The grey skies and English accents that suddenly surround me can be proof of only one thing. I’m home!
I’ve spent the past week in a wildly fluctuating emotional state, but have successfully managed not to cry actually on anyone, apart from a little bit accidentally on the poor man sitting next to me on the plane home. He pretended not to notice, and we were fine.
Having lived in Italy for 10 months, I really thought I would have more of a grip on the insanity that is Italian culture, but there are still many things that confuse me. Maybe someone can help me out by explaining these.
1. Everyone is called Marco. Are there no other names?
2. Literally All music sung by Italian females is about heartbreak and unrequited love.
3. I’ve been wondering this since week 1 but seriously, why can’t I have a cappuccino after 2pm without being judged?
4. It takes 12 hours by train to get from Naples to Catania when Milan to Naples is the same distance and takes 4 hours. (Southern Italy problems…)
5. Why does everyone think that if I leave the house with wet hair I will be dead within the hour?
6. Instead of ‘touch wood’, Italians grab either their left boob or balls to counteract bad luck. I was slightly taken aback when one of my friends spontaneously grabbed his balls in the middle of the street after seeing a black cat.
7. When asked what your favourite flavour of ice cream is, the only correct answer is pistacchio.
8. You are allowed to start yelling irrationally at your flatmates, partners or complete strangers, but when they get your order wrong in a restaurant it’s rude to say anything at all…
9. If one of your Italian friends gets a new boyfriend/girlfriend, it is at least plausible that you will not see them for around 2 months.
Despite these minor issues, I somehow managed not only to survive Italy, but have the best year of my life. Italy is an insane place, but it is also a beautiful one, and is full of people who will not only tolerate your complete bafflement at their customs but also welcome you warmly into their lives, comfort you when things are tough, and probably feed you a lot of food (I am so afraid to weigh myself having not done so for 11 months).
Coming home is strange. You are happy to be back, but at the same time you miss all the amazing people you met, you miss having such an exciting, crazy and international lifestyle, and it almost feels like you left a part of yourself in the country where your Erasmus was. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For one thing, it’s a great excuse for free holidays all over Europe. But you also realise how much your exchange has given you. You really feel how much more open-minded and confident you are, and you cherish memories that you will hold onto for the rest of your life. You also realise that this is only the beginning – the fun is just starting, and there are plenty more adventures to come.
I don’t really know how to finish this as it has been a pretty big week, and I think part of me still hasn’t accepted that I’m home for good, so I’d just like to thank all the people who have followed my ramblings all year, as well as everyone who has helped to make my year abroad so special. It’s been fantastic and I will never forget it.