by Giulia Toniolo

Time really flies but still looks like yesterday when I am carrying an exaggerated amount of luggage and took a flight with other exchange students to get here which is literally on the other side of the world.

I am in mixed emotions now since I only have 44 days left in my program. I have the desire to go home, embrace all my loved ones and return to my life in Italy. On the other hand, I have the eagerness to stay here with the people who saw me laugh, cry and grow. There are many things happened during this year of discovery, and leaving everything behind so soon seems almost wrong and it pains me. But I know for sure that the people, culture, and places will always remain in my mind and in my heart, and I will miss it very much once I come back home to Italy.

I’m beginning to understand now what it’s like to have pieces of heart scattered all over the world.  Because this journey opens my mind and makes me more sensitive to differences, mindful of the details of other culture and tradition and without me knowing it changes me and marks me deeply. And no matter how sad to leave everything behind and back home to Italy, I will always be a different person, full of experiences and emotions, that will make me somehow happy with my choice. That is why, despite all the people who criticize this type of experience and consider it “a year lost” or “one year of holiday”, I will never stop being proud of my choice and, to be honest, if I will go back in time I would do it again and I would always choose a country which is completely different from Italy, so that I could taste every single shred of diversity.

We have a world full of colors, but very often we are afraid to come out of the black and white that characterize our everyday life, perhaps for prejudice or perhaps for the hardships or trials that will come into play. And that is why I feel once again obliged to thank my parents, for always believing in me and for pushing me — until I burst that bubble of comfort and safety in which I was wrapped.

One thing I am sure, I will not waste these remaining 44 days, I will try to immerse myself completely in Filipino culture, capture the details and share them with anyone who wants to listen. I’m happy that I had the courage to leave, leaving everything behind in Italy, to go to distant and unknown places where I found people I’ll never forget, people which made me very excited and made me feel at home every single day, and people who made me want to go back to the Philippines again and again.

I hope everybody will realize how a year abroad changes a life, magnify horizons and create new and wonderful relationships because as for me, it can really help you discover yourself and the world that revolves around you.