It has been a thrilling and wonderful ride. My trip to Italy was incredible and I learned so much about not only the world but myself too. Every city we visited was special in its own way. I loved the scene of Milan and our bike tour of Romeo and Juliet’s home of Verona was one of my favorite moments. I loved the beautiful glittering water of Venice and wandering around the museums in Florence. Learning about the Palio races in Siena were very interesting and we even got to see a trial run. It was amazing exploring the historical city of Rome and seeing all the major monumental sites. Interacting with my other trip mates was fun and sometimes we had the most hilarious moments. I remember playing sharks and minnows (basically hide-and-seek) close to midnight in Florence and thinking we had really lost a friend because no one was able to find him. Fortunately, he came out and we played another round (we didn’t lose anyone this time). I really enjoyed the cuisine in Italy. The pizza exceeded my expectations and I ordered it multiple times a day. I will really miss the gelato. Every flavor I tried was delicious. It was crazy how I had read about a certain Italian dish and then there I was eating it, like Cacio e Pepe.

I think what surprised me the most was how much everything was different yet the same. I would be walking down the street and look at a building and there would be a centuries-old statue on a building but locals did not seem to see anything different. There it was, a piece of history right there in public and people walked around as if it was normal. I then realized that for them it was normal. I wonder if people from other countries come to the US and are amazed by some of the things that Americans pay no mind to. I think that every place has something that makes it special and unique.

My fellow Wandering Scholar, Ummara, said something along the lines of “Everything here is so rich in culture. It makes me want to learn more about my own culture and find out what makes it so great”. I couldn’t agree more. I would not have expected that going to another country and learning about their culture would make me want to know more about mine. That was incredibly surprising. What really surprised me about myself was how enjoyable being in solitude was. We sometimes had time to explore areas by ourselves and I felt so at peace and as if I belonged. I tend to love being surrounded by friends but in those times of solitude, I could connect with Italy so much more. My dad told me that more than a decade ago he worked in Rome selling bags. I had no idea that my dad was once in that same place and doing the same things as the people that I saw there. It gave me a new perspective and a deep appreciation on how hard my dad has worked for my family.

Global travel has enforced my passion to help others and increase the connection between different groups of people. While in Italy, I could see that immigrants were having the same problems as the immigrants in the United States. I understand that people are going through the same struggles everywhere in the world and we should unify to find steps to solve serious problems. I read the blog post, “Why Build Bridges, Not Walls” and I could not agree more with their message. People in today’s world, do not want to hear from another person who does not share the same viewpoint. They automatically shut off another’s opinion. If we could be patient and listen to what our “enemy” has to say we might find we want the same things or that we have more in common than we don’t. Back in Verona, we were discussing a topic over breakfast. Our tour guide, Devin, said that when trying to debate a topic to say “yes, but” instead of “no, but” because it makes sure it doesn’t cancel out another person’s argument. By listening to one another we can build connections and then bridges where change can come from. I think that’s an important message that I will take along me everywhere I go.

My trip to Italy was really a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so grateful to have been able to go. I want to continue traveling so I can continue to experience new worlds, and build bridges. I think I now have an extreme case of wanderlust. Thank you for reading.