The Come Down: Going Home after a Semester Abroad

Gillian Davenport Umbra Institute, Perugia, Italy


December 26, 2016

Well, I did it. Four months, a few plane rides, and somewhere close to 200 shots of espresso (I did the math) later, I’m sitting in my parents' living room again. As I dip the Italian cookies I ‘brought for my family’ in my cappuccino, I can’t help but ask myself if it really happened. The 2am adventures (followed by 9am classes), the panoramic views on my way home from class, and the incredible friendships I made will always be some of the most amazing parts of my life. While it was incredibly hard to leave Italy and all of the Perugini I had come to know and care for, it was nearly as difficult to say good-bye to the people in my program. I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most incredible people that I now have the privilege of calling my best friends, and now realize just how lucky I am to be a part of the face-time generation.

Prior to studying abroad, I was told to brace myself for culture shock, and to take necessary precautions to ease myself into a completely new language, lifestyle and home. However, returning to the states is not as easy as one might think, and as excited as I was to share my amazing memories with my friends and family, I found myself unsure of where to start, and unable to do the stories justice. It was frustrating to say the least to have experienced so much and feel like I could really convey so little, and at times, left me feeling more alone than I expected, especially with those closest to me. I attribute this, in part, to the immense change that I went through, aside from those that were predictable like language acquisition and living situation.

It can be difficult to communicate the newfound sense of self that this opportunity has given me, and the entirely new perspective I’ve come to develop not only from traveling to a new country, but by doing so independently. A few days before we left Italy (in-between studying for finals and incessantly checking that we didn’t forget to pack anything), my friends and I had a conversation about how close we all became, and how we credited it to the vulnerability and honesty that we all felt when we entered a completely new environment and situation on our own. I think that it’s these feelings that not only allowed me to form such close friendships, but also become closer with myself. Do you really even know who you are if you haven’t locked yourself in a foreign bathroom or got a lecture (in Italian) from the grocery store clerk about (once again) forgetting to weigh your produce? Have you really pushed yourself if you haven’t gotten out onto your friends roof (while your palms were profusely sweating because heights are your greatest fear only second to geese) to get a look at the fog setting in over the city all the way to Assisi?

I have a million ‘thank you’s for those that helped me along this crazy adventure, and those that gave me a platform to write about them. Thank you to Arcadia, and the incredible staff at The Umbra Institute. Thank you to the baristas at Café Turon for always putting cocoa on my cappuccinos even when I forgot to ask, and to the cashier at the Coop who always inevitably ended up weighing my produce for me (again, I’m sorry). Most importantly, thank you to the old Italian couple that lived in the apartment below us for never filing a noise complaint (even on my 20th birthday - yikes).