Rekindling with home.

Being away from home for an extended period of time can make you feel very detached from everyone you may associate your home with. It happens when I’m away at school in San Diego, and you can imagine it happened a lot while I was abroad for a semester. As we all get older, we all seem to go in separate directions. Everyone has new friends, new jobs, new priorities, and new responsibilities. Winter break used to be the chance for everyone to get together and waste hours doing anything, and now it’s a challenge to find time with someone to do one thing. No, I’m really not that special that people should be making time out for me, but it’s hard to come back home only to find out that all the people you’ve associated with it have grown, or moved, or made their own lives separate to the one you may have all had together in high school. I guess we’re all growing up.

Last week, my best friend of 16 years came to my house. Since we’ve both moved out of the city for college, our time back in San Francisco has always been spare, and we tend to have trouble keeping up with the innovation happening in our city. She said to me, “wow, your house seems to be the only thing in San Francisco that is still the same.” The place where we called home is changing so fast around us that’s it hard to keep up. Rekindling with home is harder than one could imagine when you’re away for so long.

On the other hand, I’ve had the chance to spend so much time with my family over this holiday season. For the first time, I was able to get more joy out of seeing everyone else open their gifts, instead of the reaction that I would have opening mine. My family is my rock, and when everything around me seems to be changing, I’m confident that some things, will stay the same. 

 

Congrats to De La Salle!

Proud family moment! I just wanted to give a huge congratulations to my cousin Anthony Sweeney, and the entire De La Salle football team for winning the State Championships this past weekend! Check out my cousin’s game winning touchdown and game highlights! Congrats to the Spartans!

 

Videos courtesy of Get Focus Sports and MaxPreps!

Back to reality.

Well, 16 hours on a plane later, and I’m finally back home. Waking up this morning in my bed at home, with my parents down the hall, was truly a treat after 4 months away. It’s always special to come home after being gone for months, but the distance while being abroad was a toll I’ve never felt before, and to be back now for the holidays is monumentally special.

I’m taking the Sunday to unpack and relax, catch up on some Keeping Up with the Kardashians, watch some football, and eat some avocados. It’s gonna be a really cool adjustment back to life in America, and I can’t wait to see everyone I’ve missed so dearly.

It feels like the last 4 months was just a fairytale, and now I’m stepping back into reality. Can’t complain, though. I can’t wait to spend Christmas time with the family, and getting back to posting things on here besides pictures of Europe… which I now realize will make my life seem 10 times less interesting. Yet, I’m on top of the world. Welcome home to me.

Arrivederci, for now.

9 countries, 17 cities, 33 Instagram posts, too many beers and much more wine, many new friends, memories to last a lifetime, and one eternal city that I fell in love with. This was my semester abroad.

It feels like just yesterday that I was making my way to SFO at 4 am to catch my flight to Rome. On the blog post that I published that morning (you can read it here), I wrote about a man named George that I had met at my father’s restaurant. An older gentleman, George can be considered a world traveler and consequently a man of much wisdom. He claimed that traveling so much has given him the answers to many questions throughout his life. Before I left, I didn’t really know what my questions about life were. I didn’t know what answers I could possibly find. Although I’ve only seen a small fraction of the world compared to George, I now feel as though I understand what he meant.

You see, everyone talks about studying abroad as being an insanely positive, life-changing experience. As a prospective study abroad student, you hear these words and expect to wake up every morning with a greater understanding of life and the world, that everyday you will engage with locals and live a magical fairytale, where you won’t gain weight, you’ll get straight A’s, and you’ll fall in love with prince charming in a nice Italian suit. Unfortunately, what they don’t tell you is that life still happens while you’re abroad. You still get stressed, and you still cry, and you still miss home. And most importantly, everyone goes through their own journey. I feel as though everyone has a different and unique purpose for this experience, and are free to find their own meaning to associate with it. Whether it’s learning more about your background and where your family comes from, to fall in love, to discover your passions, or just to see the world, I don’t think a study abroad advisor or student can tell you what your experience will be or should be like. For me, my time in Rome has made me discover that I have a passion for traveling and that I have the ability to shape my future in whatever way I see fit. The last four months have given me the motivation to do so.

