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Solitude and Simplicity in Assisi

Solitude and Simplicity in Assisi

On Saturday, April 2, I had the privilege of traveling to Assisi, Italy with a group of students and student life assistants from the John Felice Rome Center. The Assisi Pilgrimage, one of the many study trips offered by my school this semester, begins at the break of dawn Saturday morning and culminates with a dinner of traditional Umbrian food (Assisi is in this region of Italy).

Unsure of what to expect, I dragged myself out of bed at 6 am Saturday morning and began my day in anticipation of what was to come. Less than an hour into the bus ride through the breathtaking Italian countryside, we were given a command that, by the end of the day, would become my mantra for the remainder of my spring semester abroad:

“Be where your feet are.”

I’ll spare the details of the hourly schedule of our pilgrimage, because the times and places themselves are relatively unimportant compared to the lessons I learned. Although difficult to admit, much of my time is spent in the future, anxiously planning the rest of my undergrad career and worrying about grades, success, and basically everything else that consumes the mind of a 20 year-old girl. In Assisi, for one of the first moments during my time as a college student, I completely neglected any thought that did not center around the “now” –  a challenge, indeed, but a necessary one. Sometimes, it takes stepping back from the paradigms we create for ourselves to truly understand our purpose and significance in the world, and more importantly, the present.

St. Francis of Assisi, admired for his humility and simplicity, was the focal point of our prayer and discourse during the trip. His lifestyle, although not necessarily practical for a busy college student who cannot afford to fast for months, for example, shows the significance of daily solitude and reflection, especially during an era characterized by materialism, self-absorption, and constant connectivity courtesy of the rise of digital media.

Although I am no saint (far from it, in fact), I challenge myself to live a more humble, simplistic life. Simplicity, I’ve come to learn, means less about materialism and more about overall distraction. Appreciating our current situations, rather than holding the weight of the past and uncertainty of the future on our shoulders, is the simplicity I hope to achieve.

With less than four weeks left in beautiful Roma, I pledge myself to living in the moment, free from distractions of what everyone is doing back home. I am eternally grateful for the memories I created over the weekend, and I am inspired to continue reflecting on my progress as an individual as I spend each day attempting to grow in my love and concern for the world around me.


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