I’m sitting on my suitcase in front of Vickroy, my residence hall, nervously toying with the edges of my blanket scarf. I tuck my straightened hair behind my ear, feeling another round of nervous butterflies erupt when the shuttle pulls up in front of the building. The six other classmates I’m traveling to the airport with excitedly pile their suitcases and carry-ons into the back of the van, talking about what to expect when our plane finally touches down tomorrow morning.
“They really like blonde hair because rarely anyone has it, so don’t be surprised if someone stares at you, Maria,” Megan says, motioning to Maria’s wavy blonde locks.
“I really hope I like it abroad, I’m planning to apply to student teach in Dublin,” Katlyn says, then starts to rattle off the complicated process to get a spot in the program.
I turn and look out the window as the shuttle pulls away. Goodbye Duquesne, hello Italy. I’m about to leave a country I have never set foot out of in nineteen years (well, except for that random trip to Canada when I was eight, but that doesn’t count). I’m about to conquer a fear of flying, a fear of being away from my parents with absolutely no chance to contact them, to be in a place where I barely know the language except for a few Anglicized swear words my grandma mutters in the kitchen while she’s cooking.
Let me backtrack a bit: I have dreamt of Italy since I was a kid. I’m pretty much 100% Italian – save for a tiny dash of Polish from my maternal grandfather’s side, everyone in my family is loud, proud and Italian. We feast on the seven fishes at Christmas, we cram into church to pray in Latin on Easter, our weddings and first Holy Communions and confirmations and births and deaths are welcome by celebrations with enough food to feed a small country. Sunday dinners at my grandma’s house are a fixture, my dad watches YouTube videos with the Italian Word of the Day, my mom yells at me if I don’t make my boyfriend’s plate at dinner and if I don’t eat as much as she’d like me to. I’ve been drying dishes with a moppeen since I was 5, I know how to make cavatelli from scratch (including the part where I kill my biceps by turning the pasta maker’s handle), I wear a horn to ward of the malocchio with my Blessed Mother medal, and am deathly afraid of wooden spoons, after I got chased with them many a-times as a child.
I’m Calabrese and Sicilian on my dad’s side, and Calabrese and Abruzzese on my mom’s side. And I have always, always, ALWAYS wanted to see the country where my great-grandfathers came from in the early 1900s. I jumped at the opportunity to take this class, Origins of Renaissance Art, because I knew that it would be a chance for me to see the country of my dreams. Little did I know what an adventure I was in for, and how it would change me as a person.
But, on February 27th, 2016, all I could think about was how I was a bit nervous. We were going to be talking a lot about art, running all over an unfamiliar place. I have also loved art since I was a child, but in Italia, I’d have to put my thinking cap on and complete assignments, journals, and even a scavenger hunt, that put my knowledge of this new country to the test. I was so afraid I’d hate it, I was so afraid I’d panic at every turn, I was so afraid of the unknown that I didn’t really know what to do with myself. But more importantly, I was ready to go on an adventure, and what an adventure this was.