This week begins the second week of the second half of the semester. Over the hump! Last night one of my housemates and I found ourselves stuck at our tiny kitchen table swapping our harrowing stories of our journeys to Rome. We talked about the tears that inevitably came, of the plane mishaps and unexpected bumps in the road, and of our first days… finally… in Rome.
I have already written about my first day in my first blog, but it was a humbling experience. The first humbling experience of many… many yet to come. (See: My Art History professor telling me my midterm was “barely sufficient” despite her giving me an A. See also: My many nervous, fumbled attempts at speaking in Italian to a Roman who immediately clocks me as an American. See also also: Tons of other red-faced, haunting moments that I may or may not think about while I’m trying to fall asleep.)
But, beyond all of that, Rome has given me tons of valuable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I grew up in small town Indiana and the idea of living in a city, while always inevitable for me, has always been a little scary. Living in Rome has felt like my trial run for living in a city. Being provided housing and a built-in community is like training wheels for city life. Even here, thousands of miles from home, I feel comfortable. If that’s not a deep breath moment, I don’t know what is.
I think there’s a fine line to walk between integrating into the culture you choose for your semester abroad and appreciating the differences, while still holding tight to American culture. For example, walking around certain neighborhoods reminds me of places in New York and other American cities, and I do find a lot of comfort in that. But, at the end of the day, Rome feels nothing like New York.
Last week I got coffee with a Hope student who was here for her spring break. I had no idea how much I was missing basic familiarity. Even though our little date was only two hours long, I left feeling completely refreshed. On top of the world, some might say! Walking on sunshine, even! A new perspective on Rome made me fall in love with it all over again. Getting to talk about home and Hope without having to explain myself every other sentence was a breath of fresh air.
So now… Reflecting on all these things now, about 60 days after leaving American soil, I’m left with a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand, there are many things about Italy, and my experience here, that make me stop and think: “Wow. I’m happy right now.” (Which, I’ll admit, is a much rarer thought at home.) On the other, I obviously do miss home at times and I am looking forward to this summer back in the states.
Regardless… Today I leave you with a famous Latin saying that I learned in my Greek and Roman Mythology class: “plus ultra” or “always forward, further beyond.”