As the most memorable semester of my life is coming to a close, I would like to share some final thoughts with you all about what I am taking away from my experience abroad.
“Getting lost and finding yourself” is the cliched tagline that seems to be the quintessential motto for a semester abroad. Yet, as cliched as it may sound, when you’re facing your empty suitcases trying to pack – when it seems like just yesterday you were unpacking them – it starts to all make sense.
Here’s what I actually found this semester:
- A life well traveled is a life well lived. I didn’t always understand the language. I missed trains, sprinted to catch flights, ate food I didn’t know how to pronounce and slept on airport floors. I tasted many wines, and probably just as many beers (thank you, Oktoberfest). I almost got ran over by vespas more times than I’d like to admit. I ordered cappuccinos after 11 am (that’s frowned upon) and got gelato when it was raining (never a poor decision). I discovered a new world and found the fearlessness that I had all along. Get me on the next flight to anywhere, because I can’t wait to live a life well traveled.
- The bond with your friends from abroad is unbreakable. I was lucky enough to make an amazing group of friends right away this semester. Within the first few days, we had already booked a few weekend trips to different cities together. I created a bond with these people literally across borders and throughout countries, at 4 am in airports and at 1 am lying in our beds talking about our lives. We may live 3,000 miles apart in the States, but after taking planes and trains and living in cramped hostel rooms with these crazy kids who I now call my great friends, the bond created is special and strong enough to withstand a measly three hour time difference. Those who you experience the world with become your family.
- Get lost. Because you can’t really avoid it, even if you try. I got lost many times this semester. Starting from my first day in Rome, to my last weekend trip in Scotland, I got lost a lot. My phone didn’t always work, so maps or public transit information weren’t always available. Usually, I just walked. Some of the best exploring I was able to do happened when I wasn’t following a map or had a checklist of things I had to see. I walked, and I saw. Getting lost can lead to finding some really cool stuff along the way.
- The road to happiness isn’t always paved. Mostly because a lot of streets in Rome aren’t. I am always amazed at the Italian women walking in heels through the cobblestone alleys, when I am lucky if I make it down a street without tripping in my Chuck Taylor’s. But roaming the tiny streets of an ancient city, gelato in hand, on a tough day, turning the corner to Vatican City or the Colosseum, might be the perfect medicine for just about any problem you could have.
- You don’t have to find yourself, but you can create yourself. I don’t think I’m leaving this experience having necessarily “found myself”. That’s tough for any 20 year old, and it’s certainly not a requirement for a semester abroad. What I truly found was that I am in the amazing process of creating myself. I have discovered my passions, learned new things, and have found further motivation to achieve my goals. I found new qualities in myself that I’m proud of, and the courage to continue to shape my life in a positive direction. As sad as I am to be leaving, being abroad has made me just as excited to get back to SDSU and continue to work hard for the next few semesters to give myself the life I have imagined. After all being an Aztec for life around the world seems like a pretty sweet deal to me.
As I start to pack my bags and prepare for my return to California, I’m reflecting on every little piece of this semester. To all the people who helped me experience this, and to all of the amazing people I met along the way, thank you.
To those who have kept up with all the SDSU Be International bloggers, thank you for being a part of our journey.
To my fellow bloggers, I hope your experiences have been as memorable and life changing as mine have for me.
To those who are about to take off on their study abroad adventures next semester, get ready. You’re going to have the time of your life.
Go big, leave home.
Kassandra Ferrante is earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Rome, Italy this fall.