I’ve left home before. I left for college. I didn’t go very far, just far enough, but I felt like I was far away. I left to study abroad in Rome. I would say Italy is pretty far away but to be honest there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between 75 miles and 4,300 miles when your destination is anywhere but home. Going “away” from home just seems to have a disquieting connotation and saying I’m going “away” from someplace or something makes me feel uneasy. Leaving home for an extended period of time is one of the few things that doesn’t get easier with practice. I’m constantly conflicted between the desires of leading two very different lives. On one hand, I want to be a fearless nomad with an insatiable craving for travel and days filled with endless explorations of foreign cities. On the other hand, a very separate part of me wants to stay in bed and fill my days with endless Netflix binges interrupted only by naps. Yeah, I’m not going to lie, that second life is very appealing sometimes (and dangerously accessible). Bottom line, being at home is comfortable and thoughtless and it’s always unsettling to leave. But I know that the best part of home is being able to leave and comeback and savor all of those familiar comforts you usually take for granted. I also know from my previous experiences abroad that really, really great things happen when you leave home and the comfort zone that surrounds it.
With that being said, I am quite frankly nervous about leaving home to spend three months in Italy. I’ll be living in a new city with a host family I have never met and, unlike the times I studied abroad, I won’t be living with Americans. This time around I feel as if I’m not going just for me but for other people with the purpose to teach, interact, influence, and learn. I’ll be teaching English to middle schoolers and besides the occasional nightmare of standing in front of a classroom of students completely tongue-tied, I’m pretty darn excited.
I chose to volunteer teach with Greenheart Travel after college because I wanted to spend more time in Italy speaking a language I wasn’t ready to stop learning.
My degree may be in biology but it took me four years of pipetting and dissecting to realize that biology is not what I want to think about for the rest of my life. Shocker. Instead, I prefer fumbling over Italian pronouns and verb tenses as I try to get a table in a restaurant or navigate an unknown city and it’s labyrinth of public transportation. It should come as no surprise that jumping on a plane to Europe was the first thing I wanted to do after graduation. This time though I didn’t want to just be a lost backpacker burning a hole through her already empty pocket, a roll for which I had been previously cast. I wanted to travel with a greater purpose and objective than running away from that well known post-grad indecision that plagues a lot of twenty-somethings. I decided to get my certification to teach English abroad and go to Italy to participate in language learning and a foreign culture instead of just observing it. Over the past year I’ve finalized my decision to earn a Master’s degree in international education and become a study abroad advisor or program designer to give students the amazing, life-changing opportunities I experienced studying abroad. Teaching abroad is my way of practicing what I preach and viewing cross-cultural exchange from yet a different lens.
For me, this trip isn’t just a trip. This trip is a stepping stone and invaluable experience benefitting my future.
All of these encouraging reasons for leaving home and the many incredible experiences that await don’t make leaving easier but they make leaving worthwhile. I may be going “away” from something familiar that makes me happy, but I am fortunately going towards something new that is just as amazing.