So when George said that traveling has given him the answers he’s been searching for his whole life, I can say my first worldly adventure has given me my first: that my life is up to me. I have the ability to shape where I go from here. The entire world is in my hand and I have the opportunity to do with that what I choose. For me, it’s finishing school and working in the field I’ve always dreamed of. It’s giving my family a life they’ve worked too hard for and never received, and giving myself the chance to see the world that I’ve fallen in love with. 

As I pack my bags to wrap up this amazing journey, I would like to share a few thoughts I am taking away with me from this experience.

  1. I’ve made some amazing friends along the way. I am very blessed that I found such a great group of people right away while in Rome. They became my family as we traveled Europe together. It’s a blessing to associate the people who made you feel like you were home, with the place that you ended up calling home. You are who you surround yourself with, and I think I found some solid surroundings.
  2. The world is really small. When you’re sharing a hostel in Munich, Germany with a guy who happens to be best friends with one of your friends from college, you realize that. Connect the dots everywhere you go.
  3. Look fear straight in the eyes and say “F off.”. I was in Paris, France, exactly one week before the attacks in November. When we heard, we were a little taken back. We were eating out at a restaurant in Paris on a Friday night, exactly 7 days prior to the attack. However, I refused to let an act of terrorism define my study abroad experience like so many kids did. Many American students went home early out of fear. It’s understandable. However, the fearlessness that I am now so proud of reminds me that this is unfortunately the world we live in, and I will never let the fear of others’ actions stop me from living the life I have imagined. I saw Rome go from busy every night and the streets of Trastevere crowded, to empty piazzas and an eerie feeling. Seeing that distinct change and fear from the locals reminded me that I will always refuse to allow fear get in the way of life.
  4. The best view of the world is from an airplane. I was on more than a few planes throughout the semester, and time after time, I was mesmerized by what I would see. Whether it was just a layer of clouds, the Swiss Alps, or the Mediterranean. It was a constant reminder that we are so small compared to the world. It’s a humbling moment.
  5. There were many times where I looked at Rome and didn’t understand the hype. It’s actually really dirty in some parts, the men are creepy to say the least, there’s graffiti everywhere, and every evening at 5 pm, pigeons will poop all over you. There were days when I didn’t think  life here was so glamourous. I kept comparing it to the more modern Amsterdam, the cleaner Edinburgh, the more efficient Munich, the class of Paris. But then I step into St. Peter’s Basilica. I walk by the Colosseum. I turn the corner and see the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. I hear about the Sistine Chapel and then I witness it. Rome is one of a kind. It’s art and history is unparalleled. I am more than lucky to have called it my home.

It is unbelievably surreal that tomorrow, I will be leaving Rome. I don’t know when I’ll be back. I don’t know when the next chance I have to return to Europe will be. I don’t know many things about the future. But what I do know is that I will never forget a moment of this experience, the people who are a part of the story, and the people who made it all possible.

Rome, thank you for being my home. You’ll always have a place in my heart. I don’t know when, but I’ll return to you someday. Ci vediamo a presto. Sarò sempre innamorata di te.

 

My thoughts on guns.

In light of the recent opinion piece released by the New York Times, I’d like to share some of the thoughts that have been bothering me over the past few years in regards to guns, the lack of regulation of said guns, and in turn, the embarrassment the United States has brought upon itself in recent years. For those who don’t know, the New York Times’ Editorial Board published an impressive and incredibly needed opinion piece of the gun epidemic in America, which you can read here

The CNN reporter’s first words after news of the mass shooting in San Bernardino came in were, “Here we go, again, breaking news into CNN reports of an active shooter.” Even she, in her voice, upset at the redundancy of the upcoming report. Another day, another mass shooting in the United States.

