Ciao a tutti!
The real countdown begins as I approach the two week mark for my departure from Denver on September 4th. The last few weeks have consisted of final preparations that are time-consuming (paired with some small and boring tasks), but necessary.
At the beginning of August, I jutted off on a 40 hour mother-daughter trip to Chicago for some good ol' fashioned shoe shopping on Magnificent Mile -- oh, I almost forgot that I got my visa as well. ;) While the Italian consul woman was troppo cranky, she did mention that Sanremo is "a very beautiful city" and that I am "very, very lucky". These things I already knew, but it made me excited to hear that from a native Italian! (Not to mention that it made the two hour wait we had in the waiting room a little less frustrating. I guess a taste of Italians' slow-paced ways was beneficial.)
Since then, my days have been spent running around to various stores buying last-minute essentials. Nobody likes to shop for adapters, undergarments and toiletries, but it has to be taken care of! When I am not running errands, I am pushing through Rosetta Stone (a program that has recently become very mundane), working to make spending money, working out to prepare for the weight I've been told every girl gains on exchange, and spending crucial moments with my family.
This weekend I had my "Arrivederci!" party. While this event was amazing because I got to see many loving friends and family members, it was a loud wake-up call. I had planned this event for a month and knew I would be leaving a two short weeks after my party, but it all seemed like a distant dream. When all the lasagne was in the oven and balloons were being placed around the house on Sunday morning, I knew that my dream was surfacing and joining my reality. I got flashes of these familiar faces becoming images on my iPad screen, or names at the bottom of sweet, foreign letters. Anxieties about my language abilities in Italian and their hinderance on the friend-making process and how much I would miss my family all surfaced and I started to sweat about the experience. But then something came in and swept my worries far away -- a Skype call with my host family.
Just an hour before my party, my mom and I decided to squeeze in a quick yet long-awaited Skype call with my host family. Though we anticipated communication troubles due to language, we made a plan of action. My mom was to speak to them in Spanish (as she is fluent), and I was to use my mediocre Italian and Spanish in any way I could. To our surprise, we could have talked for hours in our total smash-up of Spanish and Italian, because everyone in the conversation knew sufficient levels of both languages! On top of that, my host family was even more warm and welcoming than I could have imagined. (And my host mom can make a scrumptious batch of lasagna, paella and tiramisu... SCORE!) Seeing them in motion instead of reading their instant messages just conveyed their true essence so much better to me. Their love along with words of support and encouragement took away 90% of my nervousness and made me want to hop on a plane the second after we got off the call. I cannot wait to Skype them again with my dad and brother included. AFS, if ever you have made a correct/perfect match between a student and their host family, I believe it to be this one!
Although I am ecstatic about my host family and the overall experience, my parents and I are starting to feel the pressure of the separation ahead of us. Both my mom and dad have started wondering how they will make it through the year due to our closeness and the amount of time I spend with them on a regular basis. I always denied that I would get homesick because I felt like a child that was meant to travel and be shared with the world, but now I realize no exchange student will be immune to the sadness of being away from loved ones. But do not be fooled. While we are all a little anxious, nobody could be more excited or proud of me than my parents and family members and I am so glad to be supported.
While I can't be sure of the future experiences that lie ahead (no matter how many times I try to play out every possible situation in my head as I lie in bed), I know in my heart that this journey will be unlike anything I have ever imagined. The emotional roller coaster will blast on for the next year, and with it, my knowledge of the world and myself will expand. I can already say, if you have any desire to travel the world, DO IT. And if you have embarked on this journey alongside me, I cannot wait to meet you in a matter of weeks. :)
On a last note, this much has proved true: "When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it." -Paulo Coelho. So go on and live your lives well, with purpose, drive, and happiness!