Nicholas, Siena, Spring 2013
July 15, 2013

I was sitting on the Metro train yesterday pontificating, as most Metro riders do, and I realized something about myself and about all the people around me: we have all defined ourselves-whether we like it or not- by the perspectives we have experienced through the opportunities we have taken advantage of.

Thanks to SAI and SIS I was provided a truly defining change in perspective on the world and on myself by the opportunities they gave to me.

As I shared and have reflected upon many times before, during, and after my time in Italy, I was drawn to Italy and the Italian language very early on in my life. I remember sitting in my grandparent’s home early in the morning and hearing them bicker and complain in a language I never even heard, phrases zipping past my cereal bowl as my eyes flew between the two. It wasn’t until a school project on interviewing a family member that I learned about how my grandfather and grandmother met in Italy halfway between their respective homes in Rome and Naples. It wasn’t until I heard about how my grandfather fought an internal war between his American and Italian heritage while serving for the U.S. army in WWII. But most of all, it wasn’t until I truly saw the passion, love, and beauty my grandparent’s took on when they began to rattle off in their secret language.

After SAI offered me the scholarship, I knew I was going to Italy and that my life would change.

During my time in Italy I set out with three goals in mind: to explore without fear, to connect with my heritage and with my family still in Italy, and to find the natural pace of my life. What I never expected to happen was that these decisions would lead me to learn things and notice things about the world and about myself that would help me define how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

It is impossible for me to explain how the learning felt or what truly changed about me, I am still noticing new things about myself and the people around me never hesitate to remind me of the changes I have made. What I can say is that the time I spent in Italy and especially the people I met made me realize that though my life was not in Italy, I had a built a connection that would never leave me.

By gaining new perspectives in Italy, by learning in Italy, I developed a part of myself in Italy and it in me.


Nicholas Mathis is a student at the College of William and Mary studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Spring 2013 term.


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