From the moment I entered this world, I let my parents know that their daughter had been graced with a very large appetite. Like a baby bird, my eyes stayed wide and my mouth open, hungry for food of the brain and the stomach. My appetite for life remains and the nickname “Bird” stuck around too. In my adventures away from home, I often find my mother sharing one simple piece of wisdom with me, “Bird, you’ve got your roots, but you’ve also got your wings.”
Studying abroad in Florence is the opportunity I’ve awaited to spread my wings and fly—quite literally, August 28th marked my first (and farthest) flight across seas and away from my family. The first two weeks I’ve spent in Firenze have filled both my soul and stomach, but I can’t help but long for home with my Mom’s birthday marking my three weeks here. When the homesickness creeps in, I try to stop myself and remember where I am. I’ve found a home here, in my walks through Piazza Santa Croce, in my traditional Italian apartment, in the “buongiorno’s” I exchange on the street and in the faces of my new friends.
To be fully present in Florence, I tend to push thoughts of home to the side. But, when the inevitable homesickness reaches my consciousness, I’ve found it more helpful to accept my longing for family and remember that my “roots” are what encourage me to grow my “wings.” So, in the spirit of my mom’s birthday and new adventures abroad, I extend what I’ve learned at home to augment my fantastic experiences here.
Since flying more than 4,200 miles from my roots, I have found three words to be my guiding lights: eat, connect and learn. As an Italian-American, I first became acquainted with my heritage through my grandmother’s dishes. In coming to Florence, I have had the chance to explore authentic foods in trattorias and in our kitchen at home. From roasted eggplant to fried gnocchi, my family loves to see what my friends and I have been cooking up—it helps us connect on what we’ve always known and open our minds to new tastes.
It has always been a priority of my parents to encourage connection and communication with others unlike ourselves. While they never had the chance to go abroad, it was a dream of theirs to give me the opportunity to. When I get homesick, I remember their dreams have made mine a reality. I know that I am here for a reason, and so are all of my peers in SAI. It is our responsibility to meet others and engage in the Italian culture and community—it is also how we will grow as people.
More than anything else, my time here is a learning process. I will not return home the same Isabel, but I will always retain the same roots. I stress my mother’s wisdom because what she is saying is relevant to all of us abroad. As we eat, connect and learn, we will change and grow but it is our roots that have got us to this amazing point. They are worth celebrating and honoring as the homesickness creeps in. When we remember why we are here and how we arrived to this chapter in our lives, our appetite for life will only grow and our wings will take us to the places we want to go.
Isabel is a Fall 2017 Florence University of the Arts (FUA) student from George Washington University.