I have to say, celebrating the Fourth of July in a different country was a weird experience. While I know I’m not the biggest fan of America and the current administration, not seeing people all decked out in American flag gear and expressing high amounts of American-themed patriotism and nationalism on a nation-wide day off was a new experience. After going 21 years of celebrating America with fireworks, cookouts, celebrations, and an excuse to take a day off and spend time with family and friends, experiencing America’s birthday while abroad was a good reminder of how self-centered American society is and how little Americans pay attention to global relations and politics in other countries. Although it’s understandable how Americans tend to pay more attention to what’s going on in America and not have to worry too much about global politics because of how landlocked the country is and how big of a superpower we are for the rest of the world, it’s refreshing to be in a country and a culture that’s concerned with other countries’ politics and how they affect each other – something that was made clear with the rest of this summer and came to a pinnacle for the Fourth of July.
Another thing that I’ve noticed in the past week is how different my view on my time abroad and my program has changed since the beginning of my time abroad. What kickstarted this was a conversation that I had with my dad recently on what I thought about the people in my program and what I thought about my program and Italy in general. When I first landed, I remembered being nervous and scared of the idea that I was so far away from my family and that, if anything happened to them or to me and we needed to be in the same place at the same time, that it would be hard to do because of how long it takes to get to Italy from the U.S. (i.e., if something happened where someone ended up unexpectedly passing away or getting seriously injured this summer, how difficult it would be getting from one place to the other, and how we’d cope if something like that did happen), feeling as if I had little to no safety net while over here (yes, I had IES and the people who ran my internship program, but I didn’t know them and I didn’t trust them for if or when something dangerous or serious happened and I needed immediate help with something), and if I’d be able to make friends during my time in Rome (an anxiety-filled and slightly childish fear, but it was still a legitimate fear because I didn’t want to have to be left alone in a foreign country with no one to explore Italy with, hang out, and lean on if I needed help with something – especially after recently losing my older sister and feeling slightly more alone in the universe).
However, after spending the past couple of weeks with my roommates and several other close friends, I realized that those fears were simply just that – fears. The people in charge of my internship program – IES – have been in business since at least the 1950s or the 1960s and have procedures in place in case of a family emergency that requires my family to come to me or me to go back to the States to be with my family, and they have other emergency procedures in place for literally anything and everything that you can think of in terms of having an emergency abroad (and that includes if you lose a passport, a phone, or a wallet; if you get stuck somewhere and need transportation; and literally anything and anything that someone could possibly think of). And, with almost everyone in my program being in the same boat as me – not really knowing anyone else and being thousands of miles away from home – I was able to get a great group of friends that I’ve had some of the greatest experiences of my life with, and that I trust with my life (literally, I don’t know what I’d do without them if I hadn’t met them and gotten to know them so well).
I have to say, as scary as studying abroad seemed at the beginning of the summer, especially after losing a loved one and being afraid of being so far away from home with hardly anyone that I initially knew or trusted, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. And for those who are planning on going abroad, don’t be afraid to ask about anything that comes across your mind – from where to buy chapstick to what to do if a family member dies while you’re abroad – because it’s better to know before leaving the country rather than figuring that out once you land. And making friends with the other people in your program really isn’t as bad as it seems – most people in your program will be in the same boat as you, and all you have to do is start talking to them and getting to know them in order to really make friends during your time abroad (trust me, it might seem scary, but it really isn’t!).