Coming home from class the other day in Florence, I was almost assaulted.

Upon reaching my flat, I put on the baggiest T-shirt I could find and the only pair of sweatpants I had brought to Italy. I then grabbed my keys, burst out the door and started to walk.

I walked for what felt like hours, far into the less desirable parts of the city. I walked until no one would know I was an American anymore, where I would simply become part of the residential areas.

I thought about my time in Florence. It was certainly a place where I felt truly connected and alive. I had found a new home that appeared to be much better than my own.

It had felt like a complete dream world and, finally, I had been violently awoken.

When I reached the very end of the city, I turned around. I walked back feeling better, but suddenly was startled by ambulance sirens a few feet away.

A woman had fallen off her Vespa scooter and was lying in the street, not moving. A crowd had formed around her, blocking the smoke from her damaged vehicle.

I stopped, but realized there was little I could do. I stepped around the people and said a silent prayer.

I realized nothing was perfect. My experience in Italy had begun to feel more tangible and comparable with the rest of the world.

In fact, being abroad in Europe is not quite the fantasy I had imagined for so long.

A week earlier I had been visiting Ireland.

I stood outside a pub on St. Patrick’s Day with a Dubliner named Darren. He insisted that Ireland was not such a great place to live, as city buses with print ads warning against alcoholism rolled on by behind us.

It was only his hardy laugh and inviting disposition that kept me from tears. I wanted to hold his hands and tell him how amazing I thought Dublin was. Instead, I just let him talk.

The mystical isle of Ireland was an ideal destination for so many in the states. Yet the people there, just like all of us studying abroad, longed for more.

The same was true when I visited Spain. In the south it had been 80 degrees. Naturally, my friends and I wore shorts and tank tops. The locals thought we were crazy. They still had winter coats on. Did they not know what they had?

Do any of us?

I wondered this as I watched an eight-year-old boy run off after stealing part of the lunch I was eating in the park.

I hoped he had really needed it, and I neglected to run after him.

Sandwich shop owners and lonely backpackers around Florence told me that they wished to find something better outside of Italy.

Italians desire more from life, although their lives seem more than perfect to us.

Even the locals of Siracusa, perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever seen, told me that their lives are boring even though they were on the breathtaking island of Sicily.

I realized that I had come to Italy to find what they were missing, what we are all missing.

We spend our lives traveling around trying to find something better, a place to belong, but we fail to see the beauty that is not only right in front of us but inside of us, as well.

I am thankful for my experience abroad. I have seen so much and learned so much. I have enjoyed every beautiful moment and will continue to do so until my last day in Italy.

However, the time away has made me appreciate the people who love me and the hometown from which I come.

All of you who have the opportunity to study abroad, definitely do it. But please, never fail to see the profound gift that is your everyday life.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.