I’ve procrastinated doing this for a number of reasons:
1) I didn’t really have time to pen the usual Pulitzer Prize for Journalism-worthy entry you’ve all come to expect from me since the past week has been a mashup of goodbye parties, final exams, and last-minute souvenir dashes all over the city.
2) I wanted to make sure I could write about my experiences after leaving the country so I could fully reflect on what it’s like to have actually left, since a huge part of the study abroad experience is not just about getting to Rome, but about re-adjusting to mortal life once more.
3) I’m simultaneously super lazy and bad at goodbyes- it’s an ITALIAN QUALITY OKAY?!? I’M TRYING TO KEEP IT GENUINE OVER HERE.
I was planning on writing some emotional stuff on how this was the best semester of my life, I made the best friends I ever met on this trip, how am I supposed to live without cornettos now, amerika suxxxx, don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened, blah blah blah, but let’s be honest- there are about 23,456 Facebook statuses and entries on this godforsaken blog who have said the same thing, and much more eloquently. So in lieu of becoming the next Face of Study Abroad, I figured I would do something a little more old school. In most school programs, say, an internship, one of the most insufferable requirements in order to receive full credit for completing the program is to write a fifty-thousand page paper on what you’ve learned from your experience. You couldn’t pay me enough to write fifty thousand pages about what I’ve learned during my travels, but you could pay me enough to write about five, and that’s what I’ll be doing from now on.
Let’s get this over with.
1. I Can Travel and Not Freak out About It
At last count, I’ve been to Rome, Todi, Peruggia, Ravenna, Florence, Assisi, Venice, Anzio, Naples, Bologna, Spain (Toledo, Castilla & Leon, Madrid), Germany, France and, surprise! Traveling really isn’t as terrifying or complicated as it looks. All it involves is showing up somewhere with a ticket and, like, scanning it. That’s it. For some reason I’d always thought that simply by leaving your home for more than 24 hours and screwing up your paperwork or something you could cause an international accident. Let’s be honest: knowing me, that wouldn’t really be much of a surprise. But as it turns out, if something goes wrong- you miss your plane, or get off on the wrong train station, or have a stupid spat with your friends- I can keep calm and carry on. Finding that particular trait of mine is a welcome relief indeed, seeing as my graduation date is looming closer and closer.
2. I Can Cook Something Half Edible And Not Kill Myself In The Process
This may have literally been the discovery of the century. If you are at all personally acquainted with me you know that, at least before I went on this program, my relationship with cooking was like my relationship with healthy living: nonexistent. But I found out that when driven by near starvation to slap some meat on a pan, turn up the flame, it magically COOKED ITSELF. It was so weird, guys. Food made itself simply by putting it over fire. Is anybody else aware of this witchcraft? It’s amazing! I’m pretty sure I cried.
3. I Can Make Friends!!1!!
People like me! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I have no idea what I said to make them think I was a normal person but I appreciate the company of all these psychopaths I call my friends for the past months. I even snagged two of the best of them as roomates. They will probably be the hardest thing to leave behind, once I actually get around the fact that I’m headed home soon.
4. Being Unspeakably Rude Will Get Rid of Any Vendor That Harasses You
I honestly don’t understand why people didn’t get this. I’m pretty sure the real citizenship test in Italy was how you reacted when some guy came up to you peddling glow-in-the-dark dancing cheese graters or whatever. Americans make eye contact, and when you make eye contact, you’re doomed. The trick is to simply slash your arm out and say “Non, grazie” in a Miranda Priestly voice, and look at the ground. If they get especially annoying, you literally say “NO” in the darkest, most Gandalf-ey voice you can muster up. Pretend your favorite show was cancelled and it’s all this guy’s fault if you need help summoning the anger. Maybe even step on their foot as you walk past. It’s amazing how easy it is to be rude to somebody when you can’t understand what they’re saying to you.
Ignoring the problem never works. Exhibit A: Parks and Rec‘s Jean Ralphio
5. I’m Kind of a Grown-Up Now and That’s Disgusting
This is something I know people older than I are still trying to figure out. I don’t really understand how people grow up. I mean, I get that some events in your life speed up the process: your first breakup, your first apartment, your first nose hair, etc. Most people’s big “growing up phase” happens during college, but it was never that way for me. I never had a normal “welcome to college” phase, and what I knew about personal fiances, cooking, and “socially accepted hygiene” was on the same level as Ariel when she became a human in “The Little Mermaid”. I had never even had a roommate. Having to deal with all that stuff for the first time, in a foreign country, no less, was a little overwhelming at first.
And I don’t really know what I expected from all this. I knew I wasn’t going to come home a completely different person, because that only happens in those Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books (whom everyone takes as philosophical truth even though their protagonists ALL MAGICALLY FIT INTO THE SAME THRIFT-SHOPPED LEVI’S. HELLO, SUSPENSION OF BELIEF MUCH? DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFICULT IT IS FOR ME TO FIT INTO THRIFT SHOP JEANS, AND I AM JUST ONE PERSON, WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT?), and to be honest, I was pretty happy with the sort of person I was to begin with. But I learned that when I’m on my own- really on my own, not like that pathetic girl with the incomprehensibly tiny waist in Les Mis- I’m doing okay. I can’t count the amount of times I surprised myself this semester, from the way I managed to pull off a “B” in Italian to figuring out the Paris metro, and from acing my first real research papers, to navigating my first bar with some sense of social grace. It all went off better than expected, to say the least. And if that’s what’s in the past, I can’t wait to see what’s coming up next.
So arrivederci Roma. You were ridiculous, rainy, and incomprehensible, but you were also so very wonderful. I’m sure I’ll miss you in a week or so, but for now the only thing my jetlagged, exhausted brain is interested in is copying this cat.