Teach Them How to Say Goodbye

Watching out our window while wearing the laurea, an Italian graduation tradition

Written by Brenna Sullivan (University of Virginia) Student Correspondent CET Siena, Summer 2017

In case you haven’t memorized the entire Hamilton soundtrack, the title is a lyric from “One Last Time”.  It has been running through my head continually for the last week, only “them” morphed into “me” at some point – teach me how to say goodbye.  How do I say goodbye to the streets, the strangers, and the rhythm of life that create a place?  To the professors I will never pass randomly in a hallway? To the roommates jetting off to separate sides of the States and to the one who is staying in Siena?  How do I say goodbye to all the friends who reignited my sense of adventure when I was down and who kept me safe when I regularly tried to test the laws of gravity?  Often we don’t.  We say “see you soon” in earnest, even if the chances this will come to pass are slim.  Today I told many people I care for deeply that I would see them soon, and I am stuck trying to figure out whether hope heightens the chances the statement will come true, or whether I wimped out on facing an ending.  I do not know what the next year holds in store for me, or where in the world I will be, so perhaps I should have just thanked them for being here for this chapter.  Yet, I know I will see them along the route of my future adventures.  Every time I read “spaghetti carbonara” on a menu.  Whenever I need to know an actual, proven reason for why the world is the way it is, rather than my own metaphorical musings.  In mythology references and kitchen concerts.  Whenever I hear the call of a home I’ve never seen before.  So I will see them, and I will see Siena too.  In strong coffee and following music down allies.  In passionate communities and apricots fresh off the tree.

One of my favorite thinking spots in Siena

We said goodbye to Siena together, finally climbing the central tower of the city, which in accordance with superstition, cannot be done until your studies have ended.  We splurged on a dinner out, finally ordering more than just pasta.  We took one last tour through the city, stopping at all the places we have come to call ours, before landing in the Piazza del Campo.   The next morning I said goodbye to Siena alone, walking through the still quiet streets.  I was cut off by a parade by the Torre Contrada, already gearing up for the next Palio.  I passed the collection of old men who always stand around the statue in Piazza Tolomei in the early morning and evening hours; their absence would surely mean the apocalypse is near.  I drank a cappuccino in the chatter of a café and ate a croissant on a stone ledge above the campo.  I said goodbye to the ghoulish brass face on my apartment door.

Attempting to claim our own statue-hangout in front of the duomo

The only goodbye left to say is to you. This blog is my last link, the bubble of security and stress that is University. This program was the end of my undergraduate education and 16 plus years in which my life revolved around school. I am sad and scared, but so incredibly thankful I was able to make studying abroad a central part of my education. I recommend it with all heart. The stories I have recorded while on independent travels, through the study of Siena’s history, and from the incredible woman I once sat beside on a plane, have expanded my understanding of humanity immeasurable. Hopefully this will not be the end of my writing, nor my exploration of this planet and her people. If I have the privilege to travel again, I believe the time I have spent in Siena will strengthen my understanding of and appreciation for the places I will spend time in the future.  The further I go, the more interconnected it all seems.