Not everyone is happy to go back

Healing is a long process

The city of Palermo, in Sicily, where our blogger Chiara is from.

Oftentimes, out of genuine curiosity, I talk to other international students about the countries they come from. What I have noticed so far is that there are three groups of internationals: the first one consists of people who enjoy spending time in the country they are studying in but miss their homeland every day, while the second one comprises people who hate the country where they have chosen to study but keep studying there for some unknown reason. The last group contains the people who genuinely despise the country they come from and prefer the one they have been studying in. That's the group I've always belonged to.

I went back to Italy a few days ago to visit my grandmother, my aunt, and my best friends. During the days which preceded the trip, I felt terrified and anxious as I had not been to Italy in two years and the small town I come from is full of people, especially family members, who are the main reason why I decided to leave in the first place.

The trip to Eindhoven to catch my flight felt like the one of a soldier on the way to go to war: I sat on the train, overthinking about what could happen if one of those people recognised me in the street. Each scenario felt worse than the others. I eventually landed in Palermo, where my aunt was waiting for me, with tears of joy in her eyes. The four days just went by smoothly. For the first time, my grandmother and my aunt respected my choice not to visit those people I feared so much to meet and, in the last two days, while I was walking around in Palermo with my best friends, I started seeing Sicily under a different point of view: the palm trees, the sun, the food, my best friend’s laughter, the musicians singing and playing in the streets, the cheap alcohol, the smell of oranges and lemons in the air, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

I realised this is how a person who does not feel any negative emotions towards my country sees the place I used to live in. My relationship with Sicily is healing, slowly, at its own pace, and I think it is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. And all it took was for my family to respect my decisions. It is a little bit funny.