Italy/Slovenia Trip Overview
Jr. at Living Wisdom High school, Rachel Anderson
This trip was a fantastic experience for me. It combined things that were fun and enjoyable with challenges that I would never have expected. I was so glad to have had this opportunity to travel with my peers, serve internationally, experience a new culture, and challenge myself.
Every trip has its ups and downs. It’s hard to pick a favorite experience or to know what the most challenging obstacle was, but I learned more about others and myself in six weeks abroad in Italy and Slovenia than I had all summer. I feel like we were all challenged to a sufficient extent academically, physically and emotionally: it was enough of a challenge just balancing these things!
Admittedly, my academic studies suffered a little. I didn’t do as much math as usual, or read as much, and my U.S. history and biology studies were put aside for Italian history classes, the time I spent staring at bugs that I’d never seen before, and followed the Italian Living Wisdom Students in hikes through il bosco (the forest). Do I feel like I lost any knowledge? No. I have seen La Fontana di Trevi, looked over Ljubljana, cheered for the archers of San Bernadetto and sat in St. Francis’s tomb with true Franciscan monks. Pictures will never be able to do justice to the beauty of the Umbrian countryside and it is one thing to say “St. Peter was crucified in St. Peter’s square in the Vatican City bla, bla, bla….” And it’s another thing altogether to stand there. As much as those experiences will be valuable to me for the rest of my life, I feel like the more valuable thing than any of that will be the lessons I learned about myself and interacting with others.
I found that if I don’t force myself to think of exercise as an assignment, I won’t do it. I found that I prefer a schedule that tells me exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and when, as opposed to open-ended days. I found that I love trains.
Through the course of the trip I was working on ‘doing whatever I want’ – another way of saying independent thinking. It was a challenge for me, having always been eager to please everyone and avoid confrontation whenever possible. I had good examples of independent action through my peers, which helped set the wheels in motion for me to be empowered to ‘do whatever I want’. This lesson, and many others (that I can’t mention within 500 words) will be ones that I keep with me for the rest of my life.
There were challenges on the trip, of course, and looking back I see ways that they might have been avoided. Firstly, I think a trip later in the year would help the students (and the teachers) prepare academically for study outside of a set schedule. I think that researching the location and putting together a more detailed plan of what we want to do, how, when, and using the resources available would be a good exercise, and beneficial to the overall chaos- because you know there’ll be some- when we arrive. But these challenges can all be addressed, and if not addressed, overcome in the moment.
When I look back on this trip, I will remember a time of my life that tested my strengths and illustrated my weaknesses, that challenged me and forced me to think and live ‘outside my box’. But this was a trip that, in the end, improved my character, opened new doors to me, gave me new perspectives and inspiration, and taught me lessons that I will never forget.