Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Final Countdown

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One of the last times I'll look out over my balcony

One of the last times I’ll look out over my balcony

My last day in Rome is finally here. Forty-two days sounds a lot longer when you are waiting to board a plane to a foreign country than when you actually live through it. I am excited to go home, but very sad to leave this country. But on the pros and cons list of leaving, Wawa hoagies are a pretty big item so it’s not that bad.

Before I left for Rome, I was reading humorist David Sedaris’ book Me Talk Pretty One Day. Sedaris lived in France for an extended period of time and I remember this quote in particular about his experience: “Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.”

Although I cannot say I consider myself to be a “citizen of the world” without laughing at how pretentious I sound, studying abroad has changed me. I usually rush through life, getting one task done and immediately moving on to the next. Italians are not like that. Shops close down for several hours so people can go get lunch. Eating is not just a meal, but a two or three hour event. People have months of vacation time. Life just moves slower (though the language doesn’t).

It was a much-needed change of pace. On Monday, I head to my first day at my internship. Switching from classes on art history or discussing gender roles from an international perspective to an eight-hour workday will be strange. Part of the reason I came to Italy was so I wouldn’t have to have an internship, but here I am with just days separating my cubicle and me. As much as I have loved Rome, I am ready to start working. It was a great, relaxing way to finish 7 credits worth of classes, and I will still have a valuable internship experience that saves me from returning to my old high school job.

Studying abroad taught me patience (check out my post on TreeBar), culture (check out my post on art history), understanding (check out my post on… well, I don’t really have one for exactly that), living without constant access to technology and dozens of other lessons. I definitely developed my empathy for non-native English speakers. People here are great with helping out English speakers. The mentality is so much more accommodating than in America (I’m looking at you, Geno’s Steaks).

I hope to someday make it back to this wonderful country and further sand away those “provincial edges” that Sedaris talked about. Forty-two days is not nearly enough to discover everything the city holds, but I am fully satisfied with my time here. Studying abroad is something I absolutely must recommend. I have several friends studying abroad in Italy this fall, and I am extremely jealous that they have a full semester here. There are very few times in life you can put everything on hold and head to another country. College is one of these times, and I am glad that I will never regret this experience.

July is here.

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There are little moments when it dawns on me that I’m going to be leaving Rome soon.

I was taking the metro to class at 8 am, and I was miserable. The metro can be absolutely revolting—this particular morning, it was sweaty and suspicious-smelling, with people idly bumping into each other as the train sped, not quickly enough, toward the Flaminio stop. Completely inconvenient. There’s definitely less of a regard here for personal space than there is in the states. Uncomfortable and impatient, I suddenly felt a pang of something—was it affection? Sadness? Somewhere in my mind, it occurred to me that as horrible as the metro can get, I was actually going to miss it: the strange little songs that play in the station, the musicians that sway slightly on the moving train as they play violins and clarinets and accordions.

I’ve begun wondering how I can return to Rome. I haven’t even left yet and already, I’m itching to come back. I recall walking by a sign advertising apartments—cheap apartments—and I lingered there for a moment, conjuring up a world where I could drag a friend from back home to Italy and share a flat for a little while.

There are definitely things that I’ll be happy to return to once I get back to America—my friends back home, the familiarity of English, the easily navigable streets of Philadelphia. And peanut butter, strangely.

After a friend told me that he wished he had explored Rome more during these six weeks, my mind started swarming with questions. Have I explored enough? Have I learned enough about the city? I came here wanting to see not only the Pantheon and the Vatican, but a more intimate side of Rome. Did I accomplish that? I have absolutely no idea.

And has studying abroad changed me as a person? Am I supposed to come across a hulking and amazing revelation about who I truly am as a person? I feel like there’s definitely been change, but I may not be able to put my finger on what that is until I’m back in Philadelphia, immersed in American normalcy.

But here’s what I’ve realized: studying abroad isn’t a contest. It isn’t a test. It’s a completely different experience for each and every person who partakes in it. Because believe it or not, some people aren’t crazy about the food, and some have arrived to Rome already knowing a considerable amount of Italian, and some people get homesick at different and unexpected time.

I don’t think the study abroad experience is about measuring how much you absorbed the city. It sounds cliché and sentimental, but honestly, I think it’s about the moments. Like the taxi cab rides home at 2 am, where the car turns and suddenly you and your friends are soundlessly speeding towards the most wonderful and ominous view of the Vatican City. Or the sandwich, filled with tomato and basil and mozzarella that you can barely finish, although it only cost 3 euro. Or the time you dodged a VPICespa and you feel insanely powerful because of it. Or the foolishly triumphant feeling you get when you’re able to say something in Italian to someone.

So as the most incredible weeks of my life (so far!) come to a close, I have one simple piece of advice for those coming to Rome to study and explore: enjoy the moments. Write them down, whether it’s in your iPhone or on your hand, or take a blurry picture if you’re in a hurry. Rome in its entirety is overwhelmingly gorgeous, and I’m sure I will return one day. But it’s really the moments that adorn the big picture that make the entire experience so valuable.

Ciao for now, ragazzi!