Dialogue Europe Narratives

Finding Myself on an Italian Journey

Story and photo by Felicia Deconarine | deconarine.f@husky.neu.edu

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

I have always admired this quote from Henry David Thoreau, my favorite author and philosopher. While I wanted to follow Thoreau’s words, I was never quite sure of the life that I wanted: what did I want to be when I grew up? What should I major in for college? Two years into studying architecture at  Northeastern University, and these questions were still lingering in my brain, stressing the part of me that always needed a plan. I loved architecture, but I came to realize that it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Although I was uncertain about my academic plans for the future, I knew one thing for certain: I always dreamt of traveling to Italy.

In the summer of 2015, as I was still struggling to find the right major, I decided to follow my dream and travel to that beautiful and majestic boot that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. Growing up, I imagined  walking along the old cobblestone paths, witnessing spectacular views of European landscapes and appreciating the art and architecture of the country. These all seemed to be wishful fantasies until I got the opportunity to participate in a dialogue of civilization Italian language program in Mantua, Italy.  

I cried when I got the acceptance letter. As an architecture major, I was especially filled with joy knowing that I would be able to see the timeless masterpieces and architectural gems of the country. My dream would finally become a reality. When I told friends about my upcoming trip and how I was also trying to figure out what to do with my life, they nearly all told me: “Don’t worry, you will find it. I’m sure the trip will help you find it.” I doubtfully wondered how one trip was going to give me an epiphany, when I had been contemplating what I wanted to do for years. My friends, however, turned out to be right; it was in Mantua that I fell in love with photography.

Flying over the mountains of Verona, the excitement and awareness that I was minutes away from stepping onto Italian ground hit me. I was blown away by the beauty of the view from above, and pulled out a camera to remember the picturesque scenery. I did not want to forget a moment of my trip. When we arrived at the airport, our group piled into a van and we drove along the Italian roads to the quaint city of Mantua, located in the Lombardy region. The city is known for its Renaissance and medieval designs, along with many elegant palaces.  In 2007, the centro storico (old town) of Mantua was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and in 2016 it will be named the Italian Capital of Culture. Highly influenced by the Gonzaga family, the ruling dynasty of Mantua from 1328 to 1707, it is no wonder how the city became the hub of art, music and culture. It was the perfect place for an Italian immersion program, and for an art lover like myself.

During our first day, we took a tour of the city, but it was impossible to spend time taking the photographs I wanted while keeping up with the large group. On the the first free day that we had, I took advantage and explored the city on my own, with my new Nikon camera straddling my neck, even though it made me stand out as the quintessential tourist. My legs were so sore after all that walking! As I marveled at the elegant beauty of the city, and captured it all through the lens of my camera, I  could not help but experience an overwhelming bliss that you sometimes feel to your bones. In Italy, with photography, I finally found myself. Not only will these pictures be locked into the memory of my camera, it will also remain ingrained in my mind. With my new love of photography, along with my love of writing, I am ready for many adventures to come and eager to share them with the world. Italy was a  trip that I will never forget.

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