As surreal as it is, last Wednesday I began the next phase of my life when I moved to the Eternal City. Arriving to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, I was enveloped with fear, excitement, and a mild amount of nausea. It seemed as this day would never come, more like a distant fantasy. However, after approximately a year of planning, my departure date seemed to spring upon me. Hands down, saying bye to my parents was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Alas, I know I was meant to make this journey.
First, I flew to overnight to London and once I barely navigated through the hectic world of the Heathrow Airport, I had to idle my time until I was Roma-bound. Not to mention the fact that my flight to London was delayed by three hours, so I missed my original flight to Rome, and therefore the opportunity for my study abroad program to pick me up at the Fiumicino Airport. This turned out to be my first test of patience in my move to Italy. Although it can be an automatic reaction to become upset, I knew there would be many little tests like this to come. Not only, did having a flight delay help me to improve my patience, but it also allowed to me to meet my first friend in the study abroad program. Once we landed in Roma, the two of us were able to talk and struggle in finding our ride to our apartments in the Trastevere neighborhood. I can’t describe how unreal it felt to see the city and my apartment for the first time.
My first night in Rome, I immediately began to notice how Italians reacted towards Americans, especially obnoxious ones. It was amazing and slightly embarrassing how the natives could already tell who we were. Americans, especially the students, are known for being loud, drunk, and not willing to learn Italian. I wanted to avoid this stereotype as much as possible. I began to practice my Italian right away, and although my vocabulary is very limited, it was exciting to be surrounded with opportuniities learn the language all around me.
Last Thursday was my first full day in the city of Rome, in which I got to explore my new neighborhood during the day and see my university in person for the first time. Both did not come close to disappointing. The American University of Rome may be rather small, but it has a beautiful garden, amazing rooftop view, and an easy-to-manage campus. With a few other girls in my program, we had a delicious lunch at a local panini shop near our apartment building. I loved interacting with the owner and having him teach the difference between “l’acqua naturale” and “l’acqua frizzante” (flat water and bubbly water). The day continued with the new student orientation and later, an authentic Italian dinner at a Trastevere restaurant paid for by CIS Abroad. It consisted of several courses, with each one more amazing than the last. Massive amounts of food was supplied to us, and many of us did not finish our plates. I knew Italians had large meals, but I never imagined this big. Compared to the States, where people don’t finish their meals all the time when they go out, Italians typically do. To-go boxes and bags are not something used here. Also in the United States, waiters and waitresses don’t mind if you can’t finish, but when I saw the cook’s face of confusion by some of us sending back still full plates, I knew we had offended her.
The values, customs and beliefs that of the Italian and Roman culture are ones I deem as profoundly admirable and deeply wish the American lifestyle would adopt. Respect is the element that ties them together. Showing respect towards elders and giving appreciation to those kind to you, both of these are held to the highest in Italy. For example, if on the bus or tram, giving up your seat to someone older than you is a must. In America, most people will practice this act, but in Italy this is unavoidable and an extreme social fault to not carry it out.
Then on Friday, I went to the Italian supermarket with a new friend, a colorful experience in itself, and then the group of us toured around more of Rome. Alessandro, one of our directors, took us to the Pantheon, ancient ruins turned into a cat sanctuary, the Jewish Ghetto, and a popular coffee shop, called Sant’Eustachio. Each one of these filled me with more knowledge about the Italian way of life and beauty of the Italian streets, buildings and fountains. Stepping inside the Pantheon was so incredible I teared up from how awestruck I was by the astounding architecture and frescoes. Alessandro, being a Roman himself, is able to teach us about everywhere we visit. I love learning about the history and culture of this marvelous city.
This week I started my classes for the semester, and each one has me so excited. Taking Beginning Italian I know will definitely help me to become more integrated into the Roman society. Not to forget that my professora is awesome and happens to be named Lucy (no surprise she’s awesome)! I’m also really excited for my Art Gallery Management course – the books we get to read sound extremely interesting. My course over discussing the Theory and Methodologies of Art History seems very tough, but I have an idea that it will arouse my thoughts and encourage my growth in a classroom setting.
One thing that occurred to me this past week that wasn’t as fun, but an extremely valuable lesson in itself, was when I took the wrong bus home after my night class, Art Gallery Management. I haven’t told my mom about this (sorry mom when you read this), because I didn’t want her to be worried. I hoped that this bus would just circle back around to my original stop near the university; however, it ended up stopping at the opposite side of town. At night. It was terrifying to say the least. I walked back to a stop, which took 45 minutes to get to, then got to bus that took to me to the viale I live on. Walking alone in a foreign city at night made me extremely paranoid, but I put headphones in order to appear like a local and tried to seem more confident in my actions, especially by not consistently looking at a map. I eventually made it home alive, as scary as this was, I now know the bus routes to school exactly. P.S. Mom, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to worry, I’m fine and I’m alive!
Sometimes I will be walking around or riding the bus or waking up hearing the continual noise of city life, and remember again that I am living in one of the most incredible and beautiful cities in the world. How surreal this is and lucky I am to have this opportunity makes me so unbelievably grateful to have the parents I do and all they have done to help me get here. I am already in love with Rome, and can’t wait for what is to come.