Studying Abroad Family Style ~ Teen Talk with Ana DeBernardo

By: Ana Debernardo – August, 2014

Six weeks ago, my sister Lucia, a rising junior at Harvard College, left for an eight week study abroad program in Italy. She spent her first four weeks in Milan, and later took the train to Siena where she would spend her last four weeks studying cultural economics. I had seen my best friend off to the airport many times, but it was especially tough this time around because I knew that I wouldn’t be seeing her for two months; the longest we would have ever been apart.

As expected, it was extremely difficult to come home everyday without seeing her around, but we did communicate daily and keep each other updated on our respective lives and social calendars. The first couple weeks mainly consisted of Lucia sending me pictures of the Vatican and selfies in a gondola in Venice, which I would receive enviously as I contemplated the dullness of my summer in comparison to hers. Soon, however, came the messages in which she relayed her homesickness, her desire to sleep in her own bed again and to taste Starbucks and Honey Bunches of Oats. Little did the two of us know, that while she was sharing this information with me, my parents were planning a surprise visit. Two days before they scheduled the flight, our parents told my brother and I to pack for a weeklong trip to Italy.

The following Monday, after two stressful yet exciting days leading up to the trip, the four of us got onto the first plane which took us to Frankfurt. After a brief stop in Germany, we stepped onto our second plane which landed in Florence. From there, only an hour drive to Siena separated me from my sister. Only upon arrival to our hotel did we learn that my sister had left for the day with her classmates and professor to sightsee a local town called Lucca. Since our plans to surprise Lucia had been postponed, we decided to settle in and get to know Siena.
From the minute we stepped out of the airport, I recognized that I was in a country set apart from all others. Walking the cobbled streets of Siena, however, made me truly realize the intangible beauty found in every building, in every field, and, really, in every detail of the country. It’s unbelievable to look at a building whose bricks are at least 800 years old. Wherever you go, you’re surrounded by centuries of history and art, and as history is my favorite subject, it’s safe to say, I have been hungrily taking in every minute of my stay.

After we had our first delicious Italian dinner, we decided to check my sister’s dorm again to see if they had returned from their excursion. When the lady at the front desk informed us that they hadn’t yet come back, we decided our only option was to return to our hotel, as it was already close to midnight, and it was beginning to rain. Almost immediately upon opening our door, we heard the familiar “ding”, notifying us of a new message. Sure enough, it was Lucia telling us she had just gotten back from her trip and she was getting ready to go to bed. At this point, the drizzle outside had transformed into a violent downpour, and we decided the best thing to do was to let the surprise wait till the following day. My brother, on the other hand, had plans of his own. He volunteered to go out on the five-minute walk in the pouring rain to our sister’s dorm and bring her back to our hotel.

I’ll never forget the look of genuine shock she had on her face when she walked through our door. She was almost crying of happiness while telling us how relieved she was to see us all. It seemed as if we were talking for mere minutes, but after checking the time and realizing it was three in the morning, we called it a night, and looked forward to the Roman holiday that awaited us.