Cultural Experience | Florence

How Writing Changed My Abroad Experience

These places and these cities are forever immortalized by putting pen to paper. 

A few weeks before I left for Italy, I was wandering the aisles of Barnes & Noble, hopelessly and helplessly looking for the perfect journal to accompany me on my travels abroad. Did I stick with the travel theme? The leather ones looked really cool, but were they worth the price? Did I need that many pages? (In hindsight, the answer is yes.) I settled on a hardcover midnight blue notebook that had gold metallic designs of the moon and sun. I felt it was a good way to start my journey.

I wrote my first entry in the notebook that night. It was two weeks before I was leaving to go abroad for four months, and the nerves hadn’t settled in yet. It still hadn’t hit me that I’d be living in Italy for an entire semester. I was excited and hopeful, and kinda sad that all my friends were at school going about their daily lives and I just wasn’t part of it. I wrote in it one more time before leaving. A few days before leaving, so the nerves were really heightened.

The next time I wrote in that journal, I was on the plane from Paris to Florence.

Over the course of four months, I documented as much as I possibly could. This was the souvenir I could bring home with me that would last for years and years. I whip it out on occasion now, reminiscing on just how incredible my travels actually were. I brought it on long bus rides to pass the time. I sat on the balcony of my apartment, feeling the heat of the afternoon Italian sun beat down on my skin, and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was the perfect companion at just about any time.

That midnight blue journal lasted until spring break. With half of my trip still remaining, I scoured the Italian markets looking for the perfect second journal to document my adventures. There were leather bound journals as far as the eye could see. After much contemplation from the help of the very nice man at the booth, I landed on a tan leather bound notebook that had a string to tie it together.

I still have that journal. The pages are running out rapidly, but the smell alone instantly takes me back to those days in Italy, or my time spent on buses, and most importantly, my time spent abroad.

Writing gave me the ability to freeze my European adventure in time. I may be almost a year removed from the day I left to go to Italy (which is terrifying on so many levels), but the moment I open that book, I am transported to the land of cobblestone streets and endless espresso. Writing gave me clarity, and provided a medium to express my anxieties and memories. Even while still abroad, I would look back at entries I’d written from trips earlier on in the semester, and I was reminded of what I was feeling and what I was doing.

Going abroad is a life-changing experience in every sense of the phrase. Writing gives you a bird’s eye view into your own thoughts and feelings that may feel as foreign to you now as your abroad city felt upon arrival. Writing allowed me to connect to my surroundings on a deeper level. I saw things and felt things at such a rapid pace, and being able to document those sights and feelings was undoubtedly the most remarkable part of my journey.

How Writing Changed My Abroad Experience

Kristen Dalli

Marist College | 7 stories

Hey everyone! My name is Kristen and I'm currently a senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. I'm studying English Writing, with minors in Gender Studies and Psychology. I recently studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and my life has forever changed.

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