Living outside of Wisconsin scares me. But I mean that in a good way– living on another continent is
something I assume will be incredibly shocking for me since I’ve never been out of (or lived outside of)
the state for more than two weeks. I know that navigating a semester in Florence, Italy will be rewarding
and inspiring, but it can be difficult to remind myself of that when I picture me, who has never flown alone before, asking directions in a foreign airport using broken Italian!
But then I have to remember. My great grandparents Maria and Rocco travelled from Italy– their home–in the early 1900’s to make a better life for themselves and their family here in Wisconsin. They left
behind everything they knew there, including other family members, their culture, and entire lives, so that they could create a new one for my nana and her siblings. And, unlike me, they didn’t have the
opportunity to see or know what another country looked like before rooting themselves.
My mom recalls visiting her grandparents’ house all the time as a child. Massive Italian dinners, children
running around everywhere, conversations in Italian bouncing off the walls, and my grandpa’s
homemade wine and sausage. My great grandpa learned English, but my great grandma never actually
did. But be that as it may, they succeeded and thrived by adapting to their new surroundings. It comforts
me to know that in a new place, my relatives were able to hold on to the cultural traditions that made
home, home– anywhere.
Many of these stories from my mother I have translated into my personal art, through painting or drawing: and while I spend a semester in Florence next spring, I hope to connect more with myself and with my heritage while creating more on that history.
So, while living in Italy for four months scares me, I figure it’s nothing compared to the entirely new life
my grandparents, and countless other immigrants, had to establish in an unfamiliar country. Leaving
Wisconsin behind for a short while, and taking that first plane flight alone, is just the first step towards