Karen Ahn comes to SYA from The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. She is currently a junior and a Campus Reporter at SYA Italy.
It’s hard to imagine how fast nine months can go by until you’ve been at School Year Abroad. I still can’t comprehend how it is now May 11, 2016. In just thirteen days, I will be on a flight back to the States. In just thirteen days, I will be leaving my host family, whom I have come to think as my second real family, and my friends. In just thirteen days, I will be saying goodbye to the life I have made here.
I thought that, towards the end, I would spend my day in centro thinking about the things I would miss such as, but certainly not limited to, the cappuccino and the pizza and the delicious gelato that you can find at any street corner. Every passing day would seem to grow shorter and shorter, until there aren’t any days left to pass and it was time to go. I thought that I would end up spending all this remaining time with my friends, because it would be harder to see them once the year was over.
But this hasn’t been the case. Truthfully, I wonder why I don’t stuff my face in the delectable and authentic Italian food and reminisce about the past few months, all with friends that have also been through this impossible-to-describe experience. After all, that’s what other students are doing.
Yet last Saturday at 5 PM, I found myself with my host family, talking with them about mundane things such as the latest Apple phone and even playing 2008 Wii games that I had already beaten a long time ago, ignoring messages to come hang out or grab dinner by other SYA students. And that time that I spent with my host family gave me a great sense of fulfillment and content.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk to other Americans; rather, I just want to cherish the fleeting time I have with my host family. The friends that I have met during this year are some of the most interesting people I have met in my life. However, it is admittedly easier to fly across the country to meet someone than to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, into a completely different continent.
A few months ago, my host mother told me something that has stuck with me: “Gli amici vanno e vengono, ma la famiglia sta sempre con te,” which roughly translates to, “Friends come and go, but family always stays with you.” She followed this phrase with assurance that I was a part of their family now, so with that fact, they would always be with me.
Thinking about the first month with my host family, I never expected or even hoped to become that close with them. I am a very independent person, so the concept of family has never struck me as something that I needed, but my experience with my host family changed that. I witnessed firsthand how supportive a family can be, even if they aren’t related by blood, and how even nine months can change one’s mindset about what you need and want.
So when my host mom said that I was part of their family, I cried. And I’m sure that, when I leave Italy, I’ll be more emotional about leaving my host family, than about leaving my friends. Although I will continue to maintain all of the relationships I have made here, I sincerely hope that I can come back soon to see my second family.