By the end of the four week program, you’d think we’d know Rome like the back