During my gap year, there were an infinite number of amazing moments that I’ll remember and cherish for the rest of my life. However, if I were to pick three of my favorites it would be volunteering in Miami for Art Basel, climbing to the top of the Duomo Milan, and having conversations with the women that I volunteered alongside in Florence.
Art Basel is annual art fair in Miami that attracts artists of all mediums from all parts of the world together as one. Volunteering at Art Basel was so important to me because I finally felt like I was a part of something so important to my community. Not only that, but I was surrounded by seasoned journalists, inspirational creatives, and a spectacular art gallery that truly made me feel so much joy and expanded my idea of what art could be. Moreover, another life changing experience was climbing to the top of the Milanese Cathedral. Never in my life have I seen a more breathtaking building covered in thousands of statues preserved so beautifully. At the top were views of the entire city and I watched as the sky melted like watercolors until finally the city lit up at dusk. I’ll never forget sitting in wind and the absolute calm I felt in that moment. Finally, last but not least was talking to the Women I volunteered with. Beneath a church near the center of Florence a group of older women run a children’s library. My favorite part about them was the stories they told and how each of their lives intersected to create the library. Whether from Scotland, or the United States, or Australia, they had each fallen in love with Italians (and Italy itself) and changed their whole lives to be with them. Many of them had lived in Italy for decades and taught themselves Italian, but each had a deep love for teaching their children English and helping other parents raise bilingual children, specifically through books. Their passion for language and learning inspired me greatly and I don’t think I’ll ever forget them.
Despite all these amazing moments, I did struggle. Possibly the hardest thing during my gap year was my distance from home. I currently have a little sister that’s at one of the fastest growing stages of her life. When I first left, she had just begun standing up and babbling but when got home from Italy, she was running and talking, and she had grown so much. She was completely different than when I had left and although I called often, it’s hard to really connect with an energetic baby over the phone, let alone see her grow or give her a hug.
When I began my gap year, I never would have imagined how it would take me in a different direction than the people closest to me. Maintaining relationships with others post-high school is difficult as everyone is moving around the country to go to college. However, I found that because I wasn’t going to school, I no longer had much in common with the people that I graduated alongside. Not to mention that being half-way across the world in a different time zone doesn’t help very much either. Although I made lifelong friends along the way and will never forget the memories I made, it’s hard not to miss the close-knit relationships that unraveled and drifted away from each other. However, I don’t regret it. Taking this year made expectations for college and life change, but for what I believe to be the better. Because of this year I now want to study foreign language and expand my cultural consciousness as well as continue to expand on my creativity and challenge myself in ways that I didn’t have the courage to do previously. As I transition into life in college at FSU, there are definitely a few goals from my gap year that I’d like continue into my university experience as well as new things I’d like to see from myself and I’m excited for it all to begin.