It’s pretty easy to think you’re on vacation in Rome.
Actually, most of the time, I am on vacation. Every weekend is a new city, new culture, new experience. Since the my third week in Italy, I have travelled on every weekend, jetting off Friday morning and landing back Sunday night, only to repeat the process again the next Friday to a new place. Italy’s proximity to so much of Europe has made realizing all my world traveling dreams so, so simple.
But as easy as it is to fall into that jet-set lifestyle, it’s also easy to forget the real reason why I’m in Rome. And this week, I came plummeting down to Earth with one hell of a wake-up call:
I know, I know. You’re reading this and going- “you think you’ve got it bad? I have ten exams all at the same time and a twenty page paper! And I’m not in Italy!” Or maybe you’re thinking “you think you’ve got it bad? I have a job-” to which I say, okay, you win. You’ve got the worst gig ever, and I’m sorry.
But still- there’s something about the sheer panic of exams that can take the fun out of just about everything, even Rome. I didn’t even have exams and I was freaking out. It was just…in the air.
Now that the frenzy of midterms is well and over, and I’ve had some time to recover, I’ve been able to do a bit of reflecting (big surprise) on why I’m here in the first place. And I’ve begun to realize that school was never really the priority.
Er, sorry mom.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m only in four classes- none of which have anything to do with my major back in Philly. Maybe it’s because I’m only in class a few hours out of the week. Or maybe (ahem, probably), its because I wasn’t coming here to go to school in the first place.
Thinking back to every single essay I wrote on all those applications back in the fall, the idea of attending classes was never brought up unless the prompt demanded it. I wanted to go to Rome to expand my horizons, strengthen my Italian skills, break out of my comfort zone… and oh yeah, go take some classes and stuff. Not that I wasn’t excited for the immersive learning experience that is studying art and language in a foreign country, I just didn’t even think of it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s a study abroad. It’s in the name. Don’t really have an excuse for that one.
So, needless to say, the first mention of a midterm was like someone pouring ice down the back of my shirt- far too startling. And I was one of the lucky ones. My midterms were at-home essays and sketchbook critiques.
Still, it’s shocking to remember you’re actually at school. That’s not necessarily a very good thing to forget. It’s like how sometimes you’re going somewhere completely on autopilot, and then come to and realize you’re standing in your kitchen without any memory of actually walking there. You’re aware of where you are and how you must have gotten there, but it’s alarming to realize you did it without noticing.
So my advice, if you’re reading this and considering a study abroad: it is, above all other things, going to school. The first few weeks may seem like super fun awesome vacation time, but you don’t want to come to at midterm week and realize you’ve been going through school without noticing. Also, you are still paying to go to college. Might as well actually get your money’s worth at the absolute very least.
And, really, being able to go to school in a foreign country is an incredible experience. You get incredible cultural experiences, insights, and trips that you wouldn’t get through even the best of tour guides. You learn from people who live and breathe the city you’re in and the subject you’re studying. I’ve been able to see live Italian theatre, have a wine tasting with a sommelier, see a documentary screening with the actual director of the film, visit small Etruscan villages and see ancient temples buried beneath churches.
And if I have to sit in a lecture for a few hours four days a week for these experiences, then I’m going to. And I’ll even take some midterms if I must.