Written by Elena Sinagra (Sarah Lawrence College) Student Correspondent CET Siena, Spring 2018
The end of the semester is in sight. And of the flood of emotions that come with any ending, sadness, excitement, fear, relief, the thing that I am feeling the most right now is confusion. Something that I had been planning for so long and that caused so much excitement and anxiety is coming to a close. Because I was here for two semesters, I adopted a certain viewpoint that I was here for longer than other people and that I would always have “more time”. As the semester winds down, I have to grapple with my confusion and disbelief that my life here is really going to end.
I remember last semester, at this time, I felt that I was just beginning to get comfortable when we all had to leave. And then when I went to Rome, I felt I was just beginning to feel comfortable when my time was up after a month. And now, the same feeling is beginning to rush over me. It is now that I am just beginning to feel at home and comfortable in Siena, with this group and the language and Italians. Come to think of it, it seems as if no matter what happens, endings come at inopportune times. Whether someone is here for a semester or a year, when the ending comes pounding down, it is of course when we are just getting used to everything.
We sometimes see or have in our minds the word “comfortable” as the ultimate sort of goal when starting a new phase in one’s life. Whether it’s a school, a job, or a relationship with someone, seems like feeling “comfortable” is what we are all after. We have to go through the feelings of newness and insecurity to reach our state of everything’s okay- so that it’s comfortable. Then we feel as if we’ve accomplished something. Being comfortable is the happiness of knowing that we no longer need to change or adopt to fit our environment. Although stability is important in life, and leads to a feeling of comfort, my time in Siena has taught me to embrace a state of unease, what I call a state of constant learning and trying.
Italy may seem like a more relaxed study abroad destination, but learning a new language and putting it to use every day, taking classes, and exploring a new feature outside of the classroom, puts us in a state of never ending learning and new discovery. I may think I am feeling comfortable now, (right when I have to leave) but I know that if the program lasted for another month, or semester, or year, by the time it would be for me to go, I would feel it was right when I was just beginning to feel at ease. It seems that being comfortable is really something that is out of reach but we always feel like we are getting closer to it as time progresses.
I have come to the conclusion that if you are doing a year or semester abroad right, at no point in time should you feel completely comfortable. You should always be in a state where there are new things, things are different, you have to take risks, you have to try new things, talk to new people, and make mistakes. This is the learning zone where we grow and deepen as a people. I remember in September when going to the Piazza or going into a cafe to get a cappuccino seemed daunting because it was so new. Now, I have become so used to it that it has become a part of everyday life, but that does not mean that I have stopped learning from those experiences that have become usual. I have always had to try to practice a new phrase or conjugation with the workers at my usual cafe. As I walk home from school, I watch young boys practicing different flag throwing or waving techniques and continue to learn about the depth of the contrada.
As my time in Italy and my junior year come to a close, I am grappling with the idea that I will be finishing undergrad soon. This strikes me with a lot of fear, but I remind myself of what I am learning now and that if you have the mind set that everything is a continuous adventure, it doesn’t seem so scary. We grow up with the phrase “Good things happen to those who wait” but at this point, I have to believe that good things happen to those who go and who are willing to feel uncomfortable.