A Love Letter to My Study Abroad Destination

Dear Study Abroad Destination,

Some say exchange is not a year in life, but life in a year. I couldn’t agree more, and mostly because of you.

I still remember my arrival—I was alone and the Wi-Fi sucked. I was trying to carry the heaviest suitcase EVER, while navigating completely foreign public transportation. I was nervous, lonely and jetlagged, but as soon as I worked up the courage to venture out of my dorm, everything was somehow okay.

I decided to go for a little walk, just to explore my neighborhood, but you seemed so magical I couldn’t help but carry on—not knowing exactly where I was going. Little did I know that those streets and parks, monuments and squares would soon be more familiar than any place I had lived before.

You brought me to some of my best friends, who will remain as such for life. You allowed us to bond over your architecture, markets and impossibly delightful discoveries around every corner. You watched out for us when we left the bar at 2:00AM; you soaked us in afternoon sunshine while we napped in the grass. You made us feel like we had somehow known each other forever; you made us feel safe.

You allowed me to become more myself than I even knew was possible. You have forever shaped my style, outlook on life and taste in beer. Tell me, how is it possible I discovered so much about myself in such a short amount of time? More importantly, how did I feel more like me than I have ever felt at home?

I know I left you often to explore the surrounding areas. While I loved each and every adventure, I was always more than ready to return to you, to my home, and you were always waiting with open arms—somehow even better than when I had left.

 Leaving you was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It broke my heart more than any boy ever has; it stung more than any unkind words that have come my way. It felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind, like I would never be exactly this person ever again.

I look at all the pictures I took of you often—more often than I admit to anyone. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to you, and I follow Instagram accounts that only post pictures of your iconic features. I watch movies just because of their setting on your familiar streets, and I feel an automatic connection to anyone who loves you as much as I do.

I know the people around me get sick of me talking about you. There are only a select few who truly understand. We spend hours, days even, discussing our best memories and how much the separation physically pains us.

I can only hope that one day I will get to return. Some say you won’t be as magical next time, that your charm and the bubble I lived in will have faded. I don’t believe them. I am in love with you, and that will never change

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6