I spent last semester, the first one of my senior year, gazing at Tuscan hills and sweating the day away. (The answer to every question you will ask about my abroad experience is probably yes. Yes, it was wonderful. Yes, the food was some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. Yes, it is weird being back in the United States. Glad we’ve gotten that out of the way.)

One thing that has stuck with me since returning home is the process of reflecting. I’m currently creeping into my final few months here at Conn so I’ve been reflecting quite a bit. On what? Everything. The past few years, Move-In Day, the time I got lost in the Arboretum—everything. While I’m proud of my growth, the connections I’ve made and where I’ve gotten to at this point in life, I’ve also observed something a little striking. Choosing to study abroad during my senior year isn’t the only “unconventional” thing I’ve done in my life. In fact, I’ve noticed that some of the major decisions I’ve had to make thus far have been done in a somewhat irregular fashion. I applied ED I to Conn without visiting first, something you would think is necessary to finding the right college, and I’m currently applying to jobs all over the country in many cities that I have never been before and where I don’t know anyone.

What does all of this mean exactly? Other than this piece being cathartic, I noticed that it wasn’t until I went abroad that I stopped trying to consciously plan. These decisions I mentioned earlier have resulted in some of the most fruitful and fulfilling experiences. Why did it take me so long to realize this? Did it really have anything to do with me casually strolling through the streets of central Italy without a care in the world except which flavor of gelato I was going to order? Maybe. 

European culture did teach me a lot. The most prevalent thing I took away was the importance of relaxation, free time and cherishing time. I noticed Italians take their time with everything. This even applies to their attire considering most people were wearing their finest just for a trip to the grocery store. In the United States, things often feel so fast-paced and artificial. 

Over the three months I was there, I realized that life just happens and most things you can’t truly prepare for, no matter how hard you try. I spent most of my high school and college career trying to lay down every stone to step on so that I wouldn’t fall into the pond without realizing that the stones I discovered along the way got me to where I really needed to be in the best way. This is not a slight against Americans or American culture, but an observation that slowly grew into a part of my life philosophy. Suffice it to say, now that I’m back, I want to take things as they come. I’ve begun to use my planner day-by-day instead of color-coding my entire week into it. I’m aware of my class schedule and other calendars but don’t allow them to stress me out because I prioritize free time way more than I did in previous years.