Drawing to a Close

Lana Valente Umbra Institute, Perugia, Italy


December 10, 2017

Hey readers! It's been awhile, but I'm sure we're all on the same page about now: that is, everyone is in a frenzy as we prepare for finals. I've found myself in a sort of strange holiday mess, between tests and the festivity of the season. It's that time of year again-- time to for tinsel and good cheer, but a storm cloud has descended upon Perugia nonetheless. Change is bittersweet-- endings can be painful. With the semester drawing to a close and our flights home fast approaching, we find ourselves faced with an entirely new problem: how do I adjust to home after such an experience?

Now, I am preoccupied with finals, and packing for my flight home, but the fear of change-- to go back to where I was-- is still there. Will I forget what I've learned, forget Italian? Will I revert back to the person I was before? The last thing I wish for is to have Perugia become a fuzzy memory. I want it to be sharp, ever-present, but as I grow, I know I'll forget little details that I hold dear to me now. So how do I cope with this fear of change, the end of something wonderful? It's like leaving a dream-- a lovely dream, with good food and good people, a beautiful, dreamy language-- to return to reality. Big cars. Paying for gas. Walmart. Forgive me for not being excited about those things, but otherwise, we're going back to America, which should be a pleasant realization. We're going home! My family is home, my closest friends! I should be excited... Right? So why is it such a bitter pill to swallow?

I've asked myself this question more times than I can count... I mean, according to Google, It's perfectly normal to face reverse culture shock upon your arrival. I believe the rainbow Internet god because, in tandem with my own feelings right now, it makes sense. I've made a home here in Perugia, but I always knew it was temporary. Regardless, I moved here, adopted the language and the culture; just as leaving home in the U.S. was incredibly difficult, the thought of leaving Perugia behind is nearly unbearable. These feelings are to be expected-- you hear that, kids? It's normal to be in emotional turmoil after study abroad! Fantastic!

In all seriousness, being abroad occupies its own chapter in each of our lives. It's understandable that it hurts to leave, to fear that everything from before will seem grossly average and boring in comparison. Last night, I dreamt that I was back home again, and to my surprise, I woke up in fear. I felt a profound sense of relief when I realized I'm still here in beautiful Italia. The places I've seen, we've all seen-- they have undoubtedly changed my life. I will never perceive the world the same way I did before, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

You can't always prepare for it, but awareness of it will help. Study abroad is worth it-- it's worth every bit of homesickness, every penny on Italian paninis, every new friend you make along the way. When I reflect upon my semester in Perugia, Italy, I won't remember my early homesickness, or a bad meal. I'll remember what the city meant to me, how it filled my heart with joy to come home after a long weekend, to have dinner with my roommates, to relax in the student lounge with friends. Although my time here is drawing to a close, I will leave part of myself in Perugia, and that, I believe, is how it should be.