I have been living in Siena for one month and I am already calculating how many months, weeks, days, hours and seconds I have left so that I can savor every single moment. I’ve always been one to feel homesick. I vividly remember crying myself to sleep every night at sleep-away camp in middle school. I remember refusing to sleep over other people’s homes, claiming “my mom won’t let me,” purely because I could not stand the discomfort and sadness I felt when I was away from home.
I’ve grown up and matured since then, and haven’t felt those extremes since pre-high school, but I anticipated that the homesick sadness would return once I moved here, to Siena.
My anticipations could not have been more inaccurate.
It seems irrational and naive, but Siena feels like more of a home to me in just one month than Pennsylvania, or even Boston, for that matter. I think the key to understanding why I feel the way I do is to reflect on what I am learning about myself while living here in Italy.
I am learning to laugh at myself. I think it is safe to say that I fail at speaking Italian more often than I succeed. When I fail to communicate with strangers, my host family or even my teachers, I laugh. I laugh because together both my teacher and I, both a stranger and I, both my host mom and I, have the capability to understand each other, yet we can’t merely because of the sounds leaving my mouth. At the end of the day, we are all humans and we have many of the same wants, needs, thoughts etc. So, in reality, even if those I try to communicate with can’t understand the noises I am making, they understand me. Eventually, we can always find common ground. So… I may as well laugh at myself when I start speaking Spanish instead of Italian (even though I don’t know Spanish?) Right?
I am learning to trust. I have to trust; it is an integral part of immersion. I am living with a family I met a short while ago. They were chosen for me. I didn’t know who they were until they kissed me on both cheeks when I got off the bus. I must trust them, but I also naturally trust them because they trust me.
I mean, think about it, they let me into their home and they give me the freedom to be in their space by myself (literally the first weekend they went to the Alps for a mini vacation and left me to my own devices). I think that their trust for me is what allows me to trust them.
You know, treat others how you want to be treated?
I am learning to try. Even though I make mistakes *every. single. day.* I wake up the next morning ready and willing to try again. Even though there are pretty awful moments, they are nothing compared to the extremely rewarding moments. Every time I correctly order a coffee, accurately communicate my feelings, crack a joke and make my host family laugh at dinner, or catch a smile from a stranger I am motivated to keep trying to do better, to live better and to immerse myself even deeper.
I am learning to relax.
It’s true, Italians are never on time. It doesn’t necessarily affect the way I personally live, though, because I still strive to be (and I always am) on time. But what it does effect is the environment I live in. There is no “hustle and bustle” in the city. Contrary to my experiences in Boston, tranquility always prevails. Here in Siena, tranquility is the air we breathe.
My anxiety has never been more at bay and yet, I am still organized, still prompt, still responsible, and still “on top of it.” It is so empowering to be set free from the part of yourself that has been so relentlessly debilitating for your entire life.
I’ve realized that sometimes homes are found in places other than where you were born or where your family is. Home, sometimes, is comfort. It is a place where you are able to not just merely survive, but also thrive.
Coco is a spring 2017 SAI Siena student from Muhlenberg College.