12.03-05.15: KAREN BERGMAN

"Back in apartment reading before sleep. I have to admit, I'm reading The Hunger Games in Italian, to help with vocab, in case I ever need to know words like "reaping day"."

Karen is one of those people you meet and all of a sudden your world slows down. You can breathe easier. You forgot what you were anxious about before. It's all going to work out. I knew Karen from college and singled her out because she had just done this study abroad program in Italy I was looking at applying to, but felt conflicted about. I asked if we could get lunch to talk about it (read: so I could blubber all over her about my personal struggles with the possible selfish reasons of leaving everything to go study art in Italy). She listened and slowly nodded her head and smiled sweetly and then said: "You will not regret this".

And that's all I needed.  A word from this sweet angel of affirmation. I applied. I got in. I flew off to Italy and had the life-changing experience of a lifetime.

Since then I have been the "Karen" towards others who weren't sure that studying abroad was the right choice for them (though I'm sure not quite so effortlessly cool). They all come back to me and say, "You were right. That was amazing".

Because the truth of the matter is, being able to study abroad is really a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is no other time in your life where you can use your student loans to fund your international and inter-cultural adventures and interests. You have no other requirement than to be a student and to show up for meals. Seriously. That is the easiest life will ever be.

But it's something you take with you for the rest of your life. A reservoir of memories of a serene way of living, a pace of life more concerned with the people you encounter throughout the day than how much you got done.

Karen has had the awesome opportunity to be asked back as a teaching assistant, and now as a program assistant. And she can atest: it is still a beautiful place and beautiful experience, but it's not the same as the infantile state of being a student.

I was able to catch her at her apartment via Skpe to catch up on current events and such, which will be available soon on the blog. In the meantime, spend a couple of days with her in Orvieto: