Student Feature: Reed Hanson

Reed with a Franciscan friar in Assisi.

Going to Rome felt like a death sentence the first week. I knew nobody else from Hope and didn’t have any other friends from high school in Europe with me, so I was plagued by intense feelings of isolation and loneliness for about a week after I arrived. It reminded me of freshman year all over again, except multiplied by a new language and culture that is completely foreign to anything I had ever experienced before. I came in thinking ‘I am going to find travel buddies right away and plan all sorts of amazing and wonderful adventures!’ But when that didn’t happen I was left confused and aimless. I knew I shouldn’t waste this experience overseas but I felt homesick and longed for familiarity- something that would make me feel better.

It wasn’t until going to Malta the second week of February that I leaned into myself and really felt convicted. I went with one of my housemates and his friends, so I stayed in an apartment with four guys I didn’t know at all. I decided to travel the island by myself and it was easily the best decision I have made while being in Rome! I knew right then and there that I don’t need to depend on others for going on trips! Going solo through Malta allowed me to do things I wanted to do, and I got so much more out of it than if I had stayed with other people.

The Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta

As a result of that realization, I have traveled to Cassino and Florence solo, and have planned trips to Venice and Normandy by myself. People might say that I’ll be lonely there, and having friends can make experiences better (Like Assisi, I traveled with two amazing friends and it was my favorite town I’ve been to in Italy!), but I also learned that it’s okay to travel alone and see the things I want to see and enjoy this beautiful country on my own terms. In addition, I am staying an extra few weeks after my program ends to explore Europe and see my uncle in Egypt, and I found a good friend from the Bible study here who is also staying! He and I are spending time in London and Dublin the second week of May.

I chose Rome for the History and Classics program, my two majors. Seeing things that I learned about in class for years has been a dream come true; I have studied Latin since middle school, so seeing the Roman Forum and thousands of ancient inscriptions across the city has opened my eyes and allowed me to learn the material unlike any other semester. In any given week, we learn about certain subjects in class and then go out into the city and see them in person later! There have been so many times this semester where I have been completely speechless as I stare and admire Roman ruins that have survived for two thousand years.

The Roman Forum, from the Capitoline Museum

Every week I am blown away at things I see that we learn about in lecture, and I can’t help but praise the Lord for putting me in this amazing program. For being able to travel outside the city and explore Italy and Europe. To see the Normandy battlefields in France, Zurich and the Swiss Alps, London/Dublin and the British Isles, and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. All of it is for His glory, with each part representing His majesty. This city, this experience, this world is night and day compared to Holland, Michigan, and yet I am oddly charmed by the inviting sense of wonder Europe offers. I will miss all that Italy has to offer when I fly home in May. Except for the cigarette smoke. I can’t stand the smoking.

Overall, Rome has been an absolute blessing. The food has been kind to me, the views and scenic sights have blown me away with their magnificence and elegance, the small towns in the Italian countryside have given me memories I will carry with me for years to come, and the abundance of Roman ruins have been a daily reminder of why I came here. I discover something new about this Eternal City on a daily basis, and a lifetime of living here wouldn’t be enough to uncover every secret Rome has to offer.