“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
In September/October of 2015, I did something incredible: I travelled to Italy. Going to Italy has always been a true dream of mine, and I was finally able to cross it off my bucket list. To be able to spend a whole week abroad in an exchange program was life changing and it was a roller coaster ride from start to finish.
Eighteen American students were paired with eighteen Italian students; it is truly marvelous how quickly teenagers are able to put trust in one another. It did not take more than two days for everyone to get comfortable with one another. The Italian families were incredibly accommodating, but so was Italy itself. I woke up every morning to a refreshingly chilly breeze that smelled of apples and a view of snow-dusted mountains rising not far in the distance, peaking in the crystal blue sky.
The town’s economy thrives on the production of the apple and every stretch of land was covered in apple trees. In my one week in Italy, I was blown away by the breathtaking landscapes of Milan, and the sights of Venice (which, I must say, are not done justice by the photos). Through this trip, I met amazing people who took me into their home and showed me true kindness. I learned that people love to learn about each other, despite the fronts we put up. My Italian host family was beyond excited to learn about both my American and Indian cultures. My host mom even tried to make chicken curry and french fries for me!
Over the course of that week, our exchange partners and their families became close friends of ours. More than that, all thirty six of us became a family. We were hugging and crying by the time we had to leave Italy. What started as blank stares and awkward hugs quickly became genuine smiles and warm embraces.
Then, a very long-awaited couple months later, most of our Italian students returned. We explored parts of Boston and showed them our very own beautiful historical sites and showered them in the same love they showed us. But somehow the week passed without us even knowing and everyone was sobbing and hugging again, because this time, there was no guarantee that we would see each other again.
Now, whenever I walk around Boston, or ride a bus, or hear a whisper of Italian, I will be reminded of the emptiness that I feel from knowing and loving amazing people from around the globe. Still, this story ends on a happy note.
I nearly backed out of the entire exchange, worried that it might be too uncomfortable or too scary. I freaked myself out with every possible worst-case scenario. But, like I said, Italy was a dream of mine and I wanted to go there, so I ignored all the worst cases, and thought of the best ones, and indeed those were the ones that I saw with my own eyes. So rather than enduring a week of school, I went to Italy and learned that discovering other cultures in the world is something truly eye-opening. Enjoying the limitless kindness of strangers while admiring the beauties of their land, human connection, falling in love with the world– this is what we live for.
Adventures and risk taking are the best ways to learn, and it doesn’t take a trip across the world to do that. (That being said, should you ever come across the opportunity to travel, grab it and don’t you dare let go.)
So take a chance today –on anything– because you’ll never know how absolutely perfect it could turn out to be.