One week before I leave Siena. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about counting down to my departure. There are certainly a lot of things that I am excited to return to, but there are things here that I don’t want to leave. The city of Siena is definitely one of those things. The city is currently decadently lit with Christmas lights and signs up and down every street, with Christmas trees in most squares. As soon as the sun goes down, the city lights up. But the Christmas spirit here does bring a bit of nostalgia, and makes me want to go home to enjoy Christmas with my family. As I reflect on leaving, the one thing that I will probably miss most about Siena is the connection I have to Europe while living here. The ease of travel and the history and culture that is so tangible and only a train ride or cheap flight away. The concept of travel here in Europe is not something that, I think, exists in the US. For me, this is because there is not a significant difference culturally between the different states, at least not to the level it is in Europe.
As I stare down calendar, both excited and depressed about leaving, I think about re-adjusting to America. We’ve gotten “warned” about reverse culture shock and things of that nature and I can’t decide if that will be an issue or not. But it does make me think about what I will bring back, not physically of course, home that I did not leave with. I feel like I will be more confident, because everything should be easier considering I will be in an environment where I fluently speak the language again. More than that, I understand and can effortlessly participate in the culture. A lot of times here, even if I knew my Italian was good enough to get through a certain situation, I still hadn’t learned or mastered the cultural cues so it would still be painfully obvious that I was a foreigner. So being back home, nothing will be as hard when I know how to act and react in every situation. I gained confidence not only from functioning in a country where I didn’t speak the language, but also from all the travel. I did a lot of traveling on my own, where I was the one responsible for all the details, for getting places on time in foreign countries and those experiences, because I more or less always succeeded, have done a lot for my confidence.
But I think at the end of the day, especially because it’s Christmas time, I think I just need my family, I just need to be warm and cozy at home with the big Christmas tree in the living room, packed with ornaments, with the fire on and a blanket of snow on the ground outside. That sounds just fine to me.
Patrick is a student at College of William and Mary studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Fall 2013 term.