the anatomy of life abroad

Kategorien erasmus diaries

I remember summer, 2022. Sun was shining almost everyday and we spent hours by the river, running, bathing, reading, dreaming. I’ve been wondering so much about how moments can fly and stand still like the punkies in the air above the water, both at the very same time. The night I would be leaving the city for the longest time since moving there came closer with every passing second, I could literally see myself being pulled to it, while at the same time, I was still here, still home by the river, still living the life I had lived, more or less, for the last years. For the first time though, I could see its fragility, the scheduled, self decided fragility of moving abroad for a certain amount of time. 191 days, to be clear.

heading to Himalayas

191 days might sound like a manageable amount of time. These summer days, it seemed like a mountain-shaped, insurmountable forever. Pretty much the Himalayas. Don’t get me wrong, I did want to climb it. The peaks maybe a little more than the valleys. But most of all, I wanted to have done it. I was always craving the coming home-part more than the being abroad-part. Considering the fact that the latter one is about five times more extensive, this was an interesting perspective. I was ready to leave behind my home, my river, my city, the whole life I had, just to have that one moment six months later, where I could say: I made it. I am capable of building a new, very own life abroad.

Little did I know these purple, blooming summer days, what moving abroad actually contains. How many highs and lows and highs and lows one single Himalaya could actually contain. I didn’t know about the anatomy of an entirely empty life, a rickety construction waiting to be filled with people and places and knowledge about the cheapest supermarket and the way to say why is the bus never coming in Italian. Little did I know I might completely lose myself, to then, slowly but surely (in the most literal way) find myself, evolve myself again.

Today, it is about 42 days until the moment of coming home. How it will be like? Probably one of the most weird, awful, confusing and beautiful moments of my life.

And while I haven’t yet lived it, I am pretty firm to say: little did I the most beautiful thing will not be to be home again. Returning in your old world might only be the realization of what life had actually given you months before, the most precious part of all: a bit of itself. Of life.

tell me about the last three months of your life!

When I went home for Christmas – which was kind of like coming home but then kind of not at all because it was mercilessly restricted by the departure time of a flixbus – I was confronted with the most enjoyable question ever: „So how do you like your semester abroad?“ Well – how do I like it? Where should I start, where should I stop? I would have started then to talk about something – it’s not that I couldn’t talk hours about the beauty of Paduas sunsets, the ugliness of Padua’s outskirts in the rain, Juliets fake balcony in Verona, the weird background story of Pascoli (rumors say, he loved his sister??), the captivating poetry of Giuseppe Ungaretti (M’illumino, D’immenso) and the bravery of Italian students knowing all these things by heart at the end of the semester (I should definitely be studying right now as well).

But we all know, these are just moments, glimpses of exiting new experiences, clearly differing from those I had at home. What was in between – was life. The purest, most magic form of a new life lived in another place. It starts with waking up in the morning, hoping the weather’s clear enough to see the alps (best bathroom window view I ever had), it ends with switching off the lamp at midnight, when actually you already wanted to be asleep. A good amount of time, for me, it is riding my immemorial bike through the bumpy streets towards the old town, always hoping it won’t just fall apart from one minute to the next. Whenever I will look back on my semester abroad in the future, I will very likely see myself riding my bike through the narrow, grey-glittering streets of Padua. Those are happy moments. Then there are these lunch breaks at the coffee box, where everybody knows everybody and speaks in perfect Italian while I feel so lonely trying to order a cappuccino with latte di soia without making a mistake. Now matter how much and how good friends you will find, you will probably still be alone. A lot of times. Sometimes I love it, sometimes it breaks me. Then there’s uni. Between dusty book shelves and under a huge chandelier, I can literally see my mind being stretched while at least partly understanding Wittgensteins approach to why a secret, invisibile language inside of us is so impossibile. Never would I have thought I could fall in love so fast with something as far away from my former life as philosophy. But yes, that was my former life. And this is my new one. Living this life is exciting. It is exhausting. It is enchanting. And it is all but easily put in words. Now think of how easy it will be to watch it disappearing from one train ride to the next. In only 42 days.

some things last

This is where I’m coming back to summer 2022. I don’t need the river and the punches in the air to feel exactly the same. Life is soon going to switch again. And I couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t be more sad about it. Because while in summer 2022, it was 191 days, it will now be the mountain-shaped, insurmountable forever. I will never be riding my immemorial bike through the bumpy streets towards the old town to not be late for filosofia del linguaggio again. There comes this day when, from one day to the next, I will never be home in Padua again. I can literally see myself being pulled to it, while at the same time, I am still here, still home in a city I didn’t even know it would exist one year and one day ago.

In all this sadness, I know one thing for sure. Life is not always kind, but this time, it is. Giving us a bit of itself, a whole piece of new life, we can keep it. Which means: having lived this new life, I will always keep this space that has expanded itself in my world. It is now filled with all my memories, with all these things I´ve learned. A new languages I am dreaming and thinking in. New people, new words, new passions. While Erasmus doesn’t last forever, poetry and train rides and friendships and the sea and new journeys will always be there. Living abroad is one part of life, that, before everything else, shows us how much the whole of it can actually contain, if we only open our eyes to see it. In all its fragility, all its rickety construction, forever waiting to be filled.

Thank you, life.

Mein Name ist Tabitha Anna und ich bin 24 Jahre alt. Ich komme aus dem Süden von Baden-Württemberg und liebe es, zu lesen, zu schreiben und zu reisen. Seit Oktober 2019 studiere ich deutsche und italienische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft in Freiburg im Breisgau.