Keep On Living

In Florence, The Art of Travel Fall 2015, Looking back by Akemi Aiello1 Comment

I’ve taken my final flight of the semester and I’m finally home. After following my posts you may assume that I couldn’t be happier. Everyone here is asking how my trip was and “What is the one thing you learned?” “Do you think you feel different?” And every time I answer they say “Huh, interesting…” Like it isn’t profound enough and I failed them. But whatever, it’s important to me and it’s brought a lot of clarity to my life.

Studying abroad has taught me that people matter more than experiences. This past semester I had the opportunity to do and see so many things, and they were awesome, but it would have been so much better if I was with the people that I really care about in my life. I was fortunate enough to have one of my best friends with me for most of my travels and there were some things that I feel I got the most out of because I was alone. But I still spent a lot of my time missing certain people and wishing they were there to be with me. Some times I would be out experiencing whatever city’s nightlife, but I would have rather been at any shabby bar back in New York with my friends. It kind of makes me feel guilty that I’m not grateful enough for what I got to do, but when it comes down to it, why should I feel guilty for loving people?

However I still loved this past semester and I am so glad that I took the chance to study abroad. We’re all going to school to become educated but it’s useless unless we make an effort to understand other cultures or look at life in a new perspective. All the things that I saw and people I encountered were experiences that help me cross the line of being educated to intelligent. I’m not a genius or anything now, I just know and understand a lot more than I could ever learn inside a classroom.

I’ve spoken a lot about the racism I’ve experienced but it’s because what opened my eyes to most. I’m lucky to live in the two most diverse cities in America and I rarely feel the prejudice that I did in the semester. Sometimes I forget that racism exists and right now with everything that has happened, it’s really hit me how huge of a problem it is. Going back to LA and eventually New York, I want to be more aware of its presence in the States instead of putting it behind me because I won’t have to deal with it myself anymore.

And my answer to everyone’s second question: no. No, I don’t feel different, I’m still the same person than the one that left 4 months ago. I don’t think traveling has to transform you, whatever you get is whatever you get.

After fully reflecting I have an addition to my list of tips. Don’t feel like you have to accomplish anything when you’re traveling. Treat your travels as just another day in your life, don’t go around with the burden of obligation. You don’t have to see the Sistine Chapel when you’re in Rome if you don’t want to. People might tell you that you missed out on something great, but if you were there seeing something that you don’t enjoy then you’re missing out on more.

That’s my biggest regret, trying to satisfy the request of others instead of seeing and doing what I wanted. But I’m not going to let that ruin my whole experience, it’s just an excuse to keep traveling.


  1. I likewise dread being interrogated by friends and family upon return to the States. I agree that since people tend to project their own expectations and preconceptions onto your experience, you and I might be hard-pressed to satisfy their questions: whether about our self-transformation during the experience or about famous landmarks we did or didn’t get to see. I’m upset to hear about your experience of racism while abroad. Here the Chinese too are excellent at singing out the laowais, or the foreigners.

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