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September 20, 2013
Vol. 55 No. 3

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Abroad journey brings self-awareness

Being back in the United States has been a struggle. I usually am able to fall back into my routine after a week or two, but it's been so difficult this semester, and it isn't showing signs of getting easier.
I can't say that I mind. What bothers me most about being back in the States is the ignorance of other people in respect to my time abroad. Instead of being asked "What did you learn abroad?" or "How did the experience change you?" I am asked "Did you get wasted every night?" or "Did you sleep with an Italian?"
The vast difference between these types of questions baffles me, and maybe it's because I am the one who studied abroad and feels changed, but I know that other people who have studied abroad feel it too.
When I came home, I was different. I could feel it. Inside of me, something clicked, and I finally learned to love myself and all the people around me. There was no more judgment or drama; just stress-free living. My whole dynamic on life and happiness changed.
After thinking about what happened to me over there (which I never thought I could put into words), I finally realized what the big deal was about studying in Italy. Of course, I encountered the usual shenanigans that I always do, but the more time I spent over there, the less time I spent worrying about capturing the moment of being in another country. At some point, I stopped trying and started living.
You see, America runs on a schedule. We can't be late for a meeting because we stopped to chat with a friend; we have homework and tests and papers; we are constantly told to finish college with the highest honors or else we won't be successful and live a happy life. Let me tell you, I saw happiness. It doesn't involve money or the latest technology or alcohol and drugs. Happiness is being content with one's self and others. It is enjoying your own company. It is allowing yourself to love unconditionally and without fear and letting others love you as well.
A good friend of mine told me about Aristotle the other day. Aristotle believes that there are three different kinds of friendship: that of utility, pleasure and virtue. The first, utility, he explains as being shallow and easily dissolved, because the relationship is based on something that the other person can offer you. Once that no longer happens, the relationship breaks.
The second type of friendship, that of pleasure, is one he describes as being built between friends through passions and pleasures. It is where the people seek pleasure presently, such as two lovers or the feeling of belonging one person has in a group of people. He believes this type of friendship is fleeting and a target of constant change.
But the third, virtuous friendship, is a rare find. This type of friendship is based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility or pleasure. Aristotle describes the friendship as long lasting and tough to obtain because these types of people are hard to come by. This is what I found when I was abroad.
To share ideas and concepts and grow as a person because of them is an amazing feeling. Finding people who have such deep beliefs yet are willing to listen and accept yours is refreshing. I feel like today people, especially my generation, are afraid to share ideas due to fear of rejection. We should be embracing the company of those around us, recognizing their strengths and faults and loving them either way. I have never felt as peaceful or at one with myself as I did when I was in Italy.
And thank God I have people at Susquehanna who think the way I do and have experienced what I did while I was abroad. It gives me pleasure to see my friends changed for the better, with an open mind and an open heart. I can only hope that more people find this lightness in life and embrace it, loving themselves the way that their friends do.
Today, I am 22 years old. I have flaws, weaknesses, strengths, doubts, dreams, goals, scars and a lot more growing to do. Yet I can honestly say I love myself, love my life and love those who are in it. Let the love in, folks. Just let it in, and breathe.

The editorials of The Crusader reflect the views of individual members of the editorial board. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire editorial board or of the university. The content of the Forum page is the responsibility of the editor in chief and the Forum editor.

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