Okay, this isn’t going to be a full-on, in depth, year in review type of blog post (Yes it is Elisse, don’t lie). I’m sitting on my couch tonight at home, and I was thinking about how I stopped blogging about my study abroad, and how I’m probs not gonna finish those posts (though I have them saved as drafts in my WordPress…), and I was thinking, “well, if I don’t finish those, it’s not a big deal, but I do want to do something to summarize my time and experience in Italy.” And then I wanted to add to that and make it into a post about my 2017 as a whole.
Typically, my peers and I spend most of our year in school, so 90% of the time I think of the year in terms of semesters, like the year starts in September and ends in June with summer in between. Obviously, that’s not how time actually functions.
At the beginning of 2017, I was preparing for Austen to leave. My heart was feeling so weighed down by the thought of my best friend leaving me for 5 months, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could, making a million memories before he left. I also spent a lot of time reminding myself “Elisse, Austen’s coming back. Relax. It’s just 5 months.” I whined and complained about him being gone a lot, but also during that time, I really kicked my butt in gear.
I worked really hard in my classes and did really well, I worked a lot at my job, got promoted to a shift leader, grew so much closer with my roommates, moved into a new house with some new roommates, applied to study abroad in Italy, got my passport and my visa, bought my plane ticket, left my job at Caribou for the summer so I could work with my mom and make as much money as possible before I left, my best friend got married on June 10th and it was a magical beautiful day, I planned out my next few semesters, organized and organized, etc.
July 25th, Austen came home and I was so beyond happy. We went on dates and hung out while I wasn’t working, went to the state fair, and for my birthday I had a small get together with close friends and family before I left for Italy. I spent time packing and planning and re-packing and getting incredibly anxious. I kept blogging about being nervous and anxious and sad to leave. August 28th, my family and Austen drove me to Chicago, and I flew from Chicago directly to Rome, navigated my way from Rome to Florence, and from the train station to the hotel.
I spent my birthday in a foreign country celebrating with my host family and new roommates who were basically still strangers at this point. I started classes that were amazing, challenging, and SO enlightening. I learned more than I ever thought I would, in all my classes. I made projects, did a lot of painting, studied a lot and wrote a super long paper on something I lacked information on, I gave a couple oral presentations, and I made a bunch of new friends in my classes.
I did the dishes for my host mom as much as I could, I tried to keep my half of my room clean and organized (so my thoughts were organized too), I missed my family until Dallas and my parents came to visit me!!
I traveled to Cinque Terre, Pisa, Arezzo, Venice, Rome, and Amsterdam (I technically also spent a fair amount of time in Zurich, Switzerland while at the airport). I saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Venetian Canals, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, sites that I’ve only ever seen in pictures on Google before.
I took midterms for the first time, turned in some major projects and faced critiques. I missed my family and friends and Austen molto, I learned a lot more Italian, then when I went to Amsterdam, I got to speak a lot of English! I saw the IAmsterdam sign, celebrated Sinter Klaas with the Dutch, went to the Van Gogh museum with my good friend Annika FROM HOME, who was an amazing host and tour guide, and it was so lovely to spend time with someone I already know.
I longed to be home, I missed my family, but I still tried my very best to treasure the moments I had left in Florence. I bought a few gifts for people at home, I packed up my bags, and re-packed them (to make sure I was under the weight limit), I said teary goodbyes to my wonderful roommates and host family, and I flew home.
RANDOM STORY: I met this girl named Reyna on the plane, who was flying with me all the way from Rome to MSP, who knew. We sat next to each other on the flight from Dublin to Chicago, and then I realized she was going to Minneapolis, so I just stayed with her for the whole evening until our 9:15 flight back to MN. Her luggage was lost, and then she found out the flight she had booked to MSP was somehow canceled, but I stayed with her to make sure she got everything figured out. She was eventually able to fly standby, and was given a first class seat home to Minneapolis 🙂 God is good! She was so scared and I almost thought it was weird that I was with her for so long, wondering if she thought it was like creepy or bizarre that I wouldn’t leave. I just felt like I needed to stay there with her, and then God reassured me that I was doing the right thing when Reyna turned to me and said, “Oh my gosh, thank you so much for staying. You don’t have to but I really appreciate it.” And I kept reminding her that I want to be there for her!!
I arrived home at 10:30pm on December 16th, got all my luggage, Austen picked me up at the airport (he’s so handsome in person it’s unreal), and I gave Reyna a huge hug goodbye, and her mom thanked me for staying with her. Austen brought me home, and I slept a lot, and it took about two weeks for my body to recover from the jetlag.
Now, it’s been almost exactly a month since I’ve been home. I have had a lot of time to reflect on what I’ve learned, and I’ve been surprised at times to realize what exactly God’s done in my heart. In some ways I can tell I’m reverting back to old habits since I’m home, but for the most part I’ve learned lessons that won’t leave me any time soon.
I learned so much more in my classes than I thought I would. I am so much better prepared to go back to school, since my experience abroad was so intense (and I’m thankful for it! Even if I wasn’t in the moment).
I learned about patience and grace, the two main themes I’ve mentioned before. I learned how to have grace with myself, grace with others, and patience with myself and others, and situations. It’s amazing what that kind of self-care can do for you, and for your relationships when you show others grace and patience.
My brain tends to function in the future-tense, always planning ahead, planning for the worst and best-case scenarios, and God just shakes his head at me. I am always planning and God is ALWAYS changing my plans. Smh you’d think I would learn but no. I don’t. I’m still learning how to accept and appreciate God’s timing.
I learned to let go of putting other’s emotional well-being before my own. Last year I was trying really hard to make others happy that in some cases, I would completely sacrifice my own emotional health. I would in turn be left completely burnt out, and bitter, and I didn’t know how to deal with the frustration I was feeling.
I worked on being okay with confrontation in some situations, learning how to tell people how I was really feeling instead of holding it in and letting it fester and grow into something worse.
I learned to be thankful for what I had, and where I was. It’s easy in America to get caught up in the materialistic culture, but I learned quickly that you are more content when you focus on what you already have, even if it’s hard. I had to make do in some situations (not traveling internationally as much as I would have wanted), but ovviamente I still had an unbelievable time.
I asked a super talented friend of mine to design a tattoo for me based on the words patience and grace, so I’m really excited to see what she comes up with. It will be a great way to commemorate my experience in Italy with the two things God’s taught me the most this year.
Here’s to 2018! Buon Nuovo Anno! Happy New Year!