Heritage. Food. Language. Culture. When embarking on my study abroad experience, these are the four main things that come to mind. But it wasn’t as easy as that, so let’s start from the beginning. I am someone who has always lived with my family and never really out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t say that living at home and commuting to school would constitute my comfort zone, but it was just what I had become used to over the years. My family did not travel very much, nor did they fly. This study abroad experience was a big deal for me. I have had friends study abroad all over the world telling me about how much they loved their experience. These places included Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. The thought of me doing such a thing as studying abroad really never crossed my mind.
During my junior year of college I saw online through my home university some study abroad activities pop up. All of a sudden, something hit me. Why in the world don’t I take advantage of this opportunity before I graduate? I did some in-depth research on the programs that my school offered, but I knew there was only one place that I wanted to be. This place was Italy. Why Italy? For one, the amazing food – of course. But to explain further, my heritage comes from a long line of Italian and Italian-American culture. I had taken Italian in middle school and high school instead of Spanish because of this, so although I was not fluent in the language, I was able to understand it and speak it when needed. I chose Italy because of this and also because of the fact that I thought it was the most amazing-sounding language in the world. That being said, I booked it. I chose to study in Rome, Italy, at John Cabot University.
So, it happened. August arrived and I was so anxious and excited all at once. My first amazing study abroad experience occurred on my flight to Rome when I sat next to an Italian, whom I made friends with. I started teaching him proper English and he was teaching me proper Italian. After that moment, for some reason, I already knew that I made the right decision to study at John Cabot. I landed in Rome on a gorgeous day and thereafter, everything seems like an amazing dream. Looking back at my experience, these past four months represent the best time of my entire life. I think my favorite part was being able to hold conversations and getting around with Italian while understanding what people were saying. This made me feel like I was at home, even though I was miles away, because I would force myself to speak Italian with the locals, even if it was not perfect. Another thing that made me feel at home was the school itself, John Cabot University. JCU provided me with everything I needed to succeed in a country that I was foreign to. I was able to connect with friends who were American, Italian, Swedish, etc. that I will have for the rest of my life. I also took courses with amazing professors who cared about each individual student exceeding.
Studying abroad has changed my life for the better, and will positively impact everything that I do for the rest of my life. Why? Because it truly changes your perspective on everything. I think in the United States we have become very spoiled due to everything we have at our fingertips. While being in Italy, you become accustomed to not having everything readily available to you, yet this becomes something that you start to love. Also, at least where I come from living in the New York City metro area my whole life, everything seems to be on the go. For some reason there is no time to relax or enjoy the view. Italy teaches you to reflect on life, enjoy every second that you have, and enjoy every person that you’re with. This was a positive culture shock and something that I loved so very much. Everyone was extremely friendly and happy. I was able to view all of this by being in one of the most amazing cities in the world, Rome. Some days I would bring my homework with me and sit in famous piazzas, by the Spanish Steps, or even by Rome’s ruins. This does something to you that is hard to really explain. I realized that I was in a city that was full of beauty, with wonderful chaos surrounding me. You walk out of your apartment with ruins in one place and businesses right next to it. There is nothing else quite like it.
Another thing to point out is that because I was studying abroad, on the weekends I was able to visit 10 different countries that I had never seen before. It was extremely helpful living in Rome and going to JCU because it was in close proximity to so many other amazing European countries. I was never much of a traveler, so I’d never thought I would be doing such a thing. It was incredible because I was not only experiencing the Italian culture, but so many cultures around Europe that each had their own distinctive culture. It amazes me that in Europe most students are fluent in at least one other language, whereas in the States that’s not usually the case. Sometimes, while visiting these other countries, I would just be in awe of everything. I was able to experience everyone speaking a different language, some of which I had never even heard before. This was an important aspect of my journey. Not being able to understand what people were saying allowed me to understand this amazing experience that I was blessed with. Europe, and Italy especially, will always be a part of who I will become in the future.
Living in Trastevere (the breathtaking area of Rome in which JCU is located), I would usually take the long way home. This is because I did not want to miss anything. I would get lost in Trastevere’s winding streets and not even care, because getting lost there helped me to find myself more than anything else could.
Also, I play tennis for my home university. Through John Cabot, I was able to join an Italian tennis club. This, among many other things, allowed me to no longer feel like a tourist. I became a part of the city and the culture and felt like Italy was my home and that nothing else could replace it.
I am going to miss John Cabot, the wonderful education they have provided me with, the friends I have met, and the wonderful teachers that cared about our success. The school atmosphere made me once again feel like I was at home. I am going to miss one euro cappuccinos, Italian food, and older ladies cutting in front of me in the grocery store to get in line first. I am going to miss how much Italians talk and express themselves with their hands, the clean drinking water, and the quiet hours that Italians have each day. This alone shows the laid back culture that Italians live. I am going to miss the Italian culture that Trastevere provides you with every single day. Just being there is something I will miss the most.
The hashtag #whenromeisyourcampus will be flying though your mind everyday. Experiencing all of this changes you as a person, and without experiencing it you won’t be able to experience that change. You discover a new side to yourself. You discover different cultures from everyone around you, which differ from your own way of life. This difference becomes something that you yearn for everyday. The sayings “la dolce vita” and “la vita è bella” become more accurate than you could ever believe to be. As cliché as it sounds, it is not a goodbye, but a “ci vediamo dopo, Italia.” Ciao, for now!