Student reflects on life in Rome, studying abroad

Student+reflects+on+life+in+Rome%2C+studying+abroad

Spending four months abroad is something people both young and old dream about, and for good reason.
Coming to college, I didn’t think it would be possible to achieve that dream because of the demands of the physician assistant program. With help from my adviser and the Office of Learning Abroad, I was able to create space in my schedule to study at the American University of Rome.
I will forever be grateful to those who helped me get here, because coming to Italy was the best choice I could have made for my college experience.
In the months leading up to my departure, many people asked me why I chose Rome over other more popular abroad options, like Australia. My answer usually involved some form of “Why wouldn’t I choose Rome?” or “Have you seen ‘The Lizzie McGuire Movie’?”
In all seriousness, coming to Italy has been a dream of mine since I was incredibly young. Somehow I knew I was meant to come here — I just didn’t know how.
I started working and preparing for this experience one week into my freshman year. However, nothing I read online or spoke about with experienced travelers could have prepared me for this semester.
I am no stranger to moving far away to an unfamiliar place, going to Gannon from four states away. But crossing the Atlantic to be 5,000 miles away from my family, friends and familiarity was a whole new ballgame.
When I arrived in Rome, it was not what I expected at all. The first few days here were an incredibly difficult adjustment period.
I felt uncomfortable because of the language barrier and the lack of routine. I was exhausted and also trying to make a strong group of friends so I almost never slept. I had to remind myself to put my needs first, and I took one day in that first week to feel like my normal self.
I cooked an omelette and watched some Netflix, and the next day my entire perspective on this experience changed.
Now I feel like the possibilities are endless here in my new home. I even find myself longing for Rome while on weekend trips. I still miss my friends and family in the states, and I will for the rest of this semester, but I wouldn’t trade my four months in the Eternal City for anything.
There are a few things people don’t tell you about studying abroad, and one of those is the way you will learn about yourself and grow in confidence infinitely more than any other experience you can have at this age.
My first successful trip to the grocery store felt like the greatest accomplishment of my life until I bought a bus pass using only Italian to communicate.
My brain has been stretched and pulled into new perspectives and ideas about how the world works. I have also been exposed to some of the most ancient, famous and beautiful buildings and statues in existence today and all I have to say is that they are all they’re cracked up to be.
Everywhere I turn in this city, there is something I haven’t seen yet that has an incredible amount of historical significance.
The culture I have been exposed to has had such an impact on the way I think about history and ancient peoples. And I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t mention the food I have gotten the absolute honor of eating; I haven’t had a bad meal yet.
I even like the tomatoes here (a major statement for anyone who knows me). I also don’t think I will ever be able to look at Porky’s the same way after eating handcrafted, authentic pizza with fresh prosciutto on top.
I know the day will eventually come when I have to pack my bags, but after nearly a month, I do not know how I will tear myself away from this spectacular city.
I can see why Robert Hughes once said, “If we could be reborn wherever we chose, how crowded Rome would be, populated by souls who had spent their previous lives longing to inhabit a villa on the Janiculum Hill.”

MAUREEN GRADY
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