By Dhember Viera
Guest Writer

Dear Italy,

You may consist of: men twirling pizza, renaissance art, cathedrals, gondolas, good wine, pasta for days, and maybe even a few mobster families. But both you and I know you’re so much more than that.

Italy, what you really are is a beautifully unique culture that consists of close-knit familial love so much that you set aside three hours of your day dedicated to just family and rest. You and people are art. You are rustic cities that are uniquely sculpted and filled with trendy women and quite dapper men (if I do say so myself).

Generations of traditions that are greatly valued and cherished, along with long lines of rich history, so much so that even if our own Mercer Hall were filled with history books, it would fall short. And even though we may not realize it, you are really where everything started.

Italy, to me, you are nighttime walks through moonlit vineyards and some of the most important conversations I will ever have. You are an old classroom barnyard filled with the most dedicated professors, who not only want to teach, but have a desire for their students to really learn, not only about school subjects, but about real life.

Italy you are the springboard for anybody and everybody’s wanderlust, offering countless train rides, opening a whole new realm for adventure, allowing me to gallivant through Europe as a whole. Your experience has left me breathless, dull moments did not exist, each day filled with new shenanigans (ask me about the time we slept on an elevator in Switzerland).

In all reality, as important as all of that has been, it does not begin to compare with what you have really taught me.

Putting all things aside, leaving the familiarity of family and friends behind, the comfort of knowing my way around, being able to order in a restaurant and be understood. Here, there is no place to hide, to time to be phony; the truth begins to come out.

Italy, you have broken me, crushed my heart to little pieces and allowed me to come to realizations on my own. No one has been around to influence my thoughts, or convince me otherwise. The conclusions I have come to, the answers to the questions you have proposed are all unique and they are not only my own, but all God-inspired, and that in itself is a life-changing experience.

No matter how hard I try to ignore the Alps peeking outside of the window of my bedroom, it does not work. The pull and tug takes and drags me, shakes and awakens me, and immediately, “Something like scales will fall from your eyes, and you will regain your sight” to quote Paul in the book of Acts.

Clarity, you have offered clarity, and understanding. By understanding, what I really mean is that I know very little. But that is okay! This is the place that I have come to realize that God is mysterious and weird and beautiful all at once. I will not ever really understand him in this life, or understand the purpose behind some things.

But, Italy, you have also reminded me that there is a peace, which surpasses all understanding. I have been catching little glimpses of what eternity may look like to come, but even allowing myself to daydream about it does not begin to compare to the actual wonders behind it. Italy, for so many students here, you will always be the place God swooped in, and met them right where they were.

Sometimes only if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and move out of the way, he will gladly take us to beautiful places, let us laugh, cry and feel a little crazy all at once. We will find ourselves wrapped in a blanket on a breezy Italian night in late October, stopping to look up at the stars and hearing him whisper, “See, baby, this is what adventure with me really looks like.”

Italy, this love letter to you will never cover how important of a place you have been and I cannot wait to take to the rest of the world the things you have taught me since I have been here.