It was late at night and I was on my way to see a friend in Genova. I had to make a transfer in Pisa. My next train was set to arrive in ten minutes so I jogged to platform 7 and looked around for anything telling me that I was in the right spot.
I am always slightly on edge while traveling. I never feel completely comfortable and tend to assume that I read the wrong time on a schedule or am in the wrong place. So to combat my doubt I ask people for help. This time, however, a confirmation that the train to Torino left from platform 7 was not the only sign telling me I was right where I was supposed to be.
I don’t know why I chose him, maybe because he looked around my age or appeared to be traveling alone. The platform was crowded but I went up to him and asked, in broken Italian, if the 17:42 train to Torino would board here.
He said yes and asked if I was from the States. I said I was and asked if he had ever been to US to which he answered, “Once.”
“Where?” I inquired.
“A small town in California, called Pasadena.”
My jaw dropped.
I’m from Pasadena.
I almost couldn’t believe it. How in the world does the one Italian I ask for help happen to have been to my hometown.
Turns out Flavio, his name, had lived in Pasadena for 7 months. He described where he stayed listing restaurants and a community college that placed him no more than 3 miles from my own house.
We rode the train together and became fast friends talking about the places he had visited, food he ate, and people he met. By the time I reached my stop he offered to show my friends and I around his hometown of Rome whenever we made it there.
As I walked out of the station in Genova I thought about the probability of what had just happened. When I reached my friend I told him about it and he was just as shocked as I was. He told me that it was such a crazy coincidence. We laughed but the more I thought about it the more I realized how improbable it was. Whether it was choosing to study abroad in Florence or picking him out of the crowd to ask for help, I had to make so many decisions, big and small, for me to wind up on that platform.
I don’t know if I believe in destiny or fate but with all the uncertainty and confusion that comes with being abroad and, on a larger scale, living life there are certain moments that make it seem as if I’m on the right path and that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Matthew Klein is studying Sustainable Product Design at the University of California Berkeley and is a study abroad student with SRISA for the Spring 2018 semester.