This past weekend I turned 21!!!! What a time to be alive!! As most American students know, turning 21 is a big deal. However, turning 21 in Europe is not nearly as big as a deal, since turning 18 is the big milestone. I’m certainly not afraid (nor ashamed) to admit that when choosing when I wanted to study abroad, I was a little apprehensive about spring study abroad, because I thought my birthday wouldn’t be as fun as it could be in the U.S. Turning 21 is a big deal, and it deserves to be celebrated! It’s a big milestone, and you only get to turn 21 once, so you want to do it right. And I know that more students than will admit it are apprehensive about an abroad-birthday. So, here I am to ease your fears.
First tip: be open to new things and a new type of plan. If I had been in the U.S., I know that my birthday would have been fun, but it would have followed a pretty stereotypical pattern. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I had to remember that celebrating in Italy could be even more special. With a birthday spent abroad, you get to conceptualize things as a fun weekend vacation that you wouldn’t have gotten to take in the States. For my birthday weekend, I travelled to Cinque Terre with my roommate, friend, and fellow blogger Isabella. Cinque Terre is a set of five towns on the coast of Italy. I highly suggest that you lookup pictures so you can see just how gorgeous this place is. Seriously amazing. There are honestly no words (or pictures) to do it justice.
Second tip: take your birthday as a time to pause and be thankful. Being outside of Rome, Isabella and I had the opportunity to reflect on what this semester has been, and how we want to finish up our last couple weeks. If you study abroad in Rome, I recommend that you take at least one weekend (even if it’s not your birthday) to change your scenery. Cinque Terre is made up of mountains, harbors, beaches, and the sea— such a difference from Rome! Changing up our scenery gave us time to reconnect with our surroundings, and returning to Rome was awesome, because it felt like we were truly returning ‘home.’ All throughout the weekend, I got to exist in a space free of distractions, and I could reflect on this past year, on my time abroad, and on what I want this next year to be. Take the time you need to put work aside and focus on fully engaging in each moment. Enjoy wherever you are, even if it’s in Rome; you don’t need to leave Rome to celebrate your milestone birthday!
Third tip: treat yourself. Milestone birthdays are a big deal for a reason. They mark a huge celebration of where you have been, and where you are yet to go. Remember that a birthday abroad should be treated with just as much regard (if not more) as it would be in America. So live it up! Order an extra scoop of gelato, buy the fancy wine, or visit that cool place you’ve always wanted to. Enjoy every moment, reminding yourself that you’ve been afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should not be passed up.
So, what I’ve learned from this past weekend: birthdays abroad probably won’t turn out the way they would have in America, but the good thing is that they will turn out better. Yes, I missed having all my college roommates and friends to celebrate with me, but I got to celebrate with all the great new friends I’ve made here. Instead of focusing on having one big nighttime celebration, I spread the party out over the course of a few days. We hiked, laid at the beach, ate amazing seafood, and visited an authentic Italian vineyard. And to end the weekend, my friends and I gathered for cake and card games on the rooftop garden at the Residence. All in all, a fantastic weekend. Milestones abroad can seem intimidating, but I promise you, if you let yourself be open to the new experience, it’ll be great. So happy to have turned 21 here in Italy.