Thursday, September 8, 2011

La Pazza Straniera

Exactly one year ago, on this day and at this exact time, I was frantically rushing home to pack my suitcase. This year I'm back. I'm once again American. And it's surprised me how much I remember now about America, when I was in Italy I had no idea what this was going to be like. Well, surprise, surprise, it's all the same. As soon as I stepped foot onto my old school's campus again, I remembered it all. I remembered where the G building is, my old locker's combination, and all the familiar faces. For them it was normal to remember, but as this was all coming back to me I felt like I was losing the Italian part of me. And in a way I am. I don't know when I'm going back, I just have to move on and be American. 
"Being American" has such a different meaning for me now than it had a year ago. Last year when I thought of America I just thought hamburgers and Starbucks. Now the word "America" brings images of a mix of different cultures, somehow coming together to make a new one, while slowly becoming ignorant to their original cultures and homelands. 
In these two months that I have been back I haven't been able to believe how little we Americans know about other cultures (not to say other cultures are geniuses either), we make assumptions about things we don't know about without taking the time to experience them. My school is and International Baccalaureate school, and is completely against all foreign exchange experiences. We don't have one foreign student in my school, and students are encouraged not to go abroad for a year or semester. After my experience, hearing my counselors telling me "I told you so" after I ask for help to make my schedule in a way that allows me to graduate on time kills me. How can people, above all, educators, be discouraging the most valuable learning experience I've had in my life? This is ridiculous. I'm making it my mission to spread the word of what cultural exchange is really like.
I talk to people I barely know at school about my exchange year, cashiers at my grocery store, my parents' friends, and anyone else who will listen about Italy. And I encourage others who have had experiences like mine to do this too. If you haven't, express your desire to experience the world, people I meet don't even understand why I would have wanted to take a year abroad. The amount of ignorance in our world is ridiculous, and I believe it's because we are encouraged to stick to a cookie-cutter plan in life. You do these courses in high school and these courses in college to get to this specific career that you will stay in for the rest of your life. People breaking the pattern are told that they are failures. Yep, according to my school, my exchange year has ruined my life. My response? Yes, it has. My future is ruined. I don't get to take four years of high school, four years of college, graduation, get a job at a public high school and stay there until I die. My exchange year has given me bigger plans. Why not take a gap year? How about I save up to buy a plane ticket to Romania? What if I decide to go to an Italian university? Learning Arabic might be nice...
So in short, I'm spreading the word. If you read my blog while I was in Italy and liked it, if you are a foreign student, or if you want to be, please let your community know that a world outside of their own exists!!!! And it's awesome.
Enough of being an activist. I'm sorry I didn't write when I promised. Since getting home I feel like I had nothing to talk about. Just daily routine. I miss Italy. So much. But this is my life now, I've changed so much but in the end I'm still the same. Just older and more determined. Maybe a bit more irritating (what can you expect, all I want to talk about anymore are foreign exchange students ;D) I have an Italian girl at my house for the year, so I'm keeping my language up, don't you worry. I have the Italian SAT subject test in December and the Italian AP test in May. I'm at school eight and a half hours a day (not Saturdays though, whoopee!) and spend a lot of time studying for the four independent study classes I am taking alongside my school classes. Yet, even with all this work, I don't regret for one moment my year abroad. I miss my friends and family so much. I miss the feeling of everything being so strange and new. I miss everyone seeing me as strange and new. But I'm back. And I'm not here to stay. If there is one thing I know about myself that I didn't before, it's that I'm destined to be an eternal foreign exchange student. But where am I going next? Muhahahaha, you'll just have to wait and see!!!!! 

Semi-unrelated side note: I don't check comments often so if you have any questions for me about my year, about me, or anything I've written on my blog, or you just want to make fun of my grammar mistakes, send me a message on facebook (If you friend me and I don't know you, I won't accept, but if you send you a message I promise to answer more often than I write my blog posts! XD)