Reflecting on my Time Abroad: I’m Exactly Where I’m Supposed to Be

You’ll never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.

-Miriam Adeney

And just like that, my time in Torino has come to a close…for now. I’ve been dreading this day from the moment I arrived but coming to Italy and meeting my new family was without a doubt the best decision I have ever made. A million things had to happen for me to get to the point where I found the courage to come here alone and do something I’d never done before, but looking back, everything just makes sense.

My college graduation was bittersweet, especially because it was mixed with a little bit of heartbreak. Not only did I feel as though I was leaving so much behind, but I felt completely lost. On top of that, I didn’t have any job prospects or any ideas of what I wanted my future to look like. Truthfully, I still don’t. But what I did know was that I wanted to go back to Italy– and not for a vacation. I wanted to experience Italy outside of study abroad and I wanted to immerse myself in the culture…I wanted to live like an Italian. And honestly, this was the best time to do it. Months earlier I had talked about being an Au Pair post-grad but then I put the idea on the back burner. Once I graduated, I had looked up TEFL courses until I finally remembered my Au Pair idea. And after babysitting all summer, I finally had the money saved. That’s when I decided I was just going to go for it. I needed a change and honestly, I just needed to feel whole. Sure, summer was great and my friends made it the best of my life, but something was still missing.

In September, while I was sitting in my friend’s kitchen, I created my profile with AuPair World and got started. The first family I applied to ended up being ‘the one’. Sure we started off discussing my responsibilities because yes, this was going to be a job, but it wasn’t long before we were e-mailing, then texting, and then Skyping. From September until my arrival in January, I spoke with my host family almost everyday; getting to know one another, sending pictures of my weekend adventures and receiving theirs in return. We spoke so much that upon my arrival in Italy, I felt as though I knew this family for years. I think that was the key to the truly amazing relationship I have with them now.

Now, after three months of living in their home, I can’t even believe that for 24 years, I didn’t know them. It took 24 years and some trials and tribulations but I am definitely glad I trusted the timing of my life with this. They say everything happens for a reason and that is a statement I truly believe. Especially after this experience. There was a reason why we both created profiles at the same.exact.time…I was meant to be here. There is a reason I didn’t graduate college on time, why I didn’t find a nine-to-five after graduation, a reason why that one week of babysitting in the summer turned into a two month-long job. How can I not believe that these things happened so I could end up where I am now? I have gained a second family, a second home, incredible experiences and amazing opportunities. I ended up exactly where I was supposed to be. Coincidence or fate?

Yes there were some difficulties on this journey– traveling alone, getting lost, learning the language, etc.- but these things have completely shaped the way I look at myself and the world. The entire time I was evolving. And at the end of those days where these setbacks had me feeling discouraged, I was excited to be back in Turin with my family because more often than not I felt as though this place was my home. I am comfortable here. I’ve never felt lost and I never felt uneasy. This city, these people, they are a part of me. A part that was missing and could have only been discovered here.

Living here has taught me more than I could have ever hoped for. Aside from navigating a new area, learning a language, communicating despite the language barrier, and adapting to a new lifestyle, my family and these experiences have taught me how to see the world and how to view life from a new perspective. From Sorrento to Savona, Milan to Mosso Santa Maria– I have been given new eyes for seeing new places. I have been moved by mountains because even after seeing the Alps everyday, I’m still full of wonder and more amazed than the day before. A six-year-old has taught me how to live every day full of laughter and has taught me how to enjoy the little things– like dancing every time our favorite song comes on the radio or simply brushing our teeth. I’ve never felt as content as I do when Martina says a new word in English without even realizing it. I have re-learned the meaning of friendship through my best friends who have been supporting me and this journey since day one. I’ve learned independence– because I never once had to ask my parents for monetary support (not to mention budgeting), and the strength of my parents– because without my help at the store, they’ve sacrificed their time (and probably their sanity) by working 14 hour days.

And, of course, I have learned a lot about myself as well. I’ve learned the type of traveler I am; I travel to experience and learn, not to cross places off my bucket list. I’ve realized that it takes me way longer than I’d like to learn a language or to find the confidence to order my meal at a restaurant. But I have also learned that I am very much myself here and I am full of life. I needed this.

To my second family; thank you for opening your home and hearts to a random girl from New Jersey. There are not many people like you in the world– so selfless, loving, and genuine. You have loved me, taken care of me, and included me in your lives and family; for that, I am eternally grateful. You have left the biggest impact on my life and the biggest hand print on my heart. I will look back on the last three months with the biggest smile on my face and look forward to the next plane ride back.

For those who are thinking about taking this leap:
If what you’re doing does not complete you or make you the best version of yourself, drop it. Life is short and although I no longer believe in deadlines when it comes to what you’re doing with your life, I do believe that there are only so many tomorrow’s for you to be able to follow your dreams wholeheartedly. You are only one decision away from changing the rest of your life. Buy the ticket and take the leap. There is just something so wonderful about the ignorance of not knowing what awaits for you on the other side and how life changing it may be.

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