Ciao ragazzi! Thought you’d gotten rid of me? Well as it turns out, even a month after leaving the eternal city I’ve still got Roma on the brain, so here are some final thoughts:
Having been home for a couple weeks now, I’ve gotten a chance to catch up with friends about their study abroad semesters, and it’s become clear to me that I had one of the most positive experiences of anyone I know. In a lot of ways it’s because Rome was so right for me—it complemented my studies, I loved the food, and my inner city girl was free to explore to her heart’s content. But pastries and metro lines aside, I think it’s hard not to be in awe of the grandeur of Rome. The city has been a (religious and secular) pilgrimage destination for centuries, and the reason behind that far pre-dates the Lizzie McGuire movie. From soccer to opera to ancient ruins, Rome in particular—and Italy in general—has something for pretty much everyone.
Having said that, coming home has been an adjustment. Whenever I approach a store, for example, I start mentally choreographing the charades-like dance that will hopefully convey to a shopkeeper that I need sunscreen. I haven’t eaten pizza or pasta in weeks, because I’m not quite emotionally prepared for what a letdown it’s sure to be. I carry my Italian Harry Potter with me all over New York, trying to display it as prominently as possible, hoping an Italian expat will mistake me for a fellow countryman and start a conversation with me in Italian (I choose to believe that it’s my pale skin and blonde hair that give me away as American, and not my lack of Italian style).
The toughest problem of being home, though, is trying to explain my experiences to friends and family. There’s just no adjective that’s big enough to capture Rome; I’ve described my semester as incredible, magical, perfect, and a million other synonyms for awesome, but it doesn’t seem to do it justice. “I don’t get it, it sounds like you were so happy abroad,” a friend remarked recently. “Are you not cynical anymore? Have you lost your inner New Yorker?” Well, to some extent, I’d like to think so; I was really happy everyday in Rome. Not all day, everyday—acclimating to Rome wasn’t always easy, planning trips could get stressful, and then there was the whole “studying” aspect of “studying abroad”—but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t justify feeling anything less than ridiculously fortunate for the hand life had dealt me. I walked to school most days (partially to offset my doughnut consumption, and partially because the route took me past an incredible bakery) and everyday, as I envied the Italian preteens who were more fashionable than me, and eavesdropped on Italian conversations that became increasingly more intelligible to me, I remembered how lucky I was. That’s generally what I tell people now, when they ask about the trip—I’m the luckiest person I know.
So even though the Trevi fountain was closed for construction, and I never got to live out my Lizzie McGuire fantasy, I can honestly say that this semester was what dreams were made of. Ciao for now Roma, and I’ll see you soon.