To preface this post, I know that I said that I was going to post a blog on Thanksgiving in Milan, but seeing how it is a month later that would be kind of anticlimactic. So in short, we went drank beer and played some backyard football on Wednesday night (yes, you can do both at the same time here, there are no open container laws!), followed by a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with chicken substituted for turkey on Thursday night, and then everyone went out to our favorite local pub for the last time afterward. It was genuinely awesome, because although we weren't with our families we were with friends that have gotten very close over the past couple of months.
This brings me to my next point. The past couple of months have been probably the best four months of my life. Not only have I seen much more of the world than most people will see in their entire life, but I have met so many great people from all over the world. Don't get me wrong, everywhere I have been has been absolutely incredible: I have gone on a gondola ride in Venice, visited old friends in Madrid, seen Big Ben in London, drank a pint of Guinness in Dublin, seen all of ancient Rome, been to the Louvre in Paris, witnessed Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan, and countless other worldy experiences. But despite all of this, it feels so much better just knowing that I have friends all over the world. I have friends in England, Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Turkey, Georgia, Canada, Japan, and many other countries. It's really weird because leaving all of this is unlike any other feeling I've had before. Similar to freshman year of college, you come here and make new friends and get to be pretty close over the next couple of months. But the difference is that when you leave at the end of your freshman year, you know that all of these people will be back in the fall. I leave here tomorrow night, and most of the people that I have gotten to know over the past couple of months I will never see again. It's a pretty weird feeling. But now if I want to, I can go ski in Whistler and have a free place to stay. I can go party in Brazil, and know that I have people that can show me where all the fun is.
I came here as an exchange student and as far as the student part goes it has been quite a failure. My grades are not up to par with what I would like them to be. Despite this, the experience as a whole has been a success. Sometimes what you learn isn't necessarily reflected in a letter that an instituition imposes on you. I have learned more about other countries and cultures, I have learned more about our country, and more importantly I have learned more about myself, both good and bad. I feel like as I return to the US, I'm a different person than I was when I left. I know more about what my values are in life, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and a little bit more about the direction that I want to go in.
It's 4:15 am here and I leave for the airport in 17 hours. It's a happy and a sad feeling, but I'm ready to come home. I know that I'll be back on this side of the Atlantic soon enough, as I haven't covered all of the ground that I want to yet (Top of the list: Budapest, Prague, Morraco, Greece, and Switzerland!)