Let me start off by saying I know many people who own guns. I know people who keep guns in their homes, I know people who carry guns with them (legally), and I know people who work with guns on a daily basis. I have never once questioned their ability or common sense to use and handle their guns. I have never felt threatened in their presence. I understand the right citizen’s are granted by the 2nd Amendment to obtain a gun for protection. I understand the need and want to protect your family and loved ones in a world where walking outside your front door is deemed too dangerous. And if the United States wasn’t what it is today- in a place where we have become desensitized to the headline “mass shooting” – then maybe I would still believe in all of that. Maybe I would still respect the right that all citizens have to carry a gun. Maybe I would say that we don’t need stricter regulations for buying guns. But today, I cannot. 

My feelings are summed up by one sentence in the aforementioned New York Times article which states,

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.

Another New York Times’ article from yesterday reads, “In Scotland, Unlike America, Mass Shooting Led to Stricter Gun Laws”. So I guess it is possible… right?

Our country has become a joke around the world. We are able to openly criticize ourselves at how morally backwards we are, and yet, do nothing. Granted, there are people who are trying. The Daily Show aired a montage of President Obama speaking at a press conference after every mass shooting in the past few years, showing him visually growing weary and tired, and his tone, becoming more irritated. But without the backing of Congress and to my bewilderment, the support garnered for the NRA, who continue to support the 2nd Amendment and seem to conveniently forget the consequences of their platform when another mass shooting becomes known, nothing will change. Our administration unfortunately plays like a broken record.. “Something must be done”. We’ve heard it far too many times.

Ted Cruz, a candidate for President, attended a gun rally two days after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA which left 14 people dead. If this is our future, I don’t know if I want to be a part of it.

To those who support the right to own a gun as a constitutional right, well, technically you’re right. However, need I remind you that the right is an amendment.

amendment |əˈmen(d)mənt|

noun• a change or addition to a legal or statutory document: an amendment to existing bail laws.

Amendment’s can be changed, and should be based on the social, political, and economic changes in our society over the course of time. The 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791. 224 years later, with a voice slightly larger than those founding fathers sitting around a table, we no longer need the protection of a gun in our possession. Laws must be amended to keep up with the progress of human kind. Therefore, change is in order. It is needed.

And no, not everyone who commits a mass shooting obtained the weapon legally. Most of them obtained them illegally and have serious mental conditions that should be treated. Our government should be working towards getting those who have mental health issues the help they need and deserve. Likewise, if you couldn’t just walk into a store and a buy a gun on a good ole Monday, it would most likely make it a bit more difficult for someone to obtain one illegally as well. As the New York Times article stated, it is absolutely absurd that anyone can walk into a store and buy a weapon that has the power to end someone’s life. Buying a gun should not be as easy as buying a pair of shoes.

Oh, yes. The beloved guns don’t kill people, people kill people argument. While I understand the premise of the argument, for hate is in the person, not the weapon (if we’re getting philosophical), it’s just wrong. The gun is responsible for the victim’s death. You are incorrect.

I highly recommend reading the New York Times’ article linked above, and to reflect on the situation our country has found itself in. I’m still in the process of learning a lot about this issue. I am surely no expert. I have opinions. I am undeniably liberal. These are all important to note when writing an opinion piece. I’m not attacking anyone who thinks differently. I am just concerned for the well-being of myself, my loved ones, my family, and my future children to be living in a world where going outside means facing a possible act of terrorism.

When I was 18, I went to Montana with my best friend’s family for a few week’s to spend time at the home they had there. On one of the afternoon’s my friend’s dad (a former sheriff of the San Francisco Police Department), took us out to the range to shoot guns. He taught me how to load one, and hold one, and shoot one at a wooden target. I remember trembling (which in retrospect, probably would have been the time to put it down) because I was so scared to be holding something that could end someone’s life. He put me through that situation so that in case of an emergency, I could defend myself. And I am grateful for that, but wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a place where we didn’t have to worry about defending ourselves with guns?

12308321_720710664730788_5177608493840321296_n.jpg

You know, just in case you didn’t think it was possible.