For the past week, I have been thinking about what to write for this post. I’m home. I’m back. Back in the U.S., back in my normal routines, and back in a familiar territory. I no longer have to stumble my way through a new language, no longer have to try to use cash over credit card, and no longer have to think about if the bus is going to come on time or not. And I miss all of those things. I thought coming back to the States would be easy, but I am learning that it is, in fact, very difficult. Coming home made it feel like everything was distant, like everything that happened in Rome wasn’t real. You see, I don’t understand how I came back to the U.S. feeling like a complete stranger. I lived in Italy for only 4 months, and I have lived in the U.S. for 20 years, but somehow, this math isn’t quite adding up. The only conclusion I can come to, then, is that those 4 months were filled with more concentrated emotions than I have ever experienced in such a short span of time.
Living abroad, every day is a new experience. Your senses are constantly being stimulated, and your body is in a perpetual state of simply just “taking things in.” There is no rest, and there is no room for complacency. When you know that you only have a limited amount of time, you want to make every single second count. And I feel that’s what I did. And I’m so so happy that I can say that. I will admit that not every day was perfect, and some days were better than others, but each day I spent in Rome was good in some way. Before studying abroad, I had never been so challenged, inspired, encouraged, and tested by a particular experience, but now I can say that I have.
Coming back was such a crazy experience. From Europe back home to Texas, I had two flights, and I nearly missed both of them. Both of these incidents can be attributed to a combination of long security lines, changed departure times, and incorrect terminals; essentially, a traveling nightmare. Let’s just say that I become a professional at running through the airport while carrying my shoes. In addition to all the crazy that happened in the airport, I was also a mess emotionally. When I touched back down on U.S. soil, tears started streaming down my face, and I couldn’t do anything to stop them. It was one of the moments where I knew I was crying for a multitude of reasons. I was sad, happy, scared, thankful, overwhelmed—it was just one big mix. When I look back at that “touch down” moment, though, the emotion I remember feeling the most is gratitude. It was a moment of absolute thanks, and I knew that it was a feeling I wanted to remember forever.
The gratitude that I felt when I touched down is the gratitude that is going to carry me forward. It’s hard to put into words exactly, and I know that phrasing is weird, but this “gratitude” that I’m talking about is meant to mean a variety of things. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to study abroad, grateful for the people I met, grateful for the support I felt, and grateful that Rome changed me. I truly believe that I left Rome a better person. I am more confident in myself, more content with the present moment, and more willing to surrender control. I learned that I can adapt to just about any situation, and beyond adapt, I can embrace and thrive in any situation. Going abroad gave me everything I didn’t realize I needed. I left better than I came, and for that, I am thankful.
Thank you, Rome, for being home this past semester, and thank you for teaching me the things you did. For all of you about to embark on a Temple Rome adventure, get ready. Be ready to embrace everything—the good and bad moments—and be open to challenging yourself. Always remember that travel is such a precious thing, and treat each new place you visit with the same awe and wonder you felt for the first place you ever traveled to. Everything that happens in Rome will indeed be real, no matter how distant Italy may feel once you get to the States. When you come home, let your experience change your everyday living for the better. That’s what I’m doing, and I can already tell that it’s gonna be great.
Best wishes for everyone who will be studying abroad— it’s been great fun getting to share my experiences!!