From Austin to NYC to Milan

This blog entry was submitted by Alyza Moore, who is studying abroad in Milan.

“A few nights after my 21st birthday last summer, I found myself at a busy restaurant on the side of a bustling New York City street, surrounded by all the women in my family. I remember that night vividly because it changed a lot about my life. My cousin and I were talking about our respective boyfriends at the time, and after we were done gushing (and/or complaining, won’t disclose who was doing which), my aunts looked around the table at one another knowingly.

As each of them responded to our heartache and love, they all echoed the same sentiment: Maybe this love isn’t what’s important right now. Maybe what’s important when you’re young and as free as one can be is to find your independence, your autonomy, your own hunger for life. To learn to do things on your own, to leave people who are hard to leave. To learn how to be alone, and how to find your own way.

Like most people my age, I would really like to leave this planet with as few regrets as possible, and when my brother died last year, it sparked a new urgency to participate in the world around me as much as I could.

So, a few weeks after that night in New York City, I visited Meghan in the Global Engagement Office, and the rest is history.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a café in Italy, drinking a cappuccino, planning my next weekend adventure on the search for another corner of the world I have yet to see.

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Leaving Austin was hard, and I was scared. I had a comfortable life and a lot of people that I really love. No matter where I go in the world, a huge chunk of my heart will always be wandering down the streets of South Congress, or eating a granola sunrise at Bouldin.

When I got on the plane that would carry me across the Atlantic, it felt like my heart left my body and refused to take flight with me. My first night in Milan I found myself in a tiny hostel bedroom lonely and homesick. Adjusting to a new environment has not been as easy as I imagined.

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We envision studying abroad as a mystical, magical, and easy adventure. It is supposed to be the time of our lives. And it is. But it isn’t easy, and sometimes it feels more gritty than it does magical. No matter how hard I try, anytime I walk into a store or a restaurant, I know that I will not go unnoticed. My Italian is laughable, I still don’t have the customs of ordering the right kind of coffee at the right time of day down. The quirks of the Italian metro system, which at first were cute and quirky, are now annoyances, and each day takes a whole lot of work, and a whole lot of being very, very present.

And.

I have never felt so rewarded as I did when I managed a tiny conversation in Italian with the man at the post office, or when I found a local Yoga studio to take classes at. I have never been quite so in awe as I was riding a gondola through the Alps as the snow fell around me. I have never felt like I was so on my own side, like I could be both my own company and my own advocate. And, most notably for me, I have never felt so clear on how important friends and lovesare, because I have the space to miss them like crazy.

I have never felt so passionate and driven to do what I want to do, and to create meaningful contributions to give to the city I love, because I’ve been able to see other people, thousands of miles away from home, making a huge impact on their own communities.

I challenge myself, when the city and the language and all the new people feel too overwhelming, to remain an active participant. To walk the city streets, to people watch on the metro, to get a drink with some classmates. It is easy to withdraw, but it is more rewarding try.

My mom always told me that all choices are followed by more choices. In this way, very little in life is final. With the relief that comes with that thought, I would encourage all of my peers to make a choice and to take a leap that scares you. Expand your world, your mind, and the reaches of your own compassion for humanity, knowing that everyone you love will be there when you return. (If they aren’t, well then, they weren’t meant to be there after all.)”

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