I am now up early in the morning after my first day in Rome, enjoying the one benefit of jet lag: watching the city wake up and become the colorful, bustling place I experienced yesterday. The sky is painted in delicate and glowing colors as the sun rises, and the streets are quiet, save for the smooth whir of cars rushing by.
My first day in Rome felt surreal. Because of my packed schedule in the weeks leading up to my study abroad program, I hadn’t really mentally prepared myself for starting the semester. Once I arrived, it all hit me at once. Partially, it was the excitement of being in a new city, thinking about how I would spend each day exploring its streets, foods, and sites. On the other hand, it was also the realization of everything I hadn’t done, hadn’t prepared for or hadn’t researched. Which phone plan should I get? Which areas of the city are the most dangerous? Do I have what I need if I get sick? I suddenly felt as if my arrival in Rome had completely snuck up on me, even though I have been daydreaming about it for months.
However, the day continued on and those worries became smaller and smaller as I began to feel the magic of the city around me. As we wandered through the piazzas and side streets searching for a place to get dinner, we by chance ran into the Spanish Steps, a site I have seen through photos and films all my life, and here we were walking right past it completely accidentally. It seemed there was history at every turn, placed in stark contrast with the modern shops, graffiti and signs of contemporary life that was weaved throughout. Continuing to stroll past hundreds of years old sites helped these stresses to fade as I realized what I small part of this city’s history I am. There is a strange comfort in reflecting on how many people have walked these streets, from historical figures to travelers and even students probably feeling some of these same worries as me. While the city is new to me personally, it is not new to the world—many people before me have learned to live as the Romans do, as will many people after me. I am thankful to be a part of that, and will try to think from this perspective any time a situation or challenge here feels daunting and overwhelming.
This morning, I am reminded that I will continue to face these small challenges and worries beyond just the first day. After writing this post, I walked out to find a café to get some breakfast, when I suddenly found myself caught in a thunderstorm, drenched from the rain with no map to find my way back. Soon enough, however, I ended up safely back in my apartment, and laughed looking back at what was at the time a stressful turn of events. This may be a silly example of the challenges we will face in our time abroad, but it is a reminder to be ready for the unexpected, and to learn from every opportunity and surprise that is thrown your way.