Isabella, outbound to Italy

It's Feburary 15th 2015 and I don't know where to even start. I've been here since September and I've posted just once, and it was just a reflection of what I've been through emotionally. So today on a rainy after Valentine's Day afternoon I have a lot to say.

Nothing felt real until the end of my first month here in Italy. The fact that I was okay leaving my life behind showed me and amazed me on how strong I really am, something I didn't know about myself. That's what exchange does, it not only opens your eyes to the world but it also opens your eyes to discover what you're made of.

It was August 31st and I was hours away from leaving. Hours away from leaving the life I knew behind, my family, my friends, my mistakes, my accomplishments. To start fresh in another country. I had no idea what I had coming for me, I thought I knew what leaving was.. oh, but I didn't. It makes me laugh because I thought I knew what I was doing, I thought it would be easy and that I had control of my exchange. In fact, it has taken control of me. Teaching me and showing me. Inspiring me and taking my breath away. Breaking me and molding me.

To my surprise a lot of people came to say bye to me. I had had a goodbye party a few weeks before that where about 50 of the people closest to my heart spoke out and gave me words and tears and smiles and most importantly goodbyes. I also had a dinner with my church group, which was made up of laughs and smiles and words that touched my heart... faces that I would not see for a full year. I recieved a lot of presents and kind gestures and it was all happening so quickly I didn't have time to react.

I had planned my outfit for a week and was standing in line to check in with my airline. I was with my family: my mom, dad, our exchange student (Amanda from Brazil who would be staying at my house for a year), and my two younger sisters. Since we had a good two hours till boarding time, we sat down and waited. Nothing felt real, everything felt normal. I was good, strangely great. To my surprise my two uncles showed up and I was happy.

Someone really special to me also came to say bye, someone who's been by my side for five years and who to me is more than a bestfriend. He handed me one of his sweaters, a letter, and a dog plush toy. "His name is Willie and he was there with me when I was young and when I felt alone. He kept me company, and he'll keep you company". I was really happy and continued to smile because it was a very heartfelt gift. I knew how important it was to him. I handed him a letter and to my even greater surprise he brought with him three of my bestgirlfriends who had told me they wouldn't make it, who right away tackled me with a hug. I said bye to the people I love, they cried and then I cried. Seeing the tears running down their faces made everything really hard. I quickly became a crying mess as I walked away passing the boarding gate. As I looked back I saw them and took a deep breath. "You can do this Isabella" and wanting so bad to go back I turned away and walked to my airline boarding section.

I ended up sitting on the floor for a three hour delay because something was going on and somehow none of the planes had fuel in them, which in my opinion was very irresponsible on the airport's part. Three hours later, I finally get on my plane and sit on a window seat. I was very happy to get a window seat because I had heard that you could at a certain point when passing time zones see the sky both dark and bright on different sides. My excitment literally fell to the floor when I opened my window cover to find the wing of the plane completely covering any type of view of outside. "You've got to be kidding me" and I laughed. I had a 10 hour flight awaiting me and no view of the sky. "I guess you'll see it on the return flight" I sighed. Two men sat next to me, and before we knew it the airplane finally flew up into the sky. Goodbye America, goodbye everything and everyone, goodbye to the life I've known and hello to the life I'll meet.

I watched a movie, which I can't remember the name of, and when it ended I tried to sleep. I find it very hard to sleep on planes, it just isn't comfortable... but I found a way. I woke up like every twenty minutes but I found a way.

The two men sitting next to me were sound asleep and I really had to go to the bathroom. "Crap, what do I do?" I didn't want to wake them up. Next thing I knew, the food lady had come to offer us our food options. "Perfect, now I'll never go to the bathroom". We ate and it was really good. I had built up courage to tell the men I had to go to the bathroom and that I would need them to get up so could go. I looked at the bathroom and I guess my expression showed my situation because the next thing I heard was "Do you need to go to the bathroom?" .... "yes please". Thank God.

