Not surprisingly, one of the hardest parts about studying abroad is being away from your family. Being away from them when I’m at school in San Diego is hard enough, but it’s a very difficult adjustment when you’re halfway across the world.
Unlike most study abroad kids, however, I can really relate to the country I’m in since both of my parents were born and raised in Italy. The best part? My parents showed up in Rome last week and we went on a little adventure down south.
It was so great having my parents visit me while I was in Rome. Both of my parents were born and raised in Sicily, so it is always a special moment for them to come back to their homeland. We only spent a few days in Rome together, but we took off for a long weekend to Sicily so that I could meet my dad’s side of the family in Palermo as an adult and participate in a huge celebration in my mom’s small town of Porticello.
I always hear people describe studying abroad as a chance to “find yourself,” and it is true. It’s been just over a month since I landed in Rome and I’ve already learned so much more about myself than I could have imagined. Through traveling, meeting new people, getting lost, and learning a language, I have grown so much, and for that I am grateful. But the opportunity I had to go back to my roots and meet the people who raised and shaped my parents was so important to me.
I’ve actually been to Sicily a handful of times before, but I was young and didn’t understand who was who, or what I was looking at. As a 20-year-old with a newfound love for traveling, exploring, and learning about myself, this experience was something I’ll never forget.
Each time I’ve been to my mom’s small hometown of Porticello, Sicily, I was always so bored. It’s a tiny fisherman’s town, and you can take a 20-minute walk and see nearly everything there is to see. However this weekend, I got to experience an amazing local celebration, honoring the patron saint of the town, the Madonna del Lume. My family has always celebrated this feast day back home in San Francisco, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
Seeing the small town I always thought of as so boring transform into a lively place with performers, carnival rides, and fireworks every night, gave me a new perspective on where I’m from. All the locals were so passionate and excited, and the town was alive with a happiness I had never seen there before. It’s rare to see a community so passionate over one thing and come together in such a big way. At every corner, locals stopped my mom, recognizing her from when she was young. She was so excited to see familiar faces, and I was so excited to meet some new ones.
Just a few days was really not enough, but I did feel so at home having my parents with me and getting to spend time with my aunt and all my cousins who still live in Porticello. I’m so lucky that on this amazing journey abroad, I got to runaway for a weekend and experience my home away from home. The connection with where I’m from will always be strong, and I’ll take it with me wherever I go.
But now, it’s back to reality. It’s midterm week in Rome! Yes, we actually do go to school while studying abroad.
Kassandra Ferrante is earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Rome, Italy this fall.