Bittersweet Like Dark Chocolate

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Finals are behind me and like them, this trip will be behind me in 2 days. I can’t believe it. All the amazing things that I have learned from my wonderful professors, all the delicious things I ate, all the beautiful sounds of children speaking in Italian and laughing like all 4 year olds, all of the sights of incredible objects of antiquity woven in with the body of a modern city, the blood red poppies I have smelled-do they smell differently because they are papavero (Italian)? This marvelous experience will be replayed in my mind forever more.

I have sharpened my skills of critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, management and cultural awareness in a way that would not have been possible by being in the same place. Coming to another country, letting go of all I am familiar with, truly tests those skills and lets you know where you can improve. While I am much older than the rest of the students on this trip, I feel like I benefited in a way different than theirs. I have experienced many of life’s gifts, challenges, sadness and joys already. These are the tools that have shaped who I am today; having this set of skills and knowledge have added to my encounter with another country and all that it has to offer, like condiments to a meal. It has made it more flavorful, sometimes saltier and many times sweeter.

For anyone who is thinking of studying abroad, I say go for it. Stand in front of your fears and say “Si se puede!” (Yes, I can do it). When you want something enough, you can create it, just look at me?

All things come balanced, and while this has been wonderful, the balance is the return home. Like dark chocolate, this can be both bitter and sweet. The bitter is the sorrow of the absence. The sweetest part is that no one can take this away from me. Long after I have come home, given away all the souvenirs, and worn through my clothing and shoes purchased in Paris, Milan and Greece, I will think fondly of all the glorious, sensational, and dreamy things I experienced.