erica a4

I guess it’s true. Time really does fly when you are having fun. I am not even apologizing for the cliche, because if you have been following this series, you know that cliches are to be expected.  Back at home, even before returning overseas, “tumblr quotes” were merely a platform for jokes in my eyes. Of course, some of them were so, hilariously extra and they still are. Disobeying such a direct order from the universe to use them would be a disservice to us all, and that just will not do.  #InWittyMockeryWeTrust

I am also a fan of hashtags.

But here,  “here” being not only Firenze, but countless other magical cities across Europe; the very cliches I once smirked at are the ones I find myself exuding more, and more intensely every day. Though I felt it for three weeks last year in London and have been feeling it for even longer this semester, I still struggle to describe this feeling, this “it”. 

erica a3“It” is one of happiness, there is no doubt about that. But to put “it” so simply would imply that I am unhappy in my little old hometown in Connecticut, or even arguably worse, that I am unhappy attending UAlbany. Please let me be clear when I say this, as repetitive and boring as Cromwell has become over the past fifteen years,  and as “brick” (appropriately timed NY slang) and similarly repetitive Albany can be, I have absolutely zero regrets. Like zero.

I have learned, time and time again, in my recent years; that real, true happiness comes from within. I swear you can be anywhere in the whole world, with everyone or no one at all, exploring your passions or sitting at home, and still be happy nonetheless. Well, to at least some degree; which unfortunately, far too many people have not experienced. So to whatever degree you can manage, for however long, I recommend that you grab on to whatever level of  happiness you have, and run with it, white knuckles and all.

Yes, I am perfectly happy back in the states, because I am perfectly happy in my own being. However, that “it” feeling — a sense of fulfillment far beyond happiness — is one I personally experience only while traveling this small yet somehow mindbogglingly, infinite world of ours. And here is the crazy part: Traveling is not always sunshine and roses. In fact, to a young and novice, solo backpacker, it can be pretty damn cruel.

Remember my first lone trek to Milan and Venice a couple weekends back? Let’s just say that inexperience (with overnight train travel in particular) lead to my failure to account for the fact that some stations… ya know… close. After an exhaustingly, blissful excursion with, first myself, and then my friends, my mistake forced me to wander, alone and freezing, in the dead of night. That was miserable, for sure. Even worse was to be so disoriented from this freak series of events as to stumble across the Florentine streets — my Florentine streets the next morning, without any recollection of setting foot upon them at all!  Now, that was nothing short of heartbreaking.

erica a1Oddly enough, even after deciding to put it behind me, without letting a mere stupid, screw up impact my overall time with those two incredible cities,  I still felt… out of it. Not sad, just out of it. This haze of not being fully present lingered, coming and going even as I ate my way through Napoleon pizza (UNREAL btw), and navigated the ancient Roman ruins that next weekend.

And then out of literally nowhere, a random yet, well-timed encounter with a stranger proved itself far more valuable than an outsider would assume. As my friend and I made our way back to the Metro, after wasting more change than I would care to admit for the perfect coin toss boomerang at the Trevi Fountain, a foreign woman stopped us. Of course, her thick Russian accent made it all but impossible for us to understand even her intermediate Italian. After a solid ten minutes of trying to point her to her destination, it dawned on me that we were the two worst people for the job. So I waved down a group of passing Italian women and the matter was resolved in seconds.

erica a2Let me tell you, no one has ever expressed gratitude to me for anything as outwardly as she did. She even struggled through some basic English as she motioned a pair of Russian coins from her heart to each of our hands, wishing us the best of fortune. And just like that, a double-cheek kiss, and she was gone. Instantly, for whatever reason, I felt so sincerely reaffirmed. And wildly present. Sure, it sounds ridiculous, believe me I know! But after the concierge of the only open anything refused to let me, so much as sit inside, the night of the train fiasco, a little assurance that there are genuinely good people in this world was the perfect medicine. And to think , what was practically yet another cliche cinema scene — one probably far from significant to that woman — was exactly what realigned the entire course of my experience abroad. Freakin’ perspective, people!

Please Note: The views of our student bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the UAlbany Advisement Services Center. These are their stories  – their voices.
About the Author:
Erica B.
Class of 2019
Major: Psychology
Minor: Criminal Justice
Blog Theme:
Around the World and into Myself

Established in March 2015, Project MyStory is a community building effort to help students better acclimate to UAlbany and to work more effectively toward their goals. We began in UAlbany’s Academic Support Center (ASC), where you will see many of the posters featured above. We are now co-housed in ASC and in the Center for International Education and Global Strategy (CIEGS).

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