I’ve never set foot out of the American continent until about a week ago. So many times on the 10+ hour plane ride from Seattle to Rome I had the thought “what am I doing?! I have no idea how to live in a foreign country and I don’t even know the language. I must be insane”. A leap of faith later and here I am, adjusting as well as I could’ve hoped. In just one week, I already somehow feel like I’ve found a whole new side of myself, a side that can navigate without GPS (I am very directionally challenged- this is a big deal), a side that is willing to embarrass myself by speaking broken Italian so I can say I learned a phrase or two, and a radically independent side.
Walking around Rome you will find many beautiful churches
This is certainly not to say that this first week wasn’t without its challenges. It was actually FULL. OF. THEM. to the point that it was almost comical. 3 missed trains, 4 missed buses, an hour walk to the apartments with dead phones, 30,000 steps in one day, a trip to the Italian hospital, and finally 2 kinds of antibiotics for the worst cold I’ve had in recent memory all hit me within 24 hours. I was put to the test— And I learned I’m not as tough as I thought I was. There were three days when I didn’t even leave my bed because I was so sick. The solution was painstakingly simple- call the JCU doctor. Why didn’t I think of that on my first day spent decaying in bed you may ask? Your guess is as good as mine. With a swift home visit from the doctor and a prescription for a few medicines, I was revived by that night and felt like a brand new person. Of course, the sickness fell right as the weekend hit which meant there was no traveling with my friends who had all left for the weekend to explore Spain. I found myself with the choice to either be independent and enjoy my alone time over the weekend or wallow in my bedroom. Truth be told there was a bit of wallowing and maybe a whiny phone call home (or two) until I realized how much fun I could be having even when my friends weren’t there. My weekend in Rome by myself was marked by thrift shopping, wandering aimlessly to get to know the city, and enjoying Aperitivo while observing the culture around me. I learned so much about Italian culture when presented with the opportunity to sit still for a minute and be present with my surroundings. Did you know that if you want ice in your water Italians will look at you like you have 3 heads? Yeah, neither did I until asked for ice in my water and was informed “we don’t do that”. I’ve also simply never spent so much time in a restaurant in my 20 years of life as I have here, and the change of pace is almost stressful at first since I’m so used to the accelerated pace of life in America. Being able to just sit and visit with friends for as long as you please and feeling no rush from waitstaff to turn over the table is a welcome change. Dinners often last 3 hours, and I find myself in no rush to get home. Enjoying the present moment is something I’ve learned from Italians, and something I plan to take back with me.
I’ve had many firsts in Italy, including my first time dining out without company. I expected it to be lonely, and I did in fact feel painfully awkward for the first half-hour. Once I remembered that no one is as aware of me as I am of myself, I loosened up a little. It actually felt good to be so independent of the company of others. I spoke to a couple of strangers, and surprisingly I even made two new friends who were also American. I can guarantee this is not something I would do in the states, and perhaps because I am working up the courage to go to an Italian grocery store, I didn’t exactly have any other option when it came to dinner on Saturday night. I learned that there are some perks when it comes to dining alone- namely getting a table almost immediately despite it being an incredibly busy Saturday night—right at the dinner rush. Table for one anybody?
Studying abroad in Rome you have monuments like the Trevi fountain within walking distance from campus.
I expected that I would get to Rome and immediately be living on the set of a movie. I saw pasta, casual walks by the Trevi fountain, and the weekend trips of my dreams in the future. Partially, these expectations were true— I’ve had my share of delicious food, and the Trevi fountain is just as beautiful as I imagined, but I failed to recognize that life continues in Italy- the good and the bad. Although, I will say that enduring the bad in Italy really isn’t so bad. This opportunity has allowed me to get to know myself in a way that you just don’t do when you’re in your comfort zone at home. And yes, as you might imagine, stepping out of my comfort zone was UNcomfortable. The growth that comes with it, though, is more than worth a few stumbles along the way. So if you feel the urge to get out of your routine like I did, studying abroad could be the change you’re longing for… take that leap of faith and discover sides of yourself that you’ve never met before!
Did this experience inspire you to Study Abroad?
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