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“Un Anno Fa.”

Emily Swaine at a Creative Writing Reading
Emily Swaine at a semester-end Creative Writing presentation.

We frequently hear from Umbra alums, both recent and not. Emily Swaine, a student from the spring 2011 semester, took the one-year anniversary of her departure to Perugia to reflect on her experiences.


With the recent ringing in of the New Year, people around the world have marked the passing of 2011. They have thought about what has happened to the world and to them. They have recollected their achievements and perhaps their failures. They have remembered the people they met and the people they lost. Hopefully, most of them looked back at the last year and smiled.

While the world reminisced last year during the days leading up to January 1st and perhaps a few days after, it is today, January 6th that inspires me to think of where I have been in the past twelve months.

In the last year I have lived in three countries, finished the first half of my senior year of college, I’ve said a lot of hellos and I’ve said a lot of goodbyes. I pick today to reflect on the last 365 days because exactly one year ago today I began my first and perhaps biggest adventure of 2011; I boarded a plane to Italy. While this part of my year only filled the first four months, it was the defining period of the year. I arrived in Italy as a white blank page anxious to fill myself with new lessons, new experiences and new people.

With a year gone now from my initial departure, I am still confident in saying that those four months spent abroad were and will continue to be four of the best months of my life.

As I look back in thought and through photographs, I remember the places I traveled: Paris, Malta, Austria, and of course all over Italy. I remember the apartment I lived in and the walk up our giant hill to Umbra. I remember the food and the wine, the music and the sound of Italian throughout the streets. I remember the strength of the coffee and the crisp bread of the infinite panini at Ciao Ciao. I remember the smell of fried eggs and the sound of chatting that filled our kitchen in the mornings as our apartment became the breakfast spot since we all soon realized Italy had no concept of a real breakfast. It is all missed. The late night, or should I say early morning trips to the secret bakery, the lunches at the lake, the dinners at Dal mi’ Cocco, Friday afternoon lunches, Mumford and Sons streaming through speakers, and afternoons on the Steps.

While I think of all of this often and with both joy and sadness, it all means nothing without thinking of those who I share these memories with. The places I went were beautiful, but more beautiful were the people I met along the way. I met four amazing and different personalities in my three beautiful roommates, Erica, Jill and Colleen, and our unofficial (but just as beautiful) fourth roommate Ginny. I do not often come quickly across good girlfriends, but as each are genuinely good, strong and hilarious people, I miss having them so close to me. I miss talking with them and laughing with them. I grew immensely as an independent young woman during my time in Italy and that growth was strongly inspired by them.

As much as I would love to write for days and days about every individual who touched my life throughout those four months, I sadly do not have days and days. With that said, my days have not been the same without my morning greeting from Ian, my daily and always interesting lessons from Zach, a laugh with Mauro, girly chats with Lindsay and Rachel, and the wondrous Italian classes with Barbs. My nights have yet to be better spent than those that began at Dempsey’s with the crew. My long awaited scooter ride, which turned into more of a daily routine, would have meant nothing if anyone else had been driving me and Joyce’s would be just another bar. My beautiful Italian, my red headed Brit and my always dancing Spanish girl redefined for me what a friend is. Every day since I have left Perugia, I am reminded that the relationships we built abroad have no borders. When we left, for those of us who did, we got on separate trains and buses which led to different planes which took us back to our own worlds; worlds that do not include each other in day to day life; worlds that do not involve a fountain and it’s on looking steps; worlds with shitty coffee and pasta; worlds without ciaos and scusas; worlds without Italy and the wonderful things and people we grew to love there. But through all of that and despite the planes that pulled on us to take us thousands of miles away from each other, we pulled harder and while we may be apart from each other, there is not a day that goes by without us remembering a part of our time in Perugia and the people who made it memorable.

If you’re reading this and you have not studied abroad or are not one of the people I spent those four months with, then I hope you still the see the magic of it all through the small window I have tried to paint for you. If you have studied abroad, especially if you have studied abroad in Perugia, you understand that it was those small things that made up the small moments that made our time there; that it was those moments shared with those great people that have forged our lasting memories and our lasting relationships. You understand what it means to fall in love with a city and a time. You understand that except for a special few, no one will ever truly understand.

And so it is on this day that I go back one year and recall that almost to the hour, I was sitting on my plane excited and nervous for the unknown adventures awaiting me. It is a year later that I see it all and remember it all and miss it all. It is now, on our year anniversary of meeting, that I can start my countdown to my return to the city that stole my heart.

Perugia, mi manchi! x


This post was taken with Emily’s consent from her personal blog, Swaine’s Words. Thanks, Emily!

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