So now at the start of senior year, I finally ended my procrastination and finished writing the last post for my study abroad blog. Knowing how challenging and straight-up sad it would be to write this, I obviously took my sweet time putting it off. Being a week into my final year at Hendrix College, I think it’s more than time to write my thoughts about the last week abroad and about the semester entirely.
Starting my last week in Rome I was weirdly excited to enjoy these last few days here without always having to worry about classes. Finishing my Italian language final that Wednesday, I was done with studying for the semester! So my friend and I had the one of the best afternoons since being here, eating pasta on the Spanish Steps. Dina took me to this tiny shop, where they cooked only two types of al dente pasta everyday, selling them in 3 (or 4?) euro containers. Together, still wearing our backpacks from class, we slurped on our noodles and people-watched sitting on these historic steps. It felt so unreal that I was able to casually do this and live in this ancient city for 4 months. Seeing all the tourists take pictures (a.k.a. selfies), with the now blooming azaleas, I was so darn thankful that I got to experience this place so much differently than most who visit Rome. Looking back on this day now, I really crave that chewy spaghetti that you can really only have in Italia. Not a bad way to celebrate my finishing of final exams!
The two of us continued to walk more around the city and stopped for gelato next to the Pantheon. I love this city and all it has to offer, but as it grew hotter each day with its tall buildings and endless cobblestone paths, I was very appreciative I decided not to study abroad here during the summer. The weather got to be pretty distracting.
As my time in Rome was winding closer to the end, there were some pretty important places I had yet to take part in. I hadn’t toured the Coliseum, the Forum and its surrounding ruins, the Borghese Gallery or the Capitoline Museum. That Wednesday night, I planned out my schedule to do each one of these and booking my tickets accordingly. When I then also began to pack up my various bags that evening, I realized I had never felt so conflicted in my emotions. I was dying to see my parents and pets, but leaving also meant saying goodbye to a wonderful culture and new friends that all lived far far away back in the states. At this point however, you really just have to make the most of it and not stress.
The next day, Bridget, Paige and I “souvy” shopped and enjoyed each other’s company, while taking in Rome as well. Taking potentially our last photos at the Spanish Steps, I pushed away that sadness so I keep on loving the city. These feelings still proceeded due to the CIS Abroad farewell dinner being that night. I loved getting to know the other people in the program and especially our on-site director Romina. Eating a very authentic and homemade meal together, I realized how CIS always opened my eyes to places that I would not have discovered on my own. Although not going through any Hendrix study abroad was more expensive, I don’t regret for a second choosing the program I did. As a going away gift, Romina gave us all special edition Nutella jars for the Milan Expo. I’m still refusing to eat mine.
The next day I visited the Capitoline Museum, which is two massive buildings both stocked full of ancient Roman ruins, statues and art. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved seeing this insanely historic relics and buildings for the past semester, but this area of art doesn’t have me staring at each individual piece. My pal Bridget, the classics major, was pretty surprised how short I was there compared to the lengthy time she spent there. I can appreciate this history without having to stand closely and scrutinize each individual artifact… Then that evening my group of friends dined extremely early for Italy (around 7:30); I’m pretty sure we were the first ones there. We ate, laughed and drank plenty of the house wine.
For our Saturday, we went to the beach that’s only a 30 minute train ride from the city. It’s incredible how easy it is to get there too. With a train station only 2 blocks from our apartment building, we just hop on the 8 euro train and can then magically lie near the Mediterranean sea. All of us managed to fall asleep on the sand, gaining some pretty pathetic sunburns, but other than that it was a very relaxing day. I continued to grow sadder about leaving as I became better and better friends with these awesome people. However, still having some some tourist attractions to check off, so I spent my Sunday morning and afternoon roasting in the ruins. I woke up around 9 and headed to the Coliseum. Being by myself to visit these major monuments, I was able to capture some awesome photographs, sans distraction (unless you count the Italian heat frying me).
The only downside of going alone was having to awkwardly ask someone to take my picture. Other than that, I loved getting to take in the mind-blowing history of a place like this. After I finished touring the entirety of the Coliseum, I was pretty tired, but I knew if I went back home to my apartment now, I wouldn’t be able to get back out into the weather. So I put headphones in and played some RadioLab and This American Life podcasts and strolled the Forum and Palatine Hill. It grew hotter and more crowded as the day wore on, but I plugged away and took more and more photos of the historic grounds. I am proud of myself for seeing everything, despite with my sunburn searing under even more UV rays.
On the evening of the 10th, I finally made my stop at the world famous Borghese Gallery (Galleria Borghese). I had to book this one way in advance, because it always sells out. I don’t think my parents even got to see it. I know now it is for good reason. Bernini, Rubens, Caravaggio, Raphael, and many other well known artists fill up the rooms in the villa. It was an amazing final museum to end my semester abroad with.
Now I have finally reached my last day in the Eternal City. Like I stated previously, the day was entirely too bittersweet; I was feeling guilty that I was pretty ready to go home. However, knowing I wouldn’t see these new friends for a long time, made this night lean much towards the sad end of the spectrum. The goofs I call my friends fortunately are not as big of saps like me, so very little sadness ever displayed itself. We all went to dinner in a well-acclaimed, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Trastevere. Since it was the last night in Rome, I even bought an appetizer. The lightly-fried zucchini blossom stuffed with cheese was worth every euro I spent on it. My pasta and white wine was incredible as well. We all left the place feeling extremely full and happy, but even with a really filling meal we of course still got gelato.
Together we walked the city one last time, reminiscing and laughing. Our stop at the Trevi Fountain (which was still annoyingly under construction) was my favorite part. After throwing in our coins, complete with a photoshoot by Danny and some wishes, a man taking and selling polaroids caught our attention. Despite this being extremely touristy, with a steep price of 3 euros, we had to get a couple taken. I am really glad I decided to splurge in this particular occasion, because it has turned out to be my favorite from the semester. Only one time did I actually cry this night, which I would consider a personal best for me. Packing the rest of my things and hugging Bridget, Danny, Kasey and Paige goodbye was pretty tough, but I think we will all remain faraway friends for a long time to come.
This time of living in a foreign country and an amazing new city blessed me with so many wonderful new experiences and ways I got to learn more about myself and other societies. Getting to live in a place surrounded with such history, culture and beauty felt like a dream, as a cliche as that sounds. Some days it would feel completely normal to be walking in such an iconic city, but others it would hit me how surreal and unbelievably cool this opportunity was. I got to see and appreciate so much influential and ancient art and architecture. I was so lucky to the point that I got to travel to other parts of Italy and other countries in Europe, which let me see and learn even more about the art field, such as Claude Monet’s Parisian wall-stretching oil paintings. Learning about myself abroad was equally as incredible. I learned how I like structure more when I travel, how I wanted to stick to a budget, and that I love meeting and befriending people with similar interests. (This seems like a no-brainer until you’ve hit 4 museums in a row alone). The American and Italian friendships I earned have made me so incredibly thankful and happy. Even though some parts of being abroad weren’t perfect, like when I was pick-pocketed, each bizarre and confusing experience was enlightening and still allowed me to grow from it. Studying in Rome was a wonderful part of my life I am so thankful for and really wouldn’t change it a bit.