Study Abroad: Rome

I studied abroad in Rome the spring semester of my junior year. When I came to college, it was always in the back of my mind as an option, but I never truly considered it until I started attending some interest meetings as a sophomore. Seeing all my friends get excited about the experience made me feel like I had to apply. I had never been out of North America before, I had never even been on a plane until I was 19 years old. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take advantage of the experience, but I was never actually excited to go. I want to tell my study abroad story because it differs a lot from the stories heard in study abroad seminars and shown on social media. I wouldn’t consider myself a homebody, because I’ve moved from my hometown in rural Maryland to Philadelphia and I’m very happy here. I will say that it took me a few months to adjust to that transition.

 

In the beginning of my freshman year I had the typical breakdown that many young adults face after moving away from home for the first time. I would consider myself very averse to change. That’s something that I’ve dealt with since I was a kid, and it’s definitely gotten a lot easier, to the point that small changes rarely bother me anymore. Moving to Rome was the biggest change I’ve ever faced in my life. There were no reference points and nothing was familiar to me. I’m the type of person that needs to be surrounded by familiar things to be comfortable. Still, the first month and half flew by and the excitement of visiting new places overshadowed the unhappy thoughts in the back of my mind.

By March, it really sunk in that I was miserable. The smallest things bothered me and I hated that I had to wait until late afternoon to talk to anyone from home because of the time difference. I hated the aggressive people selling to tourists and harassing me on my walk to school. I hated that I couldn’t go to the store and get whatever food I was craving at the moment. I hated that I had basically no privacy in the apartment I shared with six other girls. These might all sound petty, but the shine can wear off a new experience very quickly once you have a routine there. Daily activities were getting easier. I felt comfortable grocery shopping, taking the public transit, and walking around different neighborhoods, but that comfort level wasn’t enough. I realized I truly didn’t like Rome. It’s dirty and slow. It felt like I was living someone else’s life and I didn’t feel like I was acting like myself. Sometimes trips and constant distractions helped, but other times they made the days drag on forever.

 

My mood changed drastically from day to day and the weather in early spring didn’t help either. It rained almost every day for two weeks. I would try to sleep as late as I possibly could so I didn’t have to experience the whole day. It was then I knew that I was depressed.

 

Once the weather got consistently nice, I got see the light at the end of the tunnel. I tried to feel better, but I was never truly happy. I thought I would miss my family, friends, and boyfriend the most and obviously I missed them. Surprisingly, what I missed the most were the little things. I missed driving my car on a highway. I missed being able to work and make money. I missed walking around Target. I missed feeling comfortable. I don’t look back at my study abroad experience favorably. I try not to think about it that much because I hated the mindset I had while I was there. It’s important for me to be honest about my experience. I knew while I was there I wouldn’t be able to come back and gush to people about it. It’s not being fair to myself to lie about it. I also want other people to hear an experience that wasn’t 100% positive. All I ever heard before I went was how life changing it was. Maybe if I heard different perspectives I would’ve had more to think about. I would never change my experience and I would never advise someone else not to go. If I hadn’t gone, I never would’ve learned that I’m not the type of person to be away for long periods of time. I needed to figure that out for myself. I would’ve always wondered what I missed out on. Maybe if I hadn’t been in Rome, my experience would’ve been better. I enjoyed visiting the other countries I traveled to, but I didn’t like having Rome as my home base. It’s definitely at the bottom of my list of countries I’ve visited. I’m lucky that I made a lot of friends while I was abroad, and if I had to take away the most positive thing it would be that. I learned a lot of valuable things about myself that will serve me in the future.

 

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