When you study abroad, there’s a great pressure to travel, to see as much as you can. As an American, I think we get this feeling particularly strongly since our country is so huge and it’s not feasible to take a weekend trip to Rome or Barcelona or London.
I felt this pressure even when I returned to Italy. Back when I was thinking about taking a gap year before graduate school, I thought I should spend it in another city in Italy, like Florence. (As if I haven’t been to Florence nearly a dozen times already.) Would it be wrong to return to Siena? Should I try to live somewhere different?
It’s good to want to travel, to want to expose yourself to many different places and cultures. I absolutely think that if you’re lucky enough to spend four months in Europe, or wherever in the world study abroad may take you, that you should travel around, if you can. But remember why you chose that one particular place to base yourself. Remember what it was about the program, the country, the city, that drew you toward it. Do you want to look back at the end of study abroad and not be able to remember any lazy weekends wandering around your home city?
As someone who hasn’t had a permanent place to call home since graduating high school, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to consider somewhere home, and how you know where you would like to plant your roots, at least for a while. I’m looking at moving around at least a couple more times as I progress in higher education, and while it’s exciting to get to see new things, it’s also sad to think about the friends and cities and even countries left behind.
Siena is my home. I have no idea where I’ll be at this time next year. Maybe Siena, but as I look at the piles of graduate school applications, that hope seems slimmer and slimmer. But I’ve lived here for a total of seven months now, and while I can’t say I have my “roots planted”—that would take quite a few years, I think—this is possibly the only place I could see myself living long-term right now. I’ll be heartbroken to leave in May, just as the current students are already sad about leaving next month, but then I think how lucky we all are to have had this experience.
So, yes, travel around and see as much as you can. But when you find that one place that felt right, the one place that felt like home, don’t feel guilty about revisiting it. That’s why I came back to Siena. That’s why I recently visited Edinburgh, another such place in my heart. Life is too short to only see something you love once.
Siena School for Liberal Arts intern