My Final Thoughts on Life in Sicily

As you may have read before, I moved to Sicily on September 19th and I've had a rollercoaster ride of an experience these past few months. I was originally bound to Japan for my degree-required study abroad program, but due to a myriad of issues and some uncertainty on the universities side, I ended up having to choose another destination.

And so, with very little knowledge about Sicily or Italy as a whole, I set out to Palermo with my bags packed, totally unsure of what the next few months ahead would be like.

As you may have seen in the post directly following my 'moving to Palermo' post, I did not handle the change very well. Palermo was a stark contrast from my mental image of what Italy was, and the sharp contrast from the sleepy and small city of Dijon made it feel like whiplash being thrown into hustle and bustle of Palermo. The constant noise and activity had me stressed and dreading the next time I had to step outside the confines of my apartment. In short, I was miserable and I needed a change -- fast.

Seeing as attendance was not mandatory and all the lectures were available online, I began going to class less and less. I spent more quality time with my roommates and started clocking in some hours with an online English school, as well as dedicating a few dozen hours to my thesis. 

Within this little bubble, I was safe and secure, and could engage with the city of Palermo as I wished.

 This turned out to be the sweet spot which really allowed me to see Sicily with new eyes.

I can happily say I did not spend my time abroad suffering and cooped up in my room. As you may have seen in my Catania vlog, I've traveled around a bit and explored some new places. Just this past weekend I went to Gioiosa Marea, the hometown of my roommate, to spend some time in a small town by the sea before I leave. 

One thing my former classmates told me about their time in Palermo was that they came away from this relatively short experience with very deep ties and friendships they planned to carry with them their entire lives. I'll be honest, when I first heard this I simply did not believe them, which is ironic because I bonded with my best friend after only 3 months spent together in Waseda. 

Maybe there's something in the Erasmus air, but I've bonded with some truly wonderful people here and now I find myself feeling a pull on my heart strings when I think about my flight next week. When I leave Palermo, I won't just be leaving the city, I'll be stepping away from some people that I've been sharing coffee or a meal with, who I don't want to lose as friends.

I know that the friends I've made here are forever friends, so I can now say I see what the upperclassmen were raving about. 

Even the city of Palermo, still so intimidating to me in some ways, has fallen into a category of familiarity, with the streets being mapped out in my brain according to 'X's house' and 'the cafe I went to once with Y'. I slowly found places I liked, I gradually tasted more dishes and chatted up new people. I built a little life here, carefully and without much confidence, and now I look back on all the memories I've collected and find them very precious.

I'll end this post and say that Palermo is the place where I grew. It's not a perfect place or paradise by any means, but it will forever be the place where I spent my evenings drinking tea in the kitchen with my housemates, where I threw Noor a surprise party for her birthday, where I spent endless hours laughing on video chat with Guillaume, and where I fought to find my happiness in a new and kind of frightening place.

 And I think that's pretty cool :)