Diving In: Seizing the Moment in the Mediterranean
My five-week study abroad experience in Tuscania, Italy last summer was deliciously punctuated throughout with adventures all over Italy. With each trip, I learned something more about myself, whether it was through overcoming a challenge or by simply letting go and living completely in the present. One of my first and most memorable excursions was to Isola del Giglio, a small island off the coast of Tuscany. After meeting our Academic Programs International resident director, Irene, early on a Saturday morning, we set off for a gorgeous, sunny day on the island.
During the afternoon, we caught a small boat for the tour around the island. I didn’t really know what to expect, and unfortunately my friends and I sat on the wrong side of the boat (facing the water and not the island). Nevertheless, the view of the island from the water was incredible. Giglio is twelve miles around, so we had quite a long ride. The operator spoke about specific sights in Italian, which Irene translated for us. They included some old folk stories as well as descriptions of the people who live in certain villas or on the surrounding islands. The island was speckled with colorful houses and buildings, and the water of the Mediterranean was the most perfect shade of blue, shimmering each time I carefully dipped a toe into it. Eventually the operator asked us if we’d like to take a swim. We all said yes, though I was initially very apprehensive. My swimming skill level is, well, a little less than average: I never made it past the “guppy” level during swim lessons, and I can count the number of times I’ve gone swimming in a sea or ocean on one hand. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to face my fears and dive in.
The boat operator threw an anchor down where we were, where land was visible but pretty far away. Everyone else in my group jumped in, leaving me standing on the boat and staring into the sparkling blue water. With encouragement from my friends (and much deliberation on my part), I realized that I was being faced with an opportunity to accomplish one of my main goals for studying abroad in Italy. I chose to study abroad in part to try new things. As abstract as that sounds, I wanted to make sure I took advantage of every opportunity I would be given while abroad to step outside of my comfort zone. At that moment, the small boat was a complete manifestation of that comfort zone. Did I want to give up the opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean?
Not a chance.
So I took a deep breath, and slowly slid into the water. My first reflex was to grab hold back onto the boat. Everyone was worried and offered me a hand back into the boat, but I decided to get my bearings and swim. Smiling for pictures while treading water, I realized how happy I was to be completely present and living in the moment. I was so proud of myself afterwards for diving in, even though I was afraid at first. It was an incredible experience, maybe my favorite of the trip up to that point. I’m not sure how long we swam, but eventually we climbed back into the boat to finish the tour. As I wiped the sea salt from my eyebrows, I felt at peace knowing I had overcome a challenge during my time abroad, diving into the unknown and coming out on the other side more confident in myself and my ability to adapt to whatever challenges life has in store for me.