This week, America celebrates Thanksgiving. A holiday about reflecting on how grateful we are for our friends, our families, and the experiences we are fortunate enough to have had in our lives. In 2014, I am grateful for so much. This year, I have had the opportunity to travel, to see beautiful places, and to meet people who have impacted my life for the better.
In January, I moved to Sorrento, Italy. In a short period of time, this place became my home. It wasn’t just the cobble-stone streets, the clichés of vespas driving by my window every morning, or the pizza and pasta, so delicious I still crave it almost every day. It wasn’t the view of Mt. Vesuvius outside of my classroom window, the ocean just minutes from me at any given moment, or the sunshine of January. This foreign city was wonderful to me because of the people who I connected with almost instantly, and who I will cherish throughout my life.
I went on this trip not knowing a soul, though a majority of the students already had the benefit of knowing each other back in the States at either Alfred State or Plymouth University. They had the advantage of seeing familiar faces in a foreign city, but I believe I was the luckiest in the situation. I was free to be a whole new person, and to make my own, unique experiences. And trust me, I certainly did.
At Sant’Anna Institute, I took an archaeology class, an Italian class and international business. They were practical, but also relevant and incredibly interesting! On top of that, I held two internship positions: one as a consultant for a local businessman, and I also managed a free civic engagement class for the community to learn English through conversation with the study abroad students. When I look back, it’s amazing how much I accomplished. Something I was attracted to with this program was the close-knit community that the University offered. It reminded me of Susquehanna University, my campus in Pennsylvania.
I miss Sorrento all of the time. Social Media, with its attempt to connect the globe, mostly just brings out my nostalgia more. I see posts from the local friends I made in Sorrento – they’re at my favorite restaurants, they’re laying on the beach, they’re simply speaking in a language that I want to hear every day again. Social Media has also allowed relationships to foster – especially with the American friends I made. We have a Facebook group where someone posts an inside joke between us, or reminisces on our time abroad almost daily. Having people who understand how amazing Sorrento is, how life-changing our time was there, is exactly the support system I needed after this trip.
When I returned back to the United States, I didn’t struggle with culture re-entry, as some may have. Of course I missed Sorrento the moment my plane took off, but I also had missed my home in New York. So now, I have two homes. I know that at any given time, I could catch a flight to Napoli, ride the airport bus back to Sorrento, and be welcomed by familiar faces. The thought of Sorrento brings forth the feeling of comfort, of familiarity, and most importantly, sheer happiness. So this week, when my family and I go around the Thanksgiving Dinner table to give our thanks, I will be thinking of my gratitude towards the city that stole my heart: sweet Sorrento.