Everyone from my study abroad program had safe flights back to America, and we are all home safe and sound!
Now that I am back home, I wanted to write one last blog post to reflect on the semester and say a quick thank you to everyone who made it possible!
So, first, to my family I would like to say thank you so much! I have missed you all so much. Without your support, I never would have been able to make my dream of studying abroad a reality. Thank you for giving me my love for travel and for the confidence, courage, and support to go out and see the world. Thank you for your patience when I could not call as much as I should have and for when my poor wifi connection would mean getting disconnected about five times per call. Getting to share my experiences with you guys was one of my favorite parts of the trip, so your willingness to work with our time difference meant so much to me! As much as Rome has truly grown to feel like a second home, home really is wherever I’m with you!
To my mom and brother, thank you so much for coming to visit me! Spending Easter together really made Rome feel like home for the holiday! I am so lucky that I got to see you guys half way through the semester.
To Kevin, thank you so much for making me feel so loved and supported from half way around the world! Our Tuesday dates were such a fun way to keep in touch. We’ve done looooong distance so I know we can do anything!
To my friends at home, thank you for being so understanding when I couldn’t talk for a while. I missed you guys more than I can express but I know that our friendships will be stronger than ever and I can’t wait to catch up this summer!
To the amazing staff of the Italian campus, thank you for creating such a unique and wonderful study abroad experience. Through your guidance, I have learned so much about Italy. The opportunities you have provided have changed me and my perspective on the world. You truly have made me a “citizen of the world”.
And to my friends at the Italian campus, thank you thank you thank you for putting up with me for the past three months! We have grown so close and I would not change a single experience we have had together for the world. I love you guys!
An Unbelievable Semester
When I look back on the last three months, it is hard to believe how many things I had the privilege to do, the amount of beautiful places I was lucky enough to see, and the differences I see in myself as a result.
When I was first packing to come to Rome, I spend weeks planning and stressing about what to bring and if I would have enough clothes, shoes, toiletries…everything! In Rome, however, I frequently would have to pack for a weekend in the middle of the night the night before departure! It taught me to worry less and gave me peace of mind that I could manage with whatever amount of physical stuff I had because the physical stuff you travel with is not what’s important! Even packing to come back home, I only spent about a day’s time working on packing.
On a related note, at home I am a meticulous planner who flourished under routine and wanted to know exactly what was happening at all times. In Rome, all of these safety nets and comforts of home were stripped away. At first, I felt very scared by all of the unknowns about being in Rome. It was my first semester away from home, and I did not speak any Italian when I arrived. However, as the semester progressed, I learned how to deal with the unknown. I frequently made spontaneous plans and slowly learned that I could flourish outside of a plan. My friends and I put together our spring break trip about a week before we left. We decided what we wanted to do and see as we went, and discovered a ton of hidden gems as we wandered! I never felt like we were missing out on seeing things because we did not plan out every detail. I now understand the benefits of spontaneity. My skills in planning will certainly serve me well in the future in regards to time management, but I also can now appreciate leaving some time open to see where the day takes me. I hope that I can integrate both of these skills moving forward.
I have also learned the importance of being able to laugh at yourself. When you are in an unknown culture, you are bound to make some slip ups and mistakes. Rather than freezing up or being super embarrassed about making one of these mistakes, I became more comfortable with taking it as a learning experience. Instances where I made a cultural mistake were often the times when I learned the most about that culture! For spring break, my friends and I had the rule that once we were in the next country we were all allowed to laugh at something we did! It forced us to get over things quickly and to appreciate every moment as it came and went.
By studying abroad, I became much more confident in my ability to get around. Looking back to my first onsite class, I remember being very nervous about how I would get there and if I could get there in time. By the end of the semester, I felt very confident in using the metro system in Rome, I understood the Italian associated with using the metro (uscita lato destro!), I knew which metro stop would get us closest to the major monuments, and I was able to estimate about how much time it would take. I also had a working knowledge of the bus system for the 906, 46, and 916 busses. Knowing that I am capable of maneuvering a foreign city has given me a lot of confidence. While abroad, I even traveled to London and back to Rome by myself, and I even survived The Pisa Incident (see my post on my weekend in London for that story!). I am now more excited than ever to explore new parts of Pittsburgh!
Something that I think people do not discuss much when talking about study abroad is that you really are living in another country for a semester and not just taking a long vacation. You get to experience the transformation from tourist to temporary resident. As the semester progressed, Italian locals began to assume I spoke Italian, and I was able to give English speaking tourists directions. I no longer needed a map to get around. While I still have a lifetime of learning to do about the rich history and culture of Italy, it really was like I moved there for three months. When I first arrived, I definitely had a honeymoon stage where my time abroad did feel like a vacation. However, I soon realized that I still had all of the same responsibilities that I had at home, if not more! Even though it certainly was a dream to have gotten the opportunity to study abroad in Italy, it does not mean that we did not struggle with everyday issues while we were there. This did not make my study abroad experience bad by any stretch of the imagination…it made it feel challenging and real and authentic!
Being home in Pittsburgh has been great because I get to see my family and friends. However, it has also been a challenge. For example, I have tried to plug many things in using my power converter. I have thought about how I would get somewhere in my neighborhood based on when the 906 bus is coming. I have tried to pay for things in euro, and I have accidentally thanked people in Italian. Also, I am struggling with jet lag and with the change back to American food. I know that with time I will feel normal at home again, but for the moment it feels a bit foreign, which is very strange. So, I want to thank everyone at home for their patience while I readjust.
I will miss so many things about Rome. From hearing the beautiful Italian language everyday, to being able to purchase paprika flavored everything, to the cobblestone streets, to the historical landmarks around every corner, I have absolutely loved living in this city. My heart soars just thinking about going back someday. The “Romesickness” is real, for sure! This is because Rome really does feel like home! After spring break, coming back to Italy and the convent felt like coming home. That was when I realized how much I had learned about Italy in the short month and a half since I had arrived.
So, my final thank you is to Rome. Thank you for the most amazing three months of my life. For teaching me so much about the world and about myself. For giving me a new outlook. For giving me confidence and the knowledge that I am capable of whatever I set my mind to. For inspiring me to never stop traveling and seeing the world. I am forever grateful.