The most selfish thing I’ve ever done, was study abroad in Siena, Italy for a semester. After going, I have no regrets and I can truly say that it was the best experience of my life. Studying abroad was something I always dreamed of doing, and when the time came, I could not have planned it any worse. France and Italy were the two places I wanted to live, but I wanted to attend a program that was not language intensive. Although, my program in Siena informed that it was not language intensive, they could have fooled me – I had to take a semester of Italian 101 before leaving, and the first 3 weeks of the program were 5-hour classes of Italian. We all called it “Italian bootcamp,” and thank God for it because Siena is a small Tuscan town where everyone speaks Italian. My host mom, for example, didn’t speak a lick of English, and my host dad hid the fact that he could speak English for the first few weeks of my stay. That darn Roberto!
Anyway, it may not seem so, but I risked a lot to study abroad in Italy. For example, it was my junior year of college, I was a softball player, and I basically ditched my team to go abroad. As cruel as I may seem, it was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I had been playing softball since I was 7 years old, it was a big part of my decision to attend Lewis & Clark College, and I didn’t want to let any of my teammates, coaches, friends, or parents down. I let a lot of people down, but once I made my decision there was no turning back and I just had to embrace every opportunity granted moving forward.
Another risk I took was leaving my friends, family, and boyfriend of 3 years at the time. Yes, they all supported me, but my parents were so worried about me and missed me like crazy. As for my relationship, I just put more distance and tension in our already long distance relationship. My being in Italy put a huge strain on our relationship especially because I was experiencing all of these fun, new, and crazy things, in a brand new place, and his routine hadn’t changed at all. The time difference and lack of wifi also almost killed us.
Everyday, I risked getting lost all while finding the beauty of getting lost and falling in love with stumbling upon somewhere unfamiliar. I risked losing my friends by not keeping in touch and by making new friends from all around the world who somehow had more in common with me than my friends back home. I risked ruining my relationship with my parents because I couldn’t always talk to them, while they were sad and worried about me, I was enjoying my time to myself and busy exploring. I risked losing my boyfriend, by staying awake until ungodly hours and doing a horrible job at keeping up with phone calls, skype chats, and snail mail.
I used to live my life to please those around me, but moving to Siena allowed me to put myself first. I risked looking like an idiot because I moved to a country where I barely knew the language, and by the time I left I was almost fluent and able to keep up a conversation with a friendly stranger on the street. I risked losing loved ones and no longer being the girl who always did what she was supposed to do, and in it, I found my passion for travel.