It has been four months that I have been a resident and student of Rome. Four months of a foreign country, four months of getting lost, four months of trying to fit together bits and pieces of a completely different language, four months of new experiences, new scenery, new lessons, new food and new friends, four months of living on my own; four months that has finally come to an end.
Words cannot fully express the amount that Rome has encouraged me to grow. New interactions and new ambitions have fueled my traveling wanderlust, and now that I am packing and getting ready to fly 6338 miles back to California, I can’t help but wish for just one more week to sit and look at the river one last time, have my favorite pizza from the restaurant across the street, have one more random encounter that ends with a new friend and a new appreciation for my ability to step out of my comfort zone and embrace Rome for all it has to offer.
I can clearly remember arriving to Rome on my first day back in August. I knew nothing about Italy; the extent of my Italian was what I picked up from in-flight movies and the only way I could get from place to place without getting completely lost was via taxi. The hotel at which my friend and I stayed the first night we thought was completely out of the way from anything of significance. Ironically enough, we now know that it is not more than a five minute walk from Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona. What’s more is the fact that Piazza Navona is pretty much the backyard of our school here in Rome; we pass it everyday after getting off of the 30 bus. Needless to say, it was a very slow and difficult start. The fact that we were so close, yet so far, from all of these morsels of historical prominence is an idea around which I still cannot fully wrap my mind.
I am personally not one who experiences change well. I have barely been out of California, let alone the country. Needless to say, this trek to Rome was very uncharacteristic of me. It was very difficult adjusting at first; the heat in August parallels that of nothing I have ever experienced and trying to go to the grocery store to pick up milk is apparently not something Italians do at 4pm on a Sunday seeing as how basically everywhere is closed. But no matter how many obstacles I had to overcome along the way, I would not trade this experience for anything.
So many aspects of the culture in Rome differ greatly from those in California. Something as simple as eating out at a restaurant, for example. The first time I dined out with my friend, we decided to get an antipasti and share a pizza. The waiter seemed confused, insulted even, that we would even consider the concept of sharing. In Italy, food is more than just nourishment; it’s an experience. It’s a time when friends or family gather together to share laughs, a glass of wine and stories over a grand, delicious meal. In California, for the majority of the time, we eat for convenience and speed; always having to catch the next class or meeting, always rushing to be somewhere else, do something else, rarely taking time to pause and thoroughly enjoy the little things in life.
Getting used to the methods of transportation, even, was something that was a feat of difficulty in itself. Taxi drivers are themselves a different story, but also the shocking realization that the bus system is not dependable, strikes happen almost monthly, if not weekly, not being able to drive my own car and know where I’m going based on the Starbucks at the corner or the fast food restaurant down the street… It was definitely a culture shock if I have ever had one.
Studying abroad in Rome has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Every aspect of my life here is something I would never have dreamed possible. Having an Ancient a Roman Civilization lecture about the Colosseum inside the Colosseum? Who will ever get that opportunity? Being able to wander around Piazza Navona and know that it was formerly the Stadium of Domitian where they would have our equivalent of Olympic Games is an unfathomable realization. I am so blessed to have been able to partake in such an amazing experience.
This experience would not have been nearly as incredible, however, without those I have met along the way. The friendships I have cultivated in my four months here are unparalleled. Together, we have been through countless endeavors, all culminating in interesting experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. The laughter, the tears, the stories, the studying, the not studying, the nightlife… Words will never be able to fully encapsulate the amount of love I have for these people. We have a bond that surpasses that of many, for together we struggled, together we grew, together we lived, together we molded each other; together we conquered Rome.