a coffee, and show a friend around the city. They’ll ask questions or make queries about stories and I’ll have no other option than to spill all of the absolutely moronic things my friends and I got up to at 19.
Firstly, I’ll remember how the Duomo looked all lit up at night. During the day the streets are filled with tourists, cute couples posing in wedding dresses or elderly women taking photos with their massive iPads. The locals will tell you that the streets are quieter in November when all the tourists leave, but this becomes untrue on the weekends. You just have to have some patience or know how to use a couple of good elbows to edge your way across the street on your way to wherever you’re going.
I don’t stop to look at the Duomo anymore. But, I know it more intimately than the tourists. The bright beacon that led me home late on a Saturday night. My feet would be aching, blisters across the bottoms and heels that throb from too-tight shoes. Stumbling across the cobblestones, I’d slam into one of my friends and we’d fall over into one big heap. We’d laugh and ignore the concept of how dirty the streets probably are, even though we’ve both almost been hit by the street sweeper and dangerous bicyclists at least a hundred times. My friend would smile, and call me some awful name, and I’ll throw one back because we’re young and being mean to each other is what we count as affection.
I do hope I remember little things like this at 30.
I’ll certainly remember the bigger things. The things I crossed off my bucket list, like seeing London, Amsterdam and Rome. Or my near death experience, falling off the bed during my 12-hour sleeping car trip to Sicily. Or thinking it was a good idea to go to a club that was called Beach Club two nights in a row. Or accidentally stumbling out into a climate strike in Milan, and saying out loud, “Why are all these kids out, shouldn’t they be in school?”
Basically, anything I’ve talked about in this column, I know I’ll remember. But, I’m worried about losing the littlest of memories.
The late nights working on essays with my roommates, a bottle of wine between us because, “Hey, it is Italy!”
The coffee dates with new friends where we had to Google Translate the word for milk because God Forbid any of us actually know Italian. Even I’d throw a “freaking Americans!” our way and joke about tourists as if we were Italian born and raised.
The picnic on the top of Piazza Michelangelo where we had to rip the bread apart with our bare hands because who remembers to bring a knife to a picnic.
And a Friendsgiving Meal that would probably make Ina Garten gasp. But when you’re in your early 20’s with limited cooking skills, all you can do is burgers and some side dishes!
Or the birthday dinner at an “Unlimited Wine Bar” where the waitress remembers your face. “Oh yes, last time I was here I dropped three wine bottles. I promise I wasn’t drunk, I’m just an absolute klutz.”
I’m telling you now, and it’s my only real bit of advice, to try and remember these memories. The seemingly insignificant ones. As though everyone will spend your semester posting photo after photo of them in front of different European monuments, it’s the span of time between the postings that make your study abroad experience really special.
So find some good friends and make some good memories.
Your Foreign Correspondent signing off for the last time,
Molly Catherine Lamendola