I am now comfortably resettled back in the United States and can fully examine and review my experience abroad.
I can confidently say that there are very few things that I would do differently, maybe try to spend a little less money, but overall, I am incredibly pleased with the way that I spent my semester. I say that knowing full well that a return trip to Europe is anything but guaranteed. There are things that I was not able to do but I would not exchange them for the experiences that had. For a young man that had previously spent very little time outside of his comfort zone, there are so many intangible things that I am so grateful that my last semester was able to provide.
I know that I am more confident, in general but also in unfamiliar situations and environments. I feel that I have better people skills because I had to interact with completely different mindsets and backgrounds while in Europe. There is also a sense of appreciation that I have gained regarding my life in the US and the American lifestyle in general. There is such an air of superiority that I think goes unnoticed in the United States. Of course, American affairs are prioritized, as they should be, but I feel that little to no attention is paid to other countries unless it is negative attention. I believe that we could learn a lot from the way that other countries operate and live their lives but we don’t pick our heads up high enough to see out over our own borders. Unfortunately, this could be a result of our historical isolationist tendencies and the simple fact that we are geographically separate from Europe but in an age where everything is a click of a mouse or a search on our phone away, this isn’t an acceptable excuse anymore. It is certainly a “global” world we live in today, everyone and everything is inches away in cyberspace.
I want to keep a part of the Italian lifestyle with me because I think they live “right”. The pace of life is slower, the family is emphasized, food is precious and almost deified and one’s schedule can always be changed to roll with the punches. Compare that to the American lifestyle, a rigid, stressful 9-5 day where food comes from wherever I can get it the fastest and the family unit is unfortunately falling apart. Yes, this is a bit of an exaggeration but the point is clear for me. I want the best of both worlds.
I’ve turned this into a bit of a soapbox but I wouldn’t be able to rant about these things if I had not spent my previous semester abroad. It has dramatically affected my life in the near future and beyond.
Thank you for the opportunity and your generosity.
Patrick is a current student at College of William and Mary studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Fall 2013 term.