“A picture postcard, a folded stub, a program of the play…”
Billy Joel’s “Souvenir” came on as our bus weaved through the streets leading into the city of Florence, Italy. We FFEs were returning from an overnight trip in the Tuscan countryside, where Marist held an orientation for our return to Poughkeepsie the following school year. Though we had been apprehensive toward attending this orientation for weeks, believing it to be a waste of our time, we found that we had enjoyed the trip.
“File away the photographs of your holiday…”
Nearly nine months earlier, our bus cautiously navigated the streets leading away from Florence, towards this same place in the Tuscan countryside. I definitely hadn’t remembered my headphones, so I couldn’t listen to music. I was jet-lagged, so I couldn’t sleep despite my sleep deprivation. I gazed out the window, unsure and mildly unaware of where we were going. The guy next to me, who I had briefly met months before in Poughkeepsie, was passed out in the aisle seat.
“And your mementos will turn to dust, but that’s the price you pay…”
A few hours later, I sat in the villa, tears and sweat pouring down my face. The heat, the jet-lag, the distance away from home, and the uncertainty of everything overall was driving me mad. I missed home, my family, my friends, my air conditioning, my bed, and my childhood more than I ever thought I would. Now it was all but a memory to me.
“For every year’s a souvenir that slowly fades away…”
Adjusting to life abroad, and life in college, was anything but easy for me. The one thing I had wanted for years--control over how I lived my life--was finally mine. Yet it came with a host of challenges: time management, budgeting, academics, cooking, cleaning, and travelling alone. Studying abroad in Florence was an opportunity I knew was worth overcoming these challenges for.
And so I worked to do so. I got to know the guy who passed out next to me on that bus ride. I bonded with my roommate over how hard we were finding it to adjust. I talked about video games with the dude wearing an Assassin’s Creed hoodie. I became friends with another after having one too many bottles of limoncello.
“Every year’s a souvenir that slowly fades away.”
As the piano outro of the song played, our bus passed the bridge to enter into the historic center of Florence. I would be leaving the city in just about two weeks, a place that I never thought I would think of as my home. But maybe that was the paradox of it. Home as a conception, as a mindset of comfort, not defined by physical boundaries. Home being wherever I’m with my friends and wherever I’m happy with myself.
Home being the places I’d been, where I’d learned to build something bigger than myself, and home becoming the places where I will become who I’ve always wanted to be.