At first I was afraid of looking cheesy. I’m not a fan of icebreaker games or team building exercises. I told myself I was studying abroad for the accademia, for the chance to see Reggio Emilia schools in the flesh. I blew off the thought of frivolous travel outside the city – I’m already paying for the lodging here why pay more to go somewhere else? I must have thought I was somehow better than the average student abroad: the white Christian upper-middle class young woman who lives between so much privilege and so much targeted sexism. In wanting to avoid being basic, I rejected the thought of having a traditional study abroad experience. When I stepped off the last plane in a 36-hour transit I was almost immediately proven wrong.
I thought I would find independence during this experience, but instead I found that I relied on extreme interdependence. I travel in groups of three or ten girls at all times, rely on others for directions, have booked two travel excursions so far with plans to book two more, and I photograph everything I eat. I have not made one effort to learn Italian and instead am enjoying musical interpreters and guides whose careers depend on my conversion-confused tourist euros. My smartphone camera is on Quick Draw. Everyday, I am more and more convinced that the opposite of what I’d anticipated is true. And yet I’m learning things about myself- it’s happening!
While I am here to learn about language and literacy of young children for my elementary education degree, the purpose that this trip is fulfilling is that of one long, expensive, gorgeous, esteem building exercise. Everyone around me is growing together, forging lasting friendships, and enjoying each other’s presence in the most genuine and sincere ways possible. It’s not just about Italy, it’s about all of us bonding, being here and mindful for one long moment in space and time, as young adults with all of our real responsibilities thousands of miles and at least a couple years away.