Finding a New Home Across the Pond

Student Gains Fond Memories While Studying Abroad in Rome

RomeMy first trip out of the country was when I was seven-years old. My family and I traveled to a small town in southern Italy where my family is from for my cousin’s wedding.

Having family in another country is always difficult, but as soon as we got there, it was like distance did not even exist.

We bonded very quickly. It was my first time meeting most of my relatives there. Language wasn’t a huge barrier either.

As a naive child, I considered those two weeks the best time that I ever had in my life and after I left, I was desperate to go back.

Fast forward 12 years. I finally got to return to Italy! But this time, I was going back to live and study for a month in Rome with my best friend, Kaitlyn.

I had never been so excited for anything in my entire life. When I had signed up to study abroad in Rome last February, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was about to find out.

Finally May 23 arrived and Kaitlyn and I boarded a plane for the Eternal City. That day, my life changed forever.

I had never been away from my family for so long, nor had I ever lived completely on my own before, but there we were, two 19-year-old girls thrown into the middle of Rome, alone and allowed to do as we pleased.

The entire month was a blur of excitement, anticipation, nervousness and pure adrenaline. I was able to experience Italy’s completely different way of living, firsthand as a Roman, while earning credits to help me graduate.

Living there was just a different experience in itself. I shopped for fresh groceries every day, took the tram and the bus to classes or to see friends, went out at night, and met fellow Americans and locals, all who welcomed me with open arms.

 However, my favorite aspect of being a true Roman was the commute. No matter where you needed to go, you passed a monument on the way. It was like living in the Lizzie McGuire Movie.

I can’t even begin to express the pure amazement I felt as the bus would pass the Colosseum at 8:30 am while on my way to my morning class; even just strolling past the Pantheon during lunchtime.

The historical artifacts in America seemed like silly childhood toys compared to the architecture in Rome; I wasn’t going to let any of it be taken for granted.

The people I met, both American and Italian, helped sculpt those six credits into a month that I will never forget. Everyone I talked to before I left told me how amazing studying abroad would be, how it was the greatest time of their lives and not to let it slip by, since it is one experience that you can definitely never get back.

Obviously, I thought it was just an exaggeration told by those lost in a nostalgic daydream, but that month truly was the most amazing school experience I have ever had.

I made friends I will never forget; ones who made living in another country on my own so much easier, knowing I always had someone to lean on if need be.

On my last night in Rome, Kaitlyn and I decided not to go to sleep. With a 10-hour plane ride that began at 11:00 am, we knew we would need all the sleep we could get before returning home and succumbing to the horrible effects of jetlag. So we stayed awake, packed our bags, looked through the random things we had collected that served as memories, mourned our ending trip in paradise and eventually watched the sun rise over the Tiber River, while the busy city of Rome began to wake up.

When I finally got home, I almost kissed the ground of Newark Airport. Almost. After all, there’s no place like home, right?

My parents called my month in Italy an expensive month-long vacation. I called it a life changing experience they would never fully understand unless they experienced it for themselves.

 It was during that month that I learned how to cook for four other very picky eaters, how to kill the mutant bugs that lived in Rome and would fly into my bedroom when the widow was left open (I don’t think Italy has got the hang of air conditioning yet), how to wash clothes in my bathtub (our washing machine broke the second day we got there), and how to care for my newfound roommate “family.”

That month taught me more about myself and about life than two years of college has, yet I promise that I have been paying attention in most of my classes.

PHOTO COURTESY of vivavillas.com