I never believed Italy, the tiny little boot by the Mediterranean, could teach me so much in a matter of days. This was my first experience--traveling alone--without my family or friends, but with strangers from all over the U.S. On top of that, I experienced and was entirely immersed in a culture, that was seemingly not like my own, but that I connected to by the end of the program.
I adored my homestay family, I even text them on a regular basis now that I am home! Although, I did miss home. I won't deny it. I knew I was in another foreign country, one I hope that others get to visit, and not only to check off a tourist-like list. The culture is so vibrant and nearly everything in Italy is gorgeous. However, Italy wasn't about its aesthetic, but rather what it allowed me to learn. For the first time in my life, I was taught, that even with a language barrier, people are all interconnected.
Italy, at the moment, is facing a lot of immigration issues and corrupt policies, just like back home. In Houston, there are constant protests and rallies held in support of immigrants, the Black Lives Matter movement, Women's Rights Movement, and many more. In Italy, protests were consistently held in Rome, and I appreciated it. Italy was not just another place for a vacation, but rather to engage with. My host family and strangers--that I now call friends--taught me this, and I couldn't be more thankful for it.
If anyone is reading this, I hope that when you travel, you also get to enjoy the unique culture and not simply spend endless hours in gift shops.