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 Vespa 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!