Ciao! Bonjour! Hello!

Written by kelseyharper May 25, 2023

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Ciao! Bonjour! Hello! My name is Kelsey Harper and I am from the University of Arkansas and have made the quaint, Paderno del Grappa, Italy my new home for the last week. After finishing my last final, I closed my laptop, and rushed off a few hours later to a new start of a life changing experience that would change my perspective in all areas of my life. Never would I have known that the first two weeks across the country, would be something much more than a sent-off postcard of each destination that I reached.

In the past two weeks, I have traveled to three unique countries. I set out for what would be my first longest and farthest away risk I have ever taken. I was noticeable nervous. I clinched onto the support from my home that I left, and headed away the other direction. These were the places that change the lives of many and I would build on new experiences that would unlock the potential in growth I have always wanted.

Leaving a week earlier, my roommate Katie and I decided to leave early from our campus home and stay in London, the beautiful capital of England, that has an enriching history of British monarch coronations and booming streets of people filling the magnificent city. Stepping onto the pouring rained streets the first day, I remember the word opportunity. I noticed how people were walking not only fast, but very fast, headed to their next stop in their what seemed “normal” day. Looking a bit out of place and stopped in the middle of the streets, our bags carried the sleep deprived, but yet energized attention of figuring out our next spot. Busy British bankers, magnificent musicians, a stressed mother, a large family of ten, a single father, and a wondering young adult were belting against the rain to carry on their daily life. Looking at this in reflection, I related this to my own life. Often we get so focused on the next step and our very own next destination, we forget to see the beauty in the people around us. Our opportunities are endless when we redirect our attention towards realizing that we are surrounded with so many unique stories around us, headed to the same place, but with very different directions. This is something that I tend to forget to stop and appreciate. This made me realize that in a world of busy-ness of reaching to the next opportunity, we need to stop, look, and appreciate the moments and people around us.

Leaving behind my love for this city, for 24 hours we left for an underground train ride headed underwater across the pond to our next stop – the capital of France, the dreamland Paris. The crisscrossed roads of exquisite architecture wowed us as we looked around to find the slower paced life of Parisians. We stopped from shop to shop, exploring the beautiful shops that I once dreamed I would step into. From every friendly smile, I was greeted by the hearts of the locals that were curious of where we came from and why we were here. With being in the city for under a day, learning from the locals that I met, I found the beauty of being in the moment and appreciating the little things in a city so big. The connection came from us missing directions to a site of the Eiffel tower where I once traveled before. Instead, we saw a view in a green grass filled with many people sharing joyful moments and laughter over the spark of a relationship, or simply a fresh chocolate creme croissant and a glass of local prosecco. With little time and so many things to explore, it was overwhelming at first stepping into the city with a large agenda and exceeding expectations. With this, my best moments in the city were on a blanket in the greenery filled field looking up at the Eiffel tower and the people surrounded by it. I learned the true beauty of finding the joy in the small midst the big. This is something I will grasp onto forever.

Now, as I am in Paderno del Grappa, Italy I found that my new home has been the holding heart of my journey abroad. With classes settling in, fresh friendships, and my home away from home feeling just right, never would I have known that I would have grown even this far in. Traveling to my favorite nearby town called Bassano del Grappa, I have taken in the beauty of open perspectives of new, exciting adventures. Although a change in life can be a larger adaptation, painting your story to being open to what it all brings creates only a richer narrative. I am excited to see where the rest of my journey takes me and my CIMBA classmates, and am thankful that each postcard is written and sent in all new directions.