I don’t know if you noticed, but it’s December 8, which means I’ll be back to Italy in a fortnight. I sure did (and mom is counting down the days since… October, give or take). While I’m keeping a strict no-comment policy about this whole I’ll-be-home-soon thing, I thought I might share a few thoughts about the past three months.
Back when I was toying with the idea of applying for the Erasmus programme, I had a few friends/acquaintances who were already enjoying it, in different countries. I used to look up their profiles on facebook, or hear from common friends, and it looked like they were having the time of their life, having the craziest adventures every single day, always surrounded by the friendliest people from all over the world, travelling to every corner of the country. I felt so jealous – there’s no point in denying it. I topped all of that with a few blogs from other Erasmus students I had never heard of before, for good measure. And I used to think: What a coward I am, sitting here in my hometown, while people are enjoying life at its fullest.
Right now I blush at how naive that was. When I first found out I had been selected for Strasbourg, I was in a very positive mood – trying to find people who had been, too, especially from other countries. And I started my first day alone here by meeting some of them, and making plans together. I thought, I’m going to have as much fun as those people did!
Soon enough, though, I found out I needed my “alone” time. I don’t know why I was so surprised, since this is just what happens in my daily life, but I felt like a failure. I kept making up excuses – to everyone else and myself – not to hang out, because I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t like the plans, ultimately because I knew I wouldn’t have fun.
And it took me weeks to understand and to forgive myself.
I don’t like going pub to pub drinking. It’s ok.
I like visiting museums and having a half an hour every night to read a book before sleep. It’s ok.
I like going jogging alone, because it’s the time when my thoughts are the clearest. It’s ok.
Sometimes I like spending my lunch break eating a sandwich, taking a stroll and talking to absolutely no one, just to rest my head. It’s ok.
My Erasmus experience doesn’t have to be like the ones I heard of. It was weird to realize, because I always thought that – sure, I was going to study hard and improve my french (which, believe me, I did) but I was also going to party, somehow. Who was I fooling? I don’t like partying. So why should I? For some time it was just like I was 13 years old all over again, trying to fit in among other teenagers and failing miserably, before I realized I didn’t have to.
So, here’s one more thing I’m grateful for, one more thing Strasbourg taught me: you never stop getting to learn yourself, and loving yourself. I don’t feel guilty or out of place anymore. My Erasmus experience has been amazing; it didn’t give me what I thought it would, but so much nonetheless, maybe even more.
I think I decided how I feel about going home: grateful; with no regrets; like someone who appreciates what she had, understands it had to be over sooner or later, and wants to face life with a new attitude.