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Lessons Learned in Italy

A few months ago, I wrote about being new to Italy and adjusting to my life here in Florence as an exchange student. Wow! That seems like a long time ago. In the few short months since I wrote that, I have learned so much, not just about the Italian language, but more about myself. I have learned to be grateful for the good people in my life: the ones that push me, encourage me, and genuinely care about me and my wellbeing. The ones that are willing to put in effort and show genuine care for me are the ones I try to keep around. I have learned, in traveling to four different countries, that there is always a solution for a problem, even if the solution isn't the most convenient or expected. I have learned about my own preferences, what I do when I’m stressed, about my tendencies and habits, and just more about who I am as a person. I have discovered a lot about myself in this time here, but I also know that I will learn more about myself when I look back at the time I have spent here in Italy.

I had the pleasure of going down to a little town in Lazio called Gaeta for Global Youth Day back in March. The school paid for me and a couple other students to go down and represent ACA. We left early in the morning, drove with our chaplain down to the church in Gaeta, and attended the church service. We enjoyed the warm day by eating lunch at a nearby beach. Later we went to a local park and helped advertise for a health fair that was happening nearby. It was beautiful to see so many Italian youth come together and spend time with one another. I met a few people, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to travel and get to know some new friendly faces.

As I mentioned in my previous article, I am the spiritual representative for my class. That has taught me a lot too. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I too often rely on my own strength and when planning a spiritual moment for the school, and I forget to add God into the process. It is way too easy to get stuck in the trap of “What can I do? How can I do better? How can I get people to come to this event?” I have asked myself these questions too many times, and I’m learning to take a step back and realize it’s not about me. Whether I organize a spiritual event that the whole school attends or just a few people, the attendance and the flawlessness of the program is not the focus. The real focus is Jesus. The whole idea of these moments are to glorify and bring praise to God. Without adding Him into the equation, it isn’t going to work, no matter how good it looks or how smoothly it goes. I will always try my best, but God needs to be the focus of my work and in every step along the way.

The other thing I have learned is to not take what I have here for granted. The whole time I have been in Italy, I have been very aware of the fact that I will have to return home. Someday soon I won’t be able to walk out and be surrounded by Italians, ride the local tram to see the stunning Duomo, or even go get gelato at the local gelateria. And though I am aware of this, I can take it for granted a little bit. But I have had the huge blessing of having some friends and family from home come and visit me here in Florence. Not only am I so grateful for the little taste of home that I miss so much, but it makes me see Florence in a different light. I can remember the first time I saw the Duomo and how amazed I was at its beauty. I can walk along the streets, reminded of the faces of people seeing it for the first time, and it makes me smile. I realize what a blessing it has been to be here. I am incredibly grateful for this experience, and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

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