Dear Study Abroad,
On May 13, after 122 days, I will return from you to small-town USA after making countless new memories and friends, boarding 44 planes, trains, and buses, visiting 27 cities, travelling through 13 countries, and having one new place to call home: Florence.
Coming into this experience, I had no idea what to expect. I was freaked out. I have always loved the comfort of my home and town, and I am very close to my family, so why in the heck would I think that I could leave all that behind for an entire semester?
Ha! I had no idea what I was getting myself into....
|Pisa with Sydney and Katie|
|The Crew in Florence|
Ever since I arrived in Europe I have been totally in my element; traveling, eating, drinking wine, and making friends… All right up my alley! Studying abroad has undoubtedly been the most adventurous, life-changing four months of my life. I have done my very best to enjoy every minute of my time, and I wouldn’t go back to change a minute of it.
My favorite part of my study abroad experience has definitely been meeting other travelers. Everywhere I’ve been –from hostels to pubs to trains – these people have been there to buddy up with. I’ve never connected so automatically with a “type” of people than I have with other travelers. There is never a dull moment when you’re with them; someone always has a story to tell about somewhere amazing they've been or something crazy they've done in their time on the road.
|New Canadian friends in Rome|
Although you could call all of these people I've been meeting "travelers," my favorite thing about them is that you can’t really put them all into a specific category. Sure, they’re generally free-spirited, maybe a little grimy, and can never seem to turn down a good time, but they all come from a different home and have a unique outlook on life to share. I'm so thankful for everything that all of these travelers, my new friends, have taught me and for all of the memories that I've made with them. They'll forever be dear to my heart.
|Crazy crew in Athens|
|Florence friends seaside in Sorrento|
Connecting with such a variety of people has opened my mind to a million different perspectives on a million different things. I think that my study abroad experience has made me more of a thinker, more conscious of the fact that others have different ideas and viewpoints, that I can’t do anything about that, and that, not only is that a good thing, but it is A-Okay.
To say I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to live, study, and travel in such a beautiful part of the world would be an understatement. I wish everyone were able to visit the places I’ve gotten to explore and meet all of the wonderful people I’ve had the privilege to get to know along my adventure. Every step of the way has truly been a blessing.
|New friends in Prague|
|La Crosse roomies take Roma|
Although I am bummed to be leaving my new home and friends so soon, I think I’m ready to head home to my quiet, comfortable corner of the world. I can’t leave, though, without first saying thanks to all of the wonderful people who made the last four months possible. My parents and all of the CEA staff are first on the list for everything from getting me here to shipping me back, and to all of the new friends I’ve made along the way… I wish I had enough room in my pockets to bring you back home to Wisco with me.
|Colorado friends in Florence|
|My main squeezes in Croatia|
Last, but most certainly not least, I have to thank Florence. No matter how long I was gone or what happened on my travels, Florence always welcomed me back with open arms and delicious food, and for that I am oh-so-grateful.
I’m hopeful that I will see all of you sooner or later, but for the time being… Arrevederci, Firenze and Europe! You will be greatly missed.
Ciao for now,
Emma Lamke is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Read more about our CEA MOJO Bloggers & Photographers.