Community was hands down the scariest thing when I thought of being abroad for a semester. Would I sit in my apartment for the next four months and not make any friends? Would I feel at home throughout my time? Would I be able to communicate and navigate my way through a city with basically zero Italian skills? I had a conversation with my sister about these fears before leaving and she reassured me that I needed to expect the Lord to show up, and man did He. I live in a community. I am surrounded by loving friends through the USAC program. I feel loved and encouraged through the family I babysit for, my voice teacher, and the barista down the street. Torino has become such a unique, yet loving community to be a part of.
I hear the little kid who lives in the apartment upstairs play his recorder *insert earplugs*. The old lady that passes me on the street greets me with the absurdly long hello of, “Buona giornata, Arriverdici!” The coffee shop owner greets me with, “Buongiorno, un cappuccino?” (My dream of becoming a regular at a coffee shop has now come true 🙂 The group of old men who stand on the same street corner across from my apartment everyday and chat with one another smile at me as I walk by. The grocery clerk at Pam smiles at me when I switch the language setting to English in the self checkout lane. This is community.
I look at the people around me and notice that this isn’t their four-month-abroad-program, this is their life. They live, shop, go to school, and work in this community. The kids have their roll backpacks and their parents walk next to them with their roll cart for groceries. It is so cool to experience such a different concept of what a family unit looks like. My friends and I have created our own community in Torino. We have weekly dinners, karaoke and wine on Wednesday nights, and stop by each other’s apartments just to say hi. We have become familiar with the city and with one another and confide in one another through hard times in life. We rejoice through the job and internship offers and help one another process through the rejections that also come along. To say that the Lord showed up through this experience would be an understatement.
I have exactly three weeks left which seems like no time at all. Many conversations I have now are about the transition home and how we will all adjust to being back in the United States. We talk about how we will miss one another but have plans to visit in (hopefully) the near future. I have been incredibly blessed with such hard working people to be surrounded with.
Every single one of these people has worked hard academically, financially, and mentally to be able to be abroad for a semester and I haven’t seen anyone take the opportunity for granted. We went around the table at our Thanksgiving dinner and shared what we were thankful for. Every person at the table talked about their support systems back home and how amazing the opportunity is to be here. I think I am pretty darn blessed to be surrounded by such thankful and generous community who see the value in one another and in this experience.
Olivia Pederson is an alumna of the USAC Torino, Italy program. You can read more about her time abroad on her blog, Discovering Torino.