I came back to sit down, making them get up again. "I'm so stupid" I thought while I laughed at how shy and nervous I had gotten. "Read it when you are on the plane"... I remembered and pulled out the letter I was given. I didn't cry, I smiled and thanked God for everything he was doing. I also read a bunch of other letters I had recieved and then I took a deep breathe. I couldn't believe what I was doing. But I was calm. 5 hours remained and I wasn't going to watch another movie... I felt bored. I turned to the men next to me and started a converstation. I have people next to me for 10 hours, I need to talk to someone. They knew each other, I could tell. After sharing with them what I was doing, they shared with me that they were going on a very exciting trip in the Middle East. They were partners, a gay couple exploring the world.

Since our flight was three hours late, everyone was worried about their connecting flights. I was calm since I now would have to wait two hours to board mine instead of five. I had waited the three already. Finally we arrived in Germany. The airport was all in German and thankfully everything had the English version right under it. "GO ROTARY!" someone yelled... an old exchange student recognizing me by my blazer. We exchanged smiles and kept on with our connecting flight search. 30 minutes later I found my boarding section. 'Prague' I looked up and down at the sign and my ticket... what? I thought it was the flight before mine since I had to wait one hour more and facetimed by parents giving them the 'I made it' call. It soon came to mind.. Why would it still say 'Prague'... and not 'Milan'. I asked the lady and she informed me that my section was changed. "Oh my god, my flight is leaving in an hour" I grabbed all my things and began my search. Thirty minutes later I found it. Whew!

The lady at the desk called my name and the names of all the passengers and led us down some stairs to a bus. I had a very complicated luggage system going on. My carry on, my computer, my purse, and this lovely rotary jacket. Seeing my struggle, a man helped me. We got on the bus and I was a little unsure about what was going on.. Am I in the right place?" I thought. A woman next to me asked me if this was the right place for the Milan flight and I told her I really hoped so. "At least I'm not the only one confused" I thought.

To my surprise, we were in the right place. The bus took us to a plane that we had to climb stairs to get into. I was excited because even though it's a stupid bucketlist item, I've always wanted to climb up stairs into a plane. The excitment fell very quickly.. "perfect" I thought as I had a flashback of the luggage struggle I had just experienced and the luggage trouble I was seeing in my near future. I seriously struggled, it was almost impossible.. but I somehow made it. I hurt myself, but I made it.

Pretending like I wasn't almost dying I looked for my seat.. it was very embarrassing. I sat in my seat.. a window seat "yes" I thought "finally I'll get a view" and I felt better. I opened my window cover and I almost cried.. "YOU ARE KIDDING ME RIGHT?" Yup, again.. the wing.. and a viewless view. Instead I laughed and closed the window cover not being able to believe that it had happened to me twice. Two hours later we arrived and I had about three Italian words learned.

After all the immigration, I arrived to the baggage pick up area. It took about thirty minutes to find my bags, and then I realized there was no way I was going to be able to carry two big luggages, my purse, my carry on luggage, and my computer bag on my own. I tried to ask an older couple who were also looking for their luggage where I could find a cart in Italian which didn't work out at all. They couldn't understand what the hell I was saying. I didn't even know what the hell I was saying. Then they asked me "Do you know where we can find a cart?" I was struggling to ask the same thing to them in Italian when the whole time they weren't understanding whatever it was I was really saying because they spoke English... I laughed and said "I have no idea, I'll go look for one." I asked a man who worked for the airport and he signaled me to where they were. They were on the other side of the entire baggage pick up area, tucked away in a corner where no one would find them. "Unbelievable" I thought walking back with two carts. Soon after I saw everyone walking the opposite way to grab one for themselves. The older couple was grateful and I finally got a hand on my stuff. "Finally"

I felt bad because I probably took like an extra hour and my host family had probably been waiting for me on the other side for ages already. Next thing I knew I was standing in front of two white doors. Little did I know, on the other side would be the strangers who would become my second true family forever and a new beginning for my life awaited. Little did I know that walking through those doors would change my life.

"There is no turning back." I thought. I took a deep breathe as my heart began to pound so fast, and took a step forward..Next thing I know it's Feburary 15th 2015 on a rainy after Valentine's Day afternoon and I still have a lot to say.

Isabella