A Love Affair with Siena – A Thank You Letter

Italia Siena Travel Beyond

I didn’t know that it was possible to fall in love with a place until that day, when it dawned on me, that I was exactly where I needed to be.


The opportunity to study the Italian language and culture for 9 months in Siena, Italy presented itself on December 31,2015 by a friend Melissa as we were all about to head home after helping my friend Chelsea with her Girls of a Feather Camp. Mind you, I had no idea where Italy was, had never even heard the name Siena in my life, but that evening, I felt heaven breath on me “this is it”. A month and a half later I became the first recipient of the Ministero degli Affari Esterno (MAECI) Scholarship on my island and by the 19 of February, I was freezing in Siena.

A Love Affair With Siena- Okizia Beyond: Studying & Living in Siena changed my life. I share how revolutionary the experience was and what I treasure most from my time there.

A Love Affair With Siena- Okizia Beyond: Studying & Living in Siena changed my life. I share how revolutionary the experience was and what I treasure most from my time there.

There is a calmness that comes to my heart when I think about this medieval city that was my home for a year, 1 month and 24 days. In my year spent there, I couldn’t help but feel amazed and blessed at how God picked the perfect place for me-We Became part of each other. There were days that I would stare out my window and think “God you knew exactly what you were doing when you placed me here.” Of course, there are many beautiful places in Italy but somehow Siena and all its hidden tunnels felt like it was made for me. It reminded me of back home a bit-the scenery and intimacy but more lively, fun, surprising & filled with more history.

Most fascinating was how people found a way to live in the ruins. I’d walk the sentieri battuti -beaten paths- and felt the lives of those who had passed. I knew of the streets, shortcuts, piazze more than I did of my island. Faces burned into my mind; smells became familiar and anticipated; views became expected but surprising every time. Was it possible that my soul was here all along? Or maybe I had just found one piece of my soul?

A Love Affair With Siena- Okizia Beyond: Studying & Living in Siena changed my life. I share how revolutionary the experience was and what I treasure most from my time there.

Worlds that pervaded my dreams and called to my longing soul now opened up their arms saying to me “We’ve been waiting a long time for you.”. People, places and their talents felt alive for the first time. The scales fell from my eyes and I could see…see so clearly that I got on my knees constantly and cried to the Most High in joy of Him having deemed me worthy.

From Africa-China-Suriname-India-Spain-Nicaragua, it was an explosion whenever friendships were made and they shared themselves and of their homeland with me. Through them, I grew in empathy. It was no longer news reporters or journalists telling me what was going on in certain parts of the world and how I should feel. I became part of it because I lived it through my friends’ experiences…their memories. Their country’s victories and burdens now touched me to my core that I now genuinely worry about them and their family if something were to go wrong.

With Siena, I discovered who I was, wanted to be and can be. It gifted me “La mia autonomia or my Independence and that is most cherished.

I was on my own for the first time without my family and friends- I paid my own bills, did my own shopping and cooking, had to prioritize and solo traveled which was exhilarating and often scared my parents.

Siena, you allowed me to feel my age. I was 23 and had felt that I had not had the experiences for that age.

Siena, it was through you that I learned who I wanted to be, how strong  I am and can be.

It was through you that I realized how much I feared my own self- talents, limitations and possibilities-that fear of succeeding.

Sweet Siena, thank you for embracing me and becoming part of me.

For opening my heart, mind, soul and blessing me with people who really made my journey unforgettable from the first day that I arrived in your arms.

Thank you to them who made me feel.

Thank you for making me feel.


Have you ever been somewhere that captured your heart and made you feel alive? Made you feel that it was time to start making things happen for yourself?

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