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TRAVEL: Bologna, Italy #1 of 3

During the summer of 2014, I was awarded a travel scholarship through the Benjamin A Gilman International Scholarship Program. "The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness."

Thanks to the generosity of the the Gilman program, I was able to participate in Syracuse University’s “Italian Neorealism and Documentary Filmmaking in Bologna” program during the summer. As part of the conditions of my Gilman scholarship, I was appointed as an official blogger for the Gilman blog. This blog entry "When in Bologna, Italy..." was my first of the blog entries. The original entry on the Gilman blog can be seen here.


Syracuse University’s “Italian Neorealism and Documentary Filmmaking in Bologna” program

I think it is important to understand how I view the world. Everyone one comes from a place they call “home”. For me, I am a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, which means that I grew up on an Indian reservation located in western New York State. I am considered both a citizen of the United States and my tribe (approximately 8,000+ members)

I was excited to begin my studies in Bologna, Italy through Syracuse University’s “Italian Neorealism and Documentary Filmmaking in Bologna” program. As my departure date approached, I was creating a pile of things I was going to pack for my trip and I was ordering my required textbooks online. Mentally, I was preparing how my studying abroad was going to affect me personally. I really didn’t think how my absence at home was going to affect others until my family planned a going away picnic for me. Having a picnic with your family is one thing, but I have forty-one first cousins so this get together was an event. I have traveled abroad a few times before but for my family, this time it was different. No one in my large extended family had ever studied abroad and very few had even attended college. In my culture, we do not have a word for “good-bye” so as I was saying my “until next time”, my family was less worried about me bringing back souvenirs than expressing their desire for me to have fun and return safely. After that picnic, the perspective of my studies in Italy shifted. Unlike my prior leisure trips abroad, I felt a duty to make my family proud.

A few days before my departure, I felt like a part of me was already on my journey to Italy. I’d find my mind preoccupied with the future steps required to get me from my home reservation to the University of Bologna campus. I’d find myself thinking (and sometimes sharing with my parents), “Gee, in forty-eight hours, I’ll be on the flight to Italy”. Although my statement was stated with a sense of glee and anticipation, I also became aware how those words affected my mother. My mum would say “I know you are going to have a good time”. Thanks to modern technology, leaving home for far away journeys does not need to feel as permanent to the one who leaves or for the ones who are left behind. As my train departed the Buffalo-Depew train station, I was able to text my mom and dad that I missed them already and I thanked them for being there for me.

As the wheels of my trans-Atlantic plane lifted off the ground at JFK airport, I became acutely aware how lonely it felt sitting there in seat 10C. Only a few days before, I was surrounded by my parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. I opened one of my digital devices and I browsed through a multitude of images of my life on Seneca territory. In a small way, I was already a little homesick. When we travel to far distant lands, we usually bring souvenirs or mementos back to help us remember our experiences. I realized the images on my phone were in themselves souvenirs from home and they were helping me to not forget where I came from.

I arrived at the Bologna University campus safely and I checked into my dorm room. For the next five weeks, I will be doing as the Bologna students do and I will be studying and living within this ancient city.

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