When I left England at the conclusion of my study abroad program in August I had no plans to return. If you had told me then that I would be back in a month’s time, I would have laughed in disbelief.
A few days after my program ended I boarded a plane to Venice, Italy where I began three (delicious) weeks of travel in northern and central Italy. Many pizzas later, I flew to Athens and spent a few glorious days on the island of Santorini, Greece where we lounged on the warm black sand beaches. Continuing east, I arrived in Armenia where I met an incredible group of friends with whom I explored the natural beauty and the blossoming art scene of Yerevan. I was originally supposed to return home at this point, but sometimes things don’t quite go as planned.
A delicious bowl of gnocchi in Sorrento Italy, the stunning Path of the Gods in Amalfi Italy with my college roommate, a church on Santorini Greece, and new friends in Armenia playing games and eating snacks.
In Bologna I was trying to enjoy my first week in Italy, but my heart was still in Cambridge. I couldn’t stop thinking about the friends I had made through the program and with the locals. Feeling rather blue, I did what any late-blooming millennial would do: I called my mom. After expressing my feelings she asked, “why don’t you just go back?”
I was floored. It was such a simple solution, but the idea of extending my trip had not occurred to me. After hanging up I found that it was indeed possible to change my flights and my friend Ignacio, an Argentinian expat, said he was happy to host me. So I changed my flights in my tiny hostel room and my forlornness was replaced with excitement about the prospect of returning to England after Armenia.
Textiles from the outdoor market in Yerevan and me and one of my best friends at the Symphony of Rocks in Garni, Armenia.
After an exhausting fifteen hour trip from Armenia, I finally arrived in Cambridge long after I should have been asleep. Being back in Cambridge without my peers was a bit weird at first. In summer I ran into familiar faces all day long and now I was relatively alone in the swarms of returning Cambridge students. However, everyday I spend here I meet new people and my connection to Cambridge deepens in a more permanent way than is possible in a six week summer session.
My friend Ignacio lives in graduate student accommodations and shares a kitchen with four other people. One of the floor mates, Danny, is Ignacio’s best friend and a wonderful person. A couple days ago I walked into the kitchen and found Danny with his computer at the dining table. As I set out the ingredients for a lemon pound cake, he told me he was feeling rather anxious and was playing one of his favorite childhood video games as a distraction. At this point Ignacio walked in playing Billie Holiday, and Danny opened a bottle of wine. I set the boys to zesting the lemons and smiled as Danny, a Spaniard, and Ignacio broke into boisterous Spanish as they raced to be the first to finish their citrus-y task. As we sipped from our glasses, our attempts to convert cups and tablespoons into metric units became more and more disastrous. With mascarpone in my hair and lemon juice on their hands we all toasted as our haphazard cake entered the oven.
After a few surprisingly-good slices of cake, Danny went to bed in much higher spirits. Later Ignacio told me that it was good for Danny to have some “family time“. It filled me with happiness to think that the simple act of sharing a meal has the same heartwarming effects halfway across the world as it does back in California. Home can be anywhere in the world if you are with the right people. From my study abroad program and my travels I have made new friends in Singapore, Taiwan, China, Spain, France, Armenia and many more countries. Knowing that I have friends in so many countries makes the world feel simultaneously smaller and larger. Learning from my friends about their various home countries makes those cultures feel more relatable and accessible, while simultaneously deepening my appreciation for the variety of people and lifestyles that exist in our global community.
Studying and traveling abroad has provided me with so many marvelous moments and opportunities for reflection and growth, but one of the most important aspects of this program was the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. The friends I have made on this trip, and the memories I have shared with them, will always have a special place in my heart regardless if I am living in California or Cambridge. Sometimes life requires changing plane tickets and baking a cake with new friends.
Ignacio with the local wildlife and my friends from the program.