Sunday, July 1, 2012

England / End

I am now back in the United States. My family moved last week from Mississippi to Virginia for good, so I came back to a new house. My room is currently a mess, littered with clothes, papers, boxes to unpack, and who knows what else. My exchange year has finally come to an end, and that means this blog must end as well. This will be my last post.

Last week I went to England with two school friends, Celeste and Giorgia. We stayed with a friend of Celeste's family in a village called Thame, which is close to Oxford. During the week in England we took day trips to the cities of Oxford, Salisbury (including Stonehenge nearby), and London. Needless to say, London was by far my favorite place, even though it was unbelievably expensive. Not to mention that the pound to dollar ratio was very hurtful when it came to spending money. But I'm just saying--they wanted 15 pounds to enter Westminster Abbey. Really? -.-
town hall of Thame
Big Ben / Houses of Parliament in London
We went to see Chicago on the West End!
I came back from England late Wednesday night the 27th and finished packing on Thursday the 28th. That day was also filled with goodbyes, as I saw my friends for the last time. I went out to dinner with my host parents and we watched the Italy-Germany soccer match, which Italy surprisingly won. :-) Friday morning the 29th we all got up super early to have breakfast together and then take me to the airport. I left Italy at 9:50 and endured the following 10 hour flight to Atlanta, where I had to change flights. The next flight left an hour late and so I arrived in DC at 7:15 pm. Seeing my family again for the first time in 10 months was strange but not as weird as I thought it'd be. Now that I've been with them in the new house for a day, I already feel readjusted to family life. At times it feels as if I've never left. Maybe I'm just fooling myself; maybe the real challenge of readjusting to American life is yet to come. But maybe it won't be as difficult as I expected.

I spent my last day in Milano reflecting on the past year and how it had changed me. The easiest way to concretely remember what all I have done is to glance through my photo albums on Facebook or this blog; in this way, I suddenly am reminded of the dozens of incredible places and unforgettable experiences I've had, all since last September. Many people go their entire lives without seeing the things I saw this year. How is it possible that in 10 months I visited much of Italy, as well as Berlin, Paris, and various cities in England? It's difficult for me to grasp. In the plane for Atlanta, before we took off in Milano, the in-flight screen showed the map of Italy, along with all the nearby cities. I suddenly experienced a wave of nostalgia, thinking back on all the trips I took across Italia, la bella terra. This year I learned that Italy is truly a unique country. Every single city, no matter how small, has its own culture and history. There is something special about every place you go. No two cities or towns are alike. And understanding this fundamental aspect of Italy made me so emotional that I knew that I would have to return, whether short or long term, at some point in the future. I miss it already, and I've only been gone a few hours.

The thing that really saddens me is how no other person can know what I know about Italy. No other person has visited the exact combination of places, in the exact amount of time, with the exact group of friends. My experience this year has been unique in every sense, and I wish dearly that I could share it with everyone, especially my family and closest friends. But I can't. I can attempt to describe my year, but it will never come close to portraying how it really was.

Milano will always be my home, and I cannot wait to return there. It is a city that I know better than my hometown. I have people there who love me. And it is in a country that is unlike any other.