I sit here at my little wooden desk in my flat in Italy, gazing out the window at the Tuscan countryside wondering how Italians ever manage to find the motivation to study.
But that is not why I am sat, ready to write. Once again I am filled with an overwhelming urge to write about how I feel. This time I write about the most life changing expiernce I have ever had; Erasmus.
The biggest thought pressing on my mind is my Erasmus Year. It is coming to an end, and I can feel it.
Everything suddenly has that ‘If not now, when?’ feeling.
The gatherings and the summer nights hang in the air like they know our time is short.
How can I put all the people I have met, with all their light and character into words. All the things I have learnt not only about myself but about Europe, and the wider world press on my mind.
Firstly I want to note that I think one biggest misconceptions, and as a result, challenges about moving abroad is that you are expected to enjoy every second of every day, and be constantly loving life. I mean how could you not be ‘you’re basically on holiday’ my friends at home say.
But my goodness, the ups and downs, I can even begin to describe.
The good days are euphoric, and leave you feeling like you need to pinch yourself, just to check its all real. But the bad days, the days you can tell you are not at home or miss your family back in your native country are hard. Sometimes there are a few hard days in a row, and you feel like you’re trapped.
But those bad days, I am grateful for. They forced me to take a good long, hard look at myself, and pick myself up time and time again whenever things got a little too much.
The first thing I will note about Erasmus, is community. Unintentionally you build this multicultural community around yourself. This community, although new, becomes your home, and your comfort zone. The people you meet, from all walks of life, all cultures, religions, countries and disciplines I will cherish forever.
These people become your home, and your family, and your happiness. Even if they are the most unconventional group of people I have ever met.
I came to Italy a different soul, looking for different things. I leave with not what I came for, but with a passion to get a little more out of life, to think bigger and love harder.
There is no room for anything else.
This year has also allowed me to question myself. Truth be told, I think I lost my way a year or so ago. For better or for worse everything that happened has allowed me to be where I am today. But Italy, with all its beauty and its kindness, has allowed my body to feel a little bit more like home. I no longer feel like a stranger in my own skin.
The Italians, for all their wonders, have a way of looking at life, that is unlike any other. Not everyone thinks it is practical, but they are the happiest group of people I have ever met. Who can deny that being happy is the most important achievement of all.
We as human beings have been trying to define this little word ‘happiness’ for centuries. Despite its variations, my own happiness has become the biggest goal. If I am not happy nothing else will grow, I strongly believe all other success in all other branches of life, stem from your own happiness.
I don’t mean the type of happiness that only reaches the surface, the ‘happiness’ that social media sees. I mean a happiness that runs so deep you wouldn’t have anything any other way. I can’t claim to have achieved this entirely, but I am far closer than I have ever been, and that its all thanks to Italy.
I am yet to meet an Italian, be them young or old that has not greeted me with open arms and nine times out of ten tried to feed me as a result.
Society puts a great deal of pressure on you to be the best in your class or the first with a postgraduate job. But here in Italy, they measure their happiness and their own personal levels of achievement as a marker, and you know what, it is a much better way to live. Or atleast from what I have seen.
They don’t all graduate at the same time, they graduate when they are ready, and I think success measured by your own self worth is a far healthier mentality to have.
It might even just be the British, with their rigid education system, which despite all its praises, doesn’t produce the happiest people in comparison. Everyone grows at different times. I mean how many of us at eighteen were truly ready to decide upon the career we want for the rest of our life?
Life is certainly about learning, but learning about yourself and then how you fit into the bigger picture, is what I will take from this year.
Home, home now, it is clear will never be the town I grew up in. Home is myself, and my loved ones, no matter where they are.
I don’t think home will ever be a city or a town, home is where I feel happiest. I have left and taken little pieces of everyone and everywhere I have been.
After this year, home will no longer be confined to the British shores.
I can’t possibly be the person I was when I arrived, I have lost and found too much a long the way. This year has left me unintentionally in the pursuit of happiness.
I want to thank you Erasmus, for my pursuit of happiness. Although it be changing and altering like the winds, I have found the one goal above them all, and for this I can never repay you.
Erasmus+ and the Erasmus Commission.