Upon graduating high school I truly felt like I had the world at my fingertips. With the anticipation of my Florida State University First Year Abroad program ahead, summer loomed like a fog, obstructing my view of the great future before me. Yet, unknowingly, that was the last summer I had with my world being seen through rose-colored glasses. I had no idea of the year before me, no idea of how it was to shape me and evolve me into the person I am today. Previous to going abroad I had a clear indication as to how I wanted to see my future and the things I needed to do in order to accomplish such feats. Yet, very quickly I came to realize that the world and my future were not as predictable and simple as I had originally assumed.
My arrival into Europe was welcomed by a very blunt and harsh realization: I was alone in Italy, without knowing the language, one person, and completely lost within this new fascinating and magical city. Yet, it wasn’t the city and the Italian people that warranted a realization, it was the fact that I was not alone in this blind boat. I was surrounded by other FYAs who were just as petrified and genuinely lost, but mesmerized as I was. It was with this fear and excitement of the unknown that created a bond within us so strong that we became like a family. Yet, in order to reach a place with such a strong and family-like relationship with all of my fellow FYAs, I had a lot of growing and learning to do. It was abroad that I came to find two facts that were eternally true: people - regardless of where they come from and who they are – are all different, and that, to understand these “different” people, one must have a very open and non-judgmental mind.
It’s been almost three years since I stepped off the flight into the year that forever changed my life. While getting off the plane, I realized everything was going to be different. My life had forever been altered, having been filled with long days of watching the sun set over Ponte Vecchio and drinking espresso while I watched the world pass by on their lazy Sunday strolls. It felt surreal returning to my home and knowing that that chapter of my life had ended; however, this nostalgia for Europe was met with an excitement of what real college was like. It was this moment when I had officially ended my year abroad that I realized how special it really was. It was in Italy that I realized how important it was to be your own person, to not have to rely on others, to solely be responsible for yourself. It was then that I really grew up, being thrown into a whirlwind adventure full of life, joy and a bit of harsh reality.