I could imagine that most TCU students experience a paradoxical mixture of excitement and terror when stepping off of the plane to any study abroad destination. Never before have apprehension and anticipation been so harmoniously intertwined.
Now, one month into it, my excitement for the adventure hasn’t changed, but my perspective has.
When I got to Italy, I was just ready to be on land. A few hours into my first day, I discovered that I arrived early to Florence and would be spending the next night and two days alone at a hotel in the city center. I was thrilled. I like to think I’m an adventurer and I definitely saw this as the start to what would be the most adventurous months of my life.
It’s amazing how quickly we have the ability to bring the United States to a foreign country.
We’re also used to the luxury that is the life of a TCU student. This was something I wanted to be cognizant of from the beginning.
After the first week here, groups of us gathered to discuss weekend traveling plans. Each week, we’d plan out where we wanted to go around Europe, how much we wanted to spend and where we were willing to stay on our budget. We went to pricey Italian dinners and invariably always found reasons to be unsettled about the structure of the study abroad system.
I think it was 7:20 a.m. one morning while I was walking to class that I realized what was actually around me. I was burrowing in my jacket, under five layers of shirts and trying to walk as quickly as possible out of the falling snow.
Then I looked up. I snapped out of my own thoughts. I snapped out of my own world, and in front of me, on the frozen ground was a woman. In Italy the sidewalks are so thin it would have meant stepping over this woman sitting on the stone to pass by her.
People talk about how unreal it is that magnificent wonders like the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio become normal to study abroad students so quickly. I think it’s more astonishing that we have found ourselves walking past something much more valuable in our hurry.
Italy is an incredibly beautiful country—I don’t feel like that’s an opinion statement. But it’s also a country filled with people who are hurting, and it’s not hard to find the evidence.
I’ve tried to be intentional about having real conversations with Italian students, workers at the market and even the waiters serving me gelato. It doesn’t take much to recognize the sense of hopelessness that seems to plague the lives of Italians. Through the economy, the government and decreasing population, Italians represent a misunderstood culture masked by great food and cheesy American iconism. I desperately don’t want to be another study abroad student passing over the truth that is around me, all to ensure my experience as an entitled, selfish 20-something.
That’s why I’m filming a documentary here. I came to Italy hoping to capture the story of Italian students. It was my callow hope to take back a truthful story to U.S. students so that I might be able to shift some perspective and uncover truth. It’s my perspective that has been shifted, my own selfishness revealed, my own story that’s changing. I have no doubt I’ll return to TCU as a student with a fresh new experience to bring back into the Horned Frog family, I just hope that along with it I might be able to see some sort of change.
Lyndsey Evans is a junior international journalism major from Austin.