Throughout my semester here in Rome, I have been thinking about the concept of ‘tracking.’ Tracking can take on a variety of different definitions, depending on the context or situation, but for me, ‘tracking’ has meant keeping my “life plan” on its course. I want to be a teacher, and before coming to Rome, I always said that I would finish up college, spend about 2 years out of school doing various fellowships, etc, go to grad school, then start teaching. And it’s ironic, because I would always claim that I was someone who “didn’t have her life planned out,” but being here in Rome has shown me that yes, I was someone who did. I might not have planned the specifics, but I had the blueprint laid out in front of me, and all I had to do was sit back as the proposed sketch came to life.
If you have ever studied abroad, or if you do study abroad one day, you will find that one of the most commonly-said phrases from study abroad students is “I don’t know when I will have this chance again.” Normally, students are saying this in reference to travel, or living in another country, and asserting that this study abroad opportunity might in fact be the only time in their lives when this can happen. I do understand that scheduling can get tough, finances are not always predictable, and you never know where life will bring you, but I don’t think this is the main reason why students say this ‘I’ll never have the opportunity again” phrase. I believe we say this not because the opportunity will not be there again, but because we don’t allow ourselves this opportunity again. And it all goes back to ‘tracking.’
If there’s anything study abroad has reminded me, it’s of how young I am. I am currently only 20 years old, which really is not much at all. Before I came abroad, at a mere 20 years old, I had told myself what I needed to do in life, what paths I needed to take, and what sort of risks I could take. After being abroad, I’ve seen just how flawed this sort of mindset is. At 20 years old, I had essentially told myself that my life after Rome would be confined just to the U.S., that some sort of travel was inevitable, but truly taking part in another culture was not. I was one of those people that said “this might be my only opportunity.” There is a whole world out there, waiting for us to experience it, and I had essentially told myself “no.”
As I head into senior year, I am excited to see what the next chapter of my life will bring. When I begin my job search, I am going to make sure that I apply to jobs and fellowships that will take me out of the U.S. There is so much more to see, and so much more to explore. When we travel and truly immerse ourselves in another culture, I believe we become better people for it. In just a few short months in Rome, I have grown so much, and yes, there have been challenging moments, but it’s been incredible. And why wouldn’t you want that to keep happening? Of course, no one can know what their life will bring, so maybe Rome will be my one opportunity to live and travel like this. But, what I do know is that I am going to go back to the U.S. with a new mentality, one that is open to change and open to whatever life may bring. The world is a big big place, and I don’t want to make it any smaller than it needs to be!