Forewarning – This post could be really short, or a long, rambling/incoherent one. We’ll see how things go when I start talking about this experience.
I’ll transition into the post by having you watch the Italy Edition of my study abroad experience:
This video was a shortened edition that will be uploaded by the end of the week. The longer version contains something from all of my travels in Europe (and is much longer).
Either way, I’m sitting in Fiumicino Airport, people clearing staring at me because I have been sitting by the departures sign for the last three hours. I’ve got a huge bike box, a suitcase, and some other baggage – not the most commonly seen traveler.
I decided to take the shuttle that was offered by Arcadia so I could avoid lugging around my bike box. The downside was getting picked up at 6:15am – for a flight at 3:20pm. They wouldn’t even let me check in until 3 hours before the flight..
Let’s talk about this semester that seems like has only lasted a few days.
First, I’ll put the semester in perspective with a few interesting numbers:
Some are exact, some are rough estimations of all of my travels in Europe.
Total days of the program: 107
Countries Visited: 8
Cities Visited: 13
Total Trips: 14
Flights (separate flights, included to from Europe) 18
Trains (for travel): 21
Metro Rides (roughly): 65+
Bus Rides (roughly): 110+ (I only actually recorded 15)
Kilometers walked (while traveling): 443 km (277 mi)
Kilometers Traveled (To/From destinations in Europe): ~15,500 km (~9700 mi)
Cones of Gelato: 26 – weaker than I was expecting..
Photos Taken this semester: 6,064
Classes passed: 4!
Times I wanted to knock over the stupid “levitating robe dudes”: 12870827345
Things stolen: 1
New Popes being selected while I was in Rome: 1
Times Casey listened to “Started from the Bottom”: I lost count after a hundred
I came to Rome with:
-Almost no expectations
-No knowledge of the history of the city
-Not understanding any Italian.
-The excitement of going to Europe
-The hope of traveling around Europe
-An open mind
I’m leaving the country after 107 days with:
-New lifelong friends
-An appreciation of the culture, people, and history of Rome – and Europe
-A new, more rounded perspective of life in general
-An empty bank account
Most importantly, the experience of a lifetime.
As I board a flight towards London for Heathrow Airport, the surprisingly recognizable cartoon flight video comes on. It’s so oddly familiar that it gives me déjà vu from when I had sat down on my flight leaving Logan Airport, just 106 days ago.
I have always loved flying. Not necessarily the flight itself or being 10,000 meters above the earth, but rather the fact that you board in one place and land in a completely different place. Now that may sound obvious or stupid, but for me it is the gateway to adventure and opportunity. That was one of the themes of the semester, getting on a plane at Ciampino or Fiumicino airport and arriving in a completely different country or city – the start to a new adventure.
Anyways, back to this study abroad thing. I got off my flight in Fiumicino, excited about my first few steps in Europe. Hanging out at the baggage claim, I calmly waited for my bag to show up, knowing my bike box would end up at some oversize drop-off. Perfect, bag shows up. Now all I have at least a half hour to find my bike box before my shuttle to my apartment will leave. Obviously that would have been too easy of a transition to Rome, so the next 80 minutes are spent frantically running around the airport and waiting in awfully inefficient lines to be told my luggage DOESN’T EXIST. The only thing that saved me at that point was being able to catch the shuttle and accept the fact that my bike would eventually show up.. which it did.
Aside from that little debacle, I quickly began to realize how lucky I was to be in the situation I was. My five roommates were guys that all seemed to just click, and we all quickly got to know each other. It was almost like we had known each other for some time before then.
My apartment was south of the city, which at first seemed like a bit of concern, but in the end turned out to be more than perfect. There was no better way to force ourselves to assimilate to not only the Italian culture, but also in learning the language. We lived in a neighborhood that is not a tourist destination, not because it’s unappealing, but rather because it has always been a place of residents and small businesses. We quickly made friends with a Kebab place a few doors down from the apartment, who unfortunately later went out of business (which we all understand why) due to lack of business and somewhat poor food. Luckily (or not) a gelato place opened up three (3) doors down from our apartment. The owner quickly got to know us – and she spoke no English.
This brings me back to the assimilation into the culture point I was making. If we had lived in a more central part of the city, with other study abroad students, our experience may have been slightly different. I’m not necessarily saying the students who live in the central part of the city have a worse or better experience, they have a different experience. They can lean on the crutch of expecting many of the touristy areas to speak English; they can experience a multitude of shops and restaurants that might be modeled after US places, or spend their time solely with other American students. This might make for the experience to be an easier one, that might seem more enjoyable, but it takes away for some of the allure of studying in a foreign country.
Out of the whole experience, I do have one thing that disappointed me. Throughout the whole time I was in Rome, I believe that I took some aspects of my daily life for granted. As I sit on this plane home, I look back at the sounds, sights, and smells that I would experience every day. It gives me the feeling that I am simply going away for a weekend, only to return again on Sunday. This troubles me, because I know it will take me a few days, maybe weeks, to truly feel like I have left a place that has left an incredible impact on my life.
Even taking this into account, I treasure the times when everything seemed to hit me all at once – how lucky I was to be where I was, how blessed I was to be experiencing what I was. These times, no matter how long or short, brought me back to Earth and ensured that I cherished the moment I was in. They made sure I was not taking the moment for granted.
I look back to last August, when it was becoming crunch time of whether or not I’d want to go abroad. I didn’t want to have to miss a semester of college. I didn’t want to leave my friends for a semester. I was a little worried about how it would affect my academics. I remember the internal struggle I was having trying to decide. I remember finally just going for it and still being a little hesitant. Everyone is a little different, but I see no reason now why I should have even had the debate with myself.
Living in a foreign country is something that you may never do in your life. Sure, you can go on a vacation when you’re 55 years old and spend a week or two in Europe and maybe travel to a few places. But by that point, traveling may tire you out a little faster, and you won’t get to experience things as a student – whether that means meeting other students traveling or taking advantage of a free admittance at a museum or monument. I was just blessed with the opportunity to spend over a hundred days of my life in a foreign country and travel to roughly 13 different places in Europe. If I had to choose between a week vacation or studying abroad over again, it’d be studying abroad 1,000 times of a 1,000. No contest.
At this point, I’m not sure where I want this post to go. I could keep rambling about every little experience that has positively affected me this semester, but that would be boring – and let’s be honest here, there’s probably one or two other people that have even read this far. I will be posting a few more photos after I return home, as I transition back into life in the US. We will see where this website takes me at that point.
Thank you for those of you that have appreciated my photos, posts, or website. Any bit of criticism or positive comment I have received has helped make this website something that I will be able to look back on for the years to come. Grazie Chiara, Sarra, Tina, and every other Arcadia faculty member that has left a positive impact on my life, there are no words to truly express my gratitude.
For those of you that have expressed interest in a print of one of the many featured photos I have taken, I will be selecting a handful to make a batch of prints. I will post that on here in the coming weeks, so check back often! I intend to make an entire photo book of this whole experience as well, but that likely won’t be completed till the end of the summer. Contact me with any questions or suggestions about what photos to make prints of!
My fingers keep typing even though I intended to close out this post. They’re subconsciously trying to be in denial about the experience coming to a close. But, all good things must come to an end. Through this experience, I have gained a better understanding of the following quote by Galileo,
“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.“
As I must close this chapter of my life, here’s to the laughs I shared, the sights I saw, and the moments I’ll cherish for a lifetime.