Friday, November 17, 2006

The Unspoken Side of Study-Abroad or, the part you just don't know how to express because you don't speak the language

Two weeks ago, I looked forward to weekends, I told myself that at the end of this experience I would be happy and I would be finished, I had zero motivation to study, I had no clue what the hell I was doing in Italy. Somehow, I came around. I can’t point to anything that really helped me get over it. Something just clicked.

But I had never felt the emotions I felt. I had never been so low, so despondent, so without motivation. If you transplant a person from everything that they know and all their routines, what type of emotions will you get? You’re going to get lows. You are going to experience that deeply inclined dip that those Study Abroad people talk about on their curve of emotions. You don’t really believe it until you feel it.

Perhaps my body was telling me to get out, yelling the question of WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? Stefan grew up in English, why now are you trying to make him grow up all over again in Italian? For the longest time I felt like there was nothing worthwhile in this study abroad thing. I wanted to quit. Quit and do what? Language acquisition I was told was the main reason to study abroad. Bah, my Italian is just as good as it ever was, I thought once. Yesterday I got up in front of my class and spoke for a couple of minutes for a mini presentation. Shit. My Italian has improved.

When I go home and people ask me how was study abroad, I am not going to opt for the monosyllabic: good. Difficult, depressing, weighty, horrible, confusing, suffocating. Constructive, learning, worthwhile, independent, new. In the end, it will be worth it, and I am not just saying that because I want to make myself feel better, I mean it. It will give me a few beads of academic knowledge, a river of Italian skills, life lessons I would never have found in the same old place with the same old routines, and friends along the way who dragged through the same stuff, felt the exact same way, but in the end came back themselves, strong and smiling.

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