Finding Love Abroad

This post is about my summer abroad and my Italian romance that bloomed while there. If anyone who reads this is inspired to go travel, I have accomplished my goal.

I first learned about my study abroad program from a hippie professor during a lecture. She was teaching a course I was enrolled in, Public Relations 270. I was intrigued by the way the program sounded, so I went home and dug into thorough research. I found that the city was small and beautiful. I could totally see myself living in Italy.

I had hundreds of concerns that overwhelmed me at the time. What if I didn’t receive scholarship? How expensive will travel be? Is it going to be safe?

All of my concerns faded with time and with all of the encouragement from study abroad alums, friends, and family. I received a generous amount of scholarship, allowing me to make the final step into changing my life.

Finally, the day came. I was leaving America for Siena, Italy.

 

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Here is a photo of Katy and I about to head for our gate to Siena. You may not be surprised to hear that this picture was forced by our parents.

I studied in the quaint city of Siena, Italy for a total of five weeks. During this time, I took a 400 level Public Relations course and let me say, the professor was not easy. That woman isn’t playing around with grades. Luckily, outside of class she’s a pretty chill woman with millions of fascinating stories from a rockin’ career. Also, she’s very earthy and hippie, which makes her pretty cool in my opinion.

Waking up early every morning, I would get coffee from my block’s coffee shop, attend class, eat pasta, buy wine (which was very cheap), study in the park, and eat more pasta. My roommate and I had picnics all of the time; sometimes we brought bread and cheese to eat with the wine, which we always brought.

During the weekends, I would travel to other cities. That is how I met Leonardo, my Italian hunk.

During my first weekend in Italy, four friends and I went to Elba Island. After taking a ferry, we were picked up in a small, red truck by a small, Italian woman. She was our Air BnB host and spoke no english. The roads were windy and she had terrible driving skills. This made my poor friend Robert, who was forced to hover in the bed of the dinky truck, scream like a girl a good half of the time.

Lorena, the host, had prepared everything prior to our arrival and it was beautiful. Perfect, in fact. She was extremely sweet and eventually called her son to help her translate. That is how Leonardo and I first met, in a way. We spoke on the phone multiple times in order to communicate with his mom.

Although I didn’t see any photographs of her son, our WhatsApp conversations had become flirtatious. I joked with his mom about marrying him. She thought it was hilarious when I said Leonardo, pointed to my wedding finger, and called her mom. Maybe she was just laughing at me and didn’t actually understand….Actually, she was probably just laughing at me, now that I think about it.

Back in Siena, I was able to watch something called The Palio. The Palio is a six horse race that has been performed since the city’s creation. Siena’s twelve districts compete in it and there are many long-lived rivalries. The race lasts about five minutes in total. But after learning the history, living among the month long preparations, and standing four hours to see the race, I might say this was my favorite day of all my travels. I highly recommend researching ‘Siena Palio’ on YouTube.

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This photo was taken the day of the Palio. If you can’t tell, there are thousands of people crammed into the city’s center. The horses race around the circle of people.

I also got to do things like take a cooking class, wine tasting, hiking, and eating. SO.MUCH.FOOD. I left America disliking wine and came back a connoisseur, I’m sure all of my American friends hate how nerdy I am about wine now.  Also I’m pretty sure everyone hates me for talking about my summer constantly. How could I not? I miss it every single day.

Aside from Elba, I visited Pisa, Florence, Napoli, Capri, San Giminano, Grosseto, Cinque Terre, and Rome.

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Here we are in front of the colosseum in Rome. After this picture we discovered a local restaurant and I had the best lasagne of my life. That is what I remember best about Rome, the lasagna.

In Pisa, I scheduled a time and place to meet Leonardo. I was very nervous, thinking of movies like Taken and Taken 2. What if he was some weirdo who just wanted to drug an American girl and take advantage of her? Or worse… what if he was ugly? Just kidding. I was excited to meet him no matter what, although looks were going to be a bonus. I knew he was in college as an aerospace engineer, his mom was a sweetheart, and he had been very polite over text. What could possibly go wrong?

To my pleasant surprise, I arrived to see a handsome, nerdy, and very Italian boy. He brought along his dog, a gorgeous golden retriever named Achille and met me at the train station. He wanted to go for a walk and get gelato. So that’s exactly what we did.

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He would probably kill me for posting a picture of him but oh well. Here he is on our first day of meeting. Does he look in love with me yet?

After my program ended, I took three extra weeks to backpack around different countries. I spent time in Switzerland, Spain, The Netherlands, France, Germany, and Ireland. I hiked the Swiss Alps, ran with the bulls in Pamplona, walked down the red-light district in Amsterdam, drank wine by the Eiffel tower, stayed with a German family in Stuttgart and hiked through the black forest, and drank beer in Dublin. None of this would’ve been possible without the push to study abroad.

My favorite of all of these countries was Switzerland. Although the prices were ridiculous, the views made it all worth it. Below is a photograph of a portion of the hiking in Switzerland.

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As for Leonardo and I, after spending many days together in Italy, he decided to come to Ireland with me. After an amazing week of being together in Dublin, we agreed to date. Basically, I just completed every girl’s dream of falling in love with a beautiful Italian man. We have now been dating for two months, which is pretty good for an across-the-ocean relationship.

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Here is Leonardo and I after spending a long morning exploring Dublin.

All in all, I spent eight weeks in Europe and I cannot wait to go again.

