At the end of my year-long program of study in Torino, I can say what I hoped I would be able to when this journey started: that I had the time of my life, immersed myself in the culture, and left feeling more connected to my Italian heritage. Above all, I can say that I am forever grateful that I took advantage of the opportunity to live and study in this city.
During my first month here and still now after nine months, I can say that Torino is the perfect city for me and an amazing location to study abroad. It’s an authentic, lively city, where I’ve met more Italians than foreigners, gotten to know the language and experience the culture.
After almost 10 months I can say that I speak the language (proficiently, I still hit a few bumps here and there), that I’ve not only made lifelong Italian friends but lived with them, and I have become a stronger and more confident individual. I have adjusted to the Italian culture and lifestyle to such a degree that I am dreading the lifestyle changes that await me back in the United States.
My time in this country with its beautiful people has taught me several aspects of life that I will keep at the forefront of my mind as I move forward. One of the major ones being time itself. Being here for the entire year has allowed me to gain such a full and rewarding experience. I was able to study, travel, work, and complete an internship in these months because I had enough time to. Additionally, the experience that I find myself in now—speaking Italian in an apartment of young Italian adults who are also my closest friends—was made possible because I had the time to make it a reality. I had time to learn the language, I had time to make connections that turned into friends, then flatmates, and then family. Don’t get me wrong, I could have been here for years and not made this happen had I not forced myself out of my comfort zone. But I had time to work myself out of my comfort zone, with confidence and on my own terms.
I have changed the way I look at my time and how I spend it. I’ve always said time is money. During high school and college in the years leading up to this one you could find that I was still in a hurry, doing several things at once, overbooking myself and spreading myself all too thin. Even at the beginning of my stay I was restless, itching to travel, speak better Italian, see everything, and meet everyone. I was exhausted, hard on myself, and not to mention, stressed. It wasn’t just because of this new world I was living in but because of myself and the way I perceived myself in it. I had to go go go and make the most of everything. And now, in hindsight, I’m glad I had this mindset but I realized that’s not always the best way to go about life and I could have taken better care of myself if I slowed down a little.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Italians, it is that you can slow down. You need time to take things in, especially a new place and culture; you need time to learn how things work. You can’t expect yourself to be good at everything instantly or speak a new language after a few weeks of living in a different country. Yes, you need to get out of your comfort zone, meet people, and explore, but you can take some time alone to do this and reflect on it when you do. Since I’ve really got into the Italian fashion of doing things I’ve slowed down a lot, I give myself time to enjoy simple things like sitting in the park on a nice day or reading a book on my little balcony. I spend more time than I ever have enjoying meals and conversation with my friends. I’ve spent more time listening and less time talking.
This has been a sizeable cultural aspect that at first was difficult for me but now I fully embrace and am quite accustomed to. I am finding it hard to imagine a life without everyday aperitivos, endless meals and spending an entire Sunday afternoon sitting on my balcony listening to my roommates play guitar and sing Italian classics. While I have learned many things from this culture and my time here I believe the most important lesson I’ve learned is to slow down and enjoy my life; to enjoy these experiences that I am living and not rush myself to the next thing. I know that because of this experience I am a happier person who takes a calmer approach to life. A lifestyle that is without a doubt better for my health, future travels and life endeavors.
Make the most of your time! Get out of your comfort zone, get lost in your home city, try new things but don’t forget to give yourself time to relax, enjoy, and really feel at home wherever you go.
Kyla Cantillo attends Seattle University. She studied abroad in Torino, Italy.