Chandler West's Senior Year in Italy

Chandler West: Going to be tough to leave Italian family

April 4, 2012 

— During this week, I darted back and forth between the Sicilian cities of Augusta, Catania, Siracusa, Brucoli, Noto and Taormina.

The other “exchange week” students hosted in Augusta – Nuria from Costa Rica, Alma from Iceland, Anne from Honduras, Hernan from Peru, Iva from Croatia, Joel from the Dominican Republic and Jake from the U.S. – and I were kept constantly active, always doing something or seeing something.

We ate ridiculous amounts of sandwiches, pizzas and gelato. We saw a Greek theatre, an Italian Navy ship and intense soccer matches. We met the mayor. We poked around the shells of abandoned houses and ran from angry-looking dogs.

We swam in the clear water of the Mediterranean. We made flower crowns for our hair and shared recipes from our home countries. We sang songs on a bus. On another bus, it was so crowded we could hardly breathe. We compared our Italian progress.

We played ping-pong. We saw the interiors of churches, sat in piazzas, took hundreds of photographs. We bought bracelets from a man in a park. We rode trains, attended conferences, received gifts, got blisters. We put on sunscreen but got burned anyway.

We realized we all felt the same.

We only get homesick when we’re bored. We miss the strangest things. We don’t know how it will be to go home. Everything feels bittersweet to us. We’re down to less than 100 days. We’re changing and changing. There are still things we don’t understand. We are running out of time.

There’s a saying about student exchange: “It isn’t a year in a life, it’s a life in a year.” If that’s the case, and I think it is, then the “exchange week” in Sicily that I just arrived home from was basically a life in a week. I felt that way especially on Sunday, when I was leaving.

I’d made a new set of friends and connected with a new family in a new place. I saw how I could’ve easily gotten adjusted to that life in Sicily if I’d been placed there instead of in Lombardy. It was a weeklong glimpse into a world that could have come to mean everything, given more time.

All the same, I was still happy to return to the life that IS mine – to Brescia and Liceo Luzzago and Daniela and Lucrezia.

Saying goodbye to my Sicilian family and friends also gave me a small preview of what leaving Italy will be like. I have three months and a few days left. Seven months ago, I thought leaving home was the hardest thing I could ever do, but it seems that going back is going to be even tougher.

I have a lot of really excellent things ahead of me, I know, but I guess it is a fact of life that every new beginning comes from the end of some other beginning.

And while sometimes (most of the time) three months left seems like not nearly enough time, in other moments I realize how much potential for incredible experiences these last three months have.

If I can do as much as I did in Sicily in a week, then I can surely fill these next three months up with loads and loads of greatness. I’m not going to let it wind down; I’m going to live it with every ounce of zest and relish possible.

Chandler West is a Rock Hill High School student who is spending her senior year in Italy. She writes about her adventures abroad each week in The Herald.

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