Study abroad in Italy - exactly where I need to be
After struggling to make coffee with my roommate and figuring out how to pour the unrefrigerated box of cream without a pouring spout into my coffee….I’m sitting at my dining room table looking out our balcony at our gorgeous view of central Florence…take a look…. :)
Sleep deprivation, sore legs, a full stomach, and overwhelming beauty. Just a few of the adjectives that describe my first week here in Italy. I can’t believe a week is over and already I have experienced so much, and already feel like I fit in here in Firenze….well, not quite, but I’m getting there.
My adventure began at the airport where my flight was delayed to Rome because the plane needed “maintenance,” AKA it was broken. Luckily, I met a group of awesome API girls and we had fun chatting while waiting for our second plane. I met 2 funny Italian men who were on our flight too, and I passed the time exchanging a few words of Italian that I knew with them and playing with one of those metal brain teaser puzzle things one of the Italians bought from the airport giftshop. When I told one of the Italians waiting with us that I would be studying in Florence, he smiled at me and said, “That is my town. I have loved it forever, and you will too.” I hadn’t even made it to Italy yet, but I knew he was right.
We found out our plane wasn’t going to take off that night, but luckily for us, my roommate’s mom was there and she was able to get us a flight to London that would connect to Rome. First adventure of the trip, and we weren’t even to Italy yet! Although we didn’t have time to leave the airport, I never planned on seeing London so it was still cool enough to listen to their amazing British accents!
Finally, we made it to Rome, 12 hours later than we planned. We had already missed our first orientation, and everyone else was at the restaurant waiting for us. My first taste of Italian driving——-SCARY!!!! Our cab driver was driving so incredibly fast and was pretty much bumper to bumper with the car in front of him on the highway that all I could do was pray that my seatbelt would do me good when we inevitably crashed. 40 euros poorer and and with a elevated blood pressure we made it to our beautiful hotel in the historic district of Rome! We had dinner with the other API students and had a fantastic 3 course meal complete with Antipasto, Primi Patti, and Secondi. So. much. food. I barely ate any of it because I was still so overwhelmed from our whole travel ordeal but the bites I did take were amazing. At that moment I knew I was going to gain a few pounds here, but they will definitely be worth it.
Rome was amazing. I am mildly obsessed with the abundance of ancient history in every aspect of the city—from the architecture, traditions and passion the Italians have for their culture from their ancestors. The next day we traveled to the historic district of Rome where we saw the Piazza Novana, the old Foro Romano, the Piazza di Spagna, the Trevvi Fountain, and of course, the Colloseum. I was so beyond excited to see everything.. it was crazy that all of these places that I have seen in pictures and dreamed of seeing for what has seemed like forever finally materialized right in front of me.
Despite screaming TOURISTE with our headsets and lanyards listening to our tourguide Manuel (THE BEST TOURGUIDE EVER) narrate everything, I still managed to find a personal connection to the city. During most of the tour of the city I tried to absorb everything, and tried to not just see, but to observe, not just listen, but to understand this wonderful culture and its history. While I think America has a lot of great history, nothing comes close to the rich history of Italy. It can’t be topped. I saw how strong all of the buildings stood on their foundations, built thousands of years ago by the Romans. I have such a strong appreciation for the literal blood, sweat and tears the people of Rome poured into creating their city, their empire, to last for centuries to come. Feeling the worn stone walls of the buildings, I could feel the passion in each stone stacked on top of each other, each perfect column, each perfectly formed human body and face in their sculptures, churches, and frescoes. I was in such awe of the dedication and purposefulness that was so obvious in everything the Romans did. I can’t describe with words or pictures the feeling I felt with my hand on the walls of the Colloseum, imagining how life might have been like if I was a Roman.
After seeing the city, a bunch of us walked around on our own and got lost in the city…walking around the beautiful Piazza’s, shops, and restaurants. Using my limited vocab of Italian, I managed to make a few friends in Rome, using many gestures and charades to find out what each other meant. While there were a few creepers, the majority of Romans we met were funny and so interesting to talk to! A lot of them attended the university there and were typical college students like ourselves. It was nice to finally interact with some Italians our age and try to understand their culture more.
The next day we saw the Vatican… which was also breathtaking. I didn’t see the Pope, but couldn’t help but think he was looking at us below the Vatican out of his little window in his room! It was great to finally say that I’ve been to the Vatican and can say that I definitely feel a little bit holier now. :)
The next day, it was Arrivederci Roma. Time to gather our belongings, leave our beautiful hotel that smelled of fresh pizza from our Italian neighbors next door, and get on the bus to our real destination, Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it. I was so caught up in discovering Rome that I almost forgot that I wasn’t even in the city I chose yet. While I napped off and on during the bus ride, the glimpses of countryside I saw on our trip to Firenze gave me an immediate sense of peace and comfort.
I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Alycia Parish is an API student blogger and will be sharing her experiences in Florence, Italy this summer on our Tumblr blog.