BRESCIA, Italy — I knew when I decided to come to Italy that I was giving up my walk across the stage and participation in Rock Hill High Schools graduation ceremony.
I wasnt ever very upset about the idea of missing it. They said theyd mail me my diploma, which was enough. Plus as a Junior Marshall last year, I got to attend and see what it was like.
I let go of my high school years 365 days ago, but I still feel very connected to the rest of the students in my year of school, whom I spent so long with before embarking on this years journey.
So, when the rest of the class of 2012 walked across the big stage, accepted their diplomas and tossed their caps into the air last weekend, I was there in spirit.
In the literal sense, I was at the party my host sisters boyfriend threw that night.
Im fairly certain that at the moment when I would have otherwise crossed the stage, I was sitting with a group of friends on the roof of Giovannis mountain house, taking in the whole of Brescias midnight stretched out down below like a constellation of stars while the real constellations hid behind clouds up above.
It seems very right for that to be the place where I was at the moment of my class graduation, because graduation is nothing if not a vantage point. Its the time for looking fondly and proudly over your accomplishments and for looking across the future that lies beyond.
I spent my graduation looking over the skyline and distances of this pretty Italian city that Ive come to love and call home. Its the city where Ive learned a new language and made a new life for myself.
During that beautiful time of relaxing on the cool tiled roof, I thought of how many other such beautiful moments Ive collected throughout this year, and how proud I am of myself for what Ive accomplished.
I thought about how glad I am that my goodbyes to Italy this July wont be real goodbyes, just see-you-laters. I remembered the instances scattered throughout this year when I thought I was going to give up and become a complete failure exchange student.
I thought the sounds and deceptive cadences of Italian would never ever make sense, and Id never find my niche within this culture, but it did and I have. I made it.
As it turned out, I graduated at the exact same time as everybody else. My graduation cap and gown turned out to be a party dress and my stage was the window I climbed through.
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 and heraldonline.com.