A little over a week ago my 16 year old son packed all his worldly possessions in to his suitcase in preparations for his school year abroad in Italy. I chuckled as he tired to stuff as many big tennis shoes as possible in to the large bag, that I could already see was going to be overweight. We traveled to Boston to meet up with the 50 + students who had come from all over the country to catch the flight together to Rome. It was bittersweet, while I was proud of my son for taking the risk to go to another country, learn a new language, become part of an Italian family, I was still sad to see him go. I’m happy he has the intellectual curiosity to even want to do this, to step out of his comfort zone, but I know the separation will be difficult.
The room was filled with other glassy eyed parents, listening to cautionary tales the administrators were sharing with all of us, “your child will have freedom, there are no drinking restrictions in Italy, the academic program is rigorous, there is opportunity to travel around in small groups and yes your child will probably be home sick but please don’t call them more than once a week.” After exchanging small talk with random moms who were exchanging tidbits about their kids, it was time to walk to the terminal for check in. 21 boys and 34 girls, from a variety backgrounds, a sprinkling of “brown” children which I was happy to see, all of them already forming little groups laughing with one another, most of them like my son not knowing anybody prior to that day.
I remember last year when my son told me he wanted to apply to SYA (school year abroad), I was supportive, but at the same time not encouraging the process, I’m going to be honest there was a part of me that secretly thought that maybe he would not be accepted. Of course on March 15, as promised the acceptance letter arrived and I saw the biggest smile ever, his dream to study in Italy was becoming a reality. We were in Italy for the first time a few years ago and I remember Reggie said to me then “Mommy one day I am going to live here”.
I know this will be a transformative experience for my son and Reggie and I as a couple. We will be “empty nesters” for the next 10 months, no distractions of having a child at home to focus on, I will launch my photography shingle, and Reggie will play even more basketball. I just booked our tickets to go visit Reggie for Christmas and I had one phone call from him so far, letting me know how much he loves it there and that he can already speak Italian!
Reggie will be living in the charming city of Viterbo, located just north of Rome. SYA will celebrate 50 years of sending high school students abroad. They have four programs, France, Spain, Italy and China and summer programs as well.
Reggie promised me he would create a tumblr…no time for a real blog. So check him out at reggiechibiitalia.tumblr.com