Dear Past Self

Dear January Gwen,

I am so proud of you! Your time in Florence has almost come to an end, and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of your life so far. I vividly remember mid-October not even knowing if the new passport would come in time, debating if it was even worth it, or if I was even ready for this challenge of moving abroad.

All the worries in my head: What if __ goes wrong? I’m going alone, what if everyone else already has friends? What if my luggage gets lost? What if … ? Sure, a lot can and WILL go wrong. But what if it goes right? 

You took the leap and made this dream your reality (as cheesy as it is). It has genuinely been the best time of your life, but growth does not come free of hardships. You have moved to a foreign country, immersed yourself in the culture, and learned so much about yourself in the process. This is something you’ve known you wanted to do since you were a freshman in high school. By taking a risk that everything could go wrong, you allowed yourself to grow in ways you never could have imagined. 

It is quite difficult to put to words exactly how you’ve grown over this experience, but you can definitely feel the change within yourself. You’ve learned to say yes as much as you possibly can: to every dinner, every museum trip, every travel opportunity. But also to set boundaries and to prioritize your own health to avoid burning yourself out (you will get sick several times this semester). 

From Italy to Ireland to Spain, and so many others, you explored 9 (!!!) countries and became a pro at traveling light (shoutout to RyanAir and other low-cost airlines). All the while maximizing your days in Florence, shopping at markets, visiting museums, and appreciating the rich culture and history you are living surrounded by. Celebrating Carnival (Mardi Gras) in Venice, hiking almost 9 miles at Cinque Terre, and Easter Sunday in Florence are memories that I will never forget and stories you will one day get to tell your children about. 

The friends you have made here, from all over the US, are the kinds of bonds you will one day look back on and remember the unforgettable journeys you went on that you cannot replicate anywhere else. I know you are nervous about making friends and missing your friends from home, and while distance DOES make the heart grow fonder, you will make AMAZING friendships here that become so special as well. 

My biggest advice: live in the moment, cherish every day, take care of yourself (rest is okay too), and eat all the pasta you can <3 


April Gwen