Belvedere in Arezzo

Note: Starr S. is one of four 2016 Honors Study Abroad Scholarship recipients who is currently studying in Europe.

Starr in ItaliaThe park at the top of the hill in Arezzo has been by far the best view of the Tuscan countryside that I have seen.  The park lies behind a grand cathedral that looks like it was made by God himself. Inside the cathedral, an organ plays softly as if to lull you to sleep.

Upon arriving at the park, I  noticed immediately the couples and lovers walking with their children or their pets. There were even some elderly couples strolling around the park and pointing at different places off the side of the mountain, as though they were remembering them from their youth.

I wish to be like them one day. I wish to stroll around the Italian countryside with my husband or my children and point out the many places I have been here. I wish to tell them about the Arezzo cathedral with its ceilings painted in gold and its gargoyles that are so life-like, they almost talk to you. I wish to show them the pictures of me standing on top of the mountain in the park in Arezzo with the entire Tuscan countryside behind me. I wish to tell them about the elderly couple sitting on the bench in the Arezzo park, remembering their youth as I am remembering mine.

On this mountain, there seems to be nothing I cannot see, nothing I cannot do, nothing I cannot be. I traveled with a group, and as we all stared out at the sunny Tuscan view we all had the same thought: How can I explain this when I get to Raleigh, and can a picture do this justice? After seeing Tuscany from one side to the other, it is almost a lie to call Raleigh “home” anymore. Italy is our new home, and it is nothing short of breathtaking.

Inside the cathedral, the organ sang to us and told us the story of the many people who lived and worshiped in this place. I could not only hear the organ, but could feel the emotions it was portraying: beauty, sadness, grief, love, and humility. The organ played humbly as if to let me enter the cathedral and experience its story for myself. Inside, the cathedral was eerily cool and empty and there were no sounds other than the organ and the soft footsteps of a few people walking around. Outside, in the open and joyous space of the park, an entirely different tune was played. It was not a tune of sadness, but one of family, hope and future. It was the happy tune of children playing, familiar faces meeting, and lovers laughing. The contrast was remarkable, but in both scenarios, I felt welcome and comfortable.

The same applies to study abroad. I feel comfortable in the United States, where I know the culture and the people, but I also feel at home in Italy because the people are welcoming and happy. They are a non-judgmental people just like the cathedral and the park of Arezzo.

–Starr S.

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