Last week was the final week of my internship program with IES and LivItaly (it was a for-credit internship that was offered through IES, and my placement was at LivItaly for those of you confused on how things were working out with that this summer). Not going to lie, the entire week felt a little bittersweet since I’d most likely never see many of the people in my program again after it ended, even though I was glad to have met them and spent most of the summer with them. And, after having my own older sister pass away last summer, that feeling of bittersweetness was only intensified because my own personal definition and coping mechanisms surrounding goodbyes, feelings of loss and sadness over leaving people, and having to move on from people making an impact on your life and suddenly not being a part of your life anymore.
Because of that – and a scary incident where I was separated from friends and ended up lost near a highway after a night out, similar to what happened to my sister since she was hit on her way home alone from a night out with friends – deeply affected my last week and made me uncomfortable with going out and even hanging out with my friends because I was superstitious and afraid of something similar happening to myself, mixed with trying to soften the blow of potentially never seeing my friends from the program again after it ended. But, looking back on it, I regret not taking the chance and hanging out with my friends more last week and spending more time with them. After being back in the U.S., I realized that this summer helped me to feel more like a kid my own age and actually happy instead of faking it for the first time in what feels like years.
Although I had to cut my time in Italy short because of personal reasons, I’m more than ready to go back again in the future and even possibly try working there again. And now that I’ve got some experience with traveling and working abroad by myself, I’m way more confident in my abilities to travel alone, be safe, work and live with people from different cultures (shoutout to my coworkers at LivItaly and my Italian Student Companion Valentina), be open-minded when dealing with people from other cultures, and not take certain things for granted (lookin’ at you, free water from restaurants). Along with that, I do have to say that America definitely is a mixture of a melting pot and a mixed salad – there are definitely a lot of Italian influences that are still very prominent in American culture (pizza, wine culture, pasta cooking classes, etc.), and some that aren’t as obvious that have mixed in with other cultural influences (family dinners; family businesses; networking through and with families to find jobs – and yes, as surprising as that might be, that’s a thing that some Americans do; etc.). I’m beyond grateful for my time abroad, and I’m looking forward to the next time that I get to go abroad.