The language barrier can often be uncomfortable. I once got locked inside a bathroom stall and no one understood what was happening because they did not speak English. I was sweating like a pig inside an un-air conditioned public restroom, with ten minutes before my ferry left for Capri. In Switzerland, I missed a train because I could not find an English-speaking person to guide me the correct way. But these are the memories I love, the excitement of being in a foreign country and immersing yourself in it.

Studying abroad taught me so much about myself and my future. It exposed me to new experiences, encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, and allowed me to embrace other cultures in a way that is impossible to do in America.

I believe that everyone should get an opportunity to study abroad. Whether a student wants to study in Africa, India, Italy, or Australia, it doesn’t matter. There is exciting food, music, people, and customs just waiting to be explored. The world is an amazing place and by exploring it, you are learning more than you ever thought you could.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be lucky enough to find a foreign romance.

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Throwing my coin into the Trevi fountain in hopes of returning.

 

 

God, Give Me Guidance!

I can’t express how many times my journal has read ‘God, give me guidance’ over the last few months. It pains me to ask for answers time and time again, knowing in the back of my mind that He is constantly giving them to me. Instead of constantly asking for guidance, I should be seeking the ones that are surrounding me daily.

But here I write, once again, God…give me guidance!

As many of you know, I just spent the last two months in Europe exploring the countryside as well as myself. I learned so many things. I learned that I have a knack for finding kind strangers to guide me in any country, that I love traveling more than anything in the world, that being away from everything does nothing but pull me closer to God, and so much more. In addition to the plethora of things I learned, I also came back with many questions. Will I ever see Italy again? Will my new relationship last? Will I continue to seek God everyday? When will I be happy to be back?

Don’t get me wrong, seeing my family and Mikey (of course) took so much weight off of my shoulders. Being away from them always reminds me of how blessed I am in so many ways. I hoped that being able to reach out and be with my family would take this longing away, this longing to return. To travel. To explore.

With this in mind, I pray. I pray not to travel but that God will show me what my purpose is in life. Instead of praying for a successful romance, I have prayed for God to show me his purpose in this relationship. I constantly pray for the Lord to be with me, to let me think of Him in all that I do. I have asked, pleaded, and cried out to God. I have gotten on my knees in over seven countries, all asking the same thing from God.

God, why do I feel so unanswered? Give me guidance!!!

The thing is, whenever I sit to write a blog, I begin to write whilst very emotional and clouded. I almost always come out of writing very clear-headed and smiling. I wouldn’t claim to be quite clear-headed right now, but I sure am smiling.

God has been guiding me this entire summer. He guided me to a random island in Italy, where my romance began. He guided me to my best friend and roommate this summer, who helped me grow so very much. He is the reason for my life changing summer. He pursued my heart. Although He kept me questioning, which at times gets a big annoying, He kept my eyes on Him.

I guess what I am saying is, by asking God for guidance, I am exactly where I need to be. And that puts a smile on my face, no matter what continent I am in.

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Dating in College

I’ll start off this post with a bit of a personal story. Recently, a boy brought to my attention that he was pursuing me with intentions to date soon. I was taken by surprise when he said this, because although we had been on a few dates and stuck to each other’s sides at parties, I had never had the intention to date him. I can’t exactly give a valid excuse for me not wanting to date him, he is a great guy. But in the moment that he told me he wanted to date me, I knew I was going to end it.

Later that night, I was running the list of reasons why I wanted to end it through my head. I realized later on that none of it mattered. The most important reason, and the reason I have to end it, is because I cannot see myself marrying him. God doesn’t want me dating someone for reasons other than marriage, and to be honest neither do I. 

And this brings my whole reason for this post, dating in college. Every time I think about it, I remember the pastor of my church flat out telling me that I will not find my future husband during my first year of college, so not to look. That statement went in and out of my ears at first. I didn’t want to listen, I wanted to go find a cute college boy and date him. But now, I am being forced to re-evaluate what my personal opinion on dating in college is.

It’s funny how God showed me that I need to focus on Him. He showed me by giving me exactly what I had been looking for, all knowing that in the end I would realize it wouldn’t be enough.

If you had asked me a month ago if I wanted to date someone, I would most likely interrupt you mid-sentence with a loud YES, however; if you asked me now, my answer would be the same..yet different. I know I sound like a crazy person right now, but let me explain.

Yes, I do want to date someone. Two people actually.

Firstly, I want to date God. If I gave God half of the attention that I have been giving to boys, I would be twice the Christian that I am right now. I need to be going on dates with God, giving myself one on one time to get to know Him. Unlike college boys, God will not ignore me, He will not blow me off, He will not cheat on me, He will not hurt me. I need to give God my whole heart, to date Him and eventually marry Him. In Hosea, God tells us to do just that.

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 “And in that day you will call me ‘Your Husband’ and no longer ‘My Baal.’ Hosea 2:14-16

Secondly, I want to date myself. Why in the world am I spending hours on hours wondering about boys, when I barely know who I am? College has brought out so many new parts of myself that I never knew before, and I have not taken time to explore them. College is supposed to be a time for me to grow up, become the woman I will be for the rest of my life. How can I do that when I am constantly trying to be the woman other people (boys) want me to be?

I will not look for a boyfriend my freshman year. I need to trust that God will bring my husband to me in due time. In the meantime, I am giving God my heart.

And someday, when God does bring me a worthy man of which whom I am supposed to be with for the rest of my life, I can be proud that I spent my first year as an adult focusing on the one who loves me the most and becoming the woman my husband is falling in love with, not chasing after meaningless part-time things.

So, here I go. But I am not worried, because I know I have God on my side holding my hand and guiding me the whole way.

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