I didn’t know I needed Italy until I got there. I had no idea I had one of those “great voids” in me until I stepped into the pulse and heat of the Rome airport. In that moment, though I had no sense of absence, I felt wholeness—a wholeness that continued into my first taste of real olive oil, drizzled between a bed of cooked bread and frittata. Or in light rain, peering at an Italian fountain, the gray façade spilling into the water below. I hate to say I found myself in Italy (though I certainly discovered a new love of DJing at a local bar). Rather, that first study abroad trip brought me to a home wide and rolling with Umbrian hills, soft wind, and the spiced twist of language.
And when you find home, you come back to it. I returned the following summer, found a family, and played soccer with their small children on a farm framed with laundry. I made friendships, taught Italians the Cupid Shuffle in a café in town, while they taught me how to make crepes with Nutella, and how to find the best gelateria (always nearby). I became immersed in the intimacies of being Italian. No one mentions the allure of graffiti on a high-speed train, the heat and rhythm of Roman traffic, or the thrill of an Italian basketball game. You can’t know these things as a tourist. Italy waits, ebbing with new experiences. It waits for my inevitable return, waits for one more student looking for home.
My favorite part of the study-abroad experience was the location itself. Spoleto is absolutely gorgeous, and I fell in love with it the first night, as I watched the sun set behind the 11th-century aqueduct. The option to sit at one of many nearby cafés, too, and enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee while doing course work was fantastic. There was always something to see and do in Spoleto, and the entire atmosphere of the city changed each week. One day the city could be almost deserted, and the next day it’s packed with visitors participating in a wine festival. My apartment was located next to a busy piazza, which served as a hub for many of the city’s activities. It seemed like there was a concert every other night right outside my balcony.
The entire city of Spoleto is picturesque and full of history. There is something almost magical about waking up and having a cup of coffee right next to a Roman amphitheater. A real Roman amphitheater. Studying Greek and Italian texts like the Odyssey and Aeneid is completely different when you are surrounded by actual representations of events in the stories. Study Abroad Italy is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I would encourage students to do everything they can to go. Though my trip is over, I came back with a lifetime of experiences, a love of wine, a changed perspective of Italian culture, and a strong desire to return as soon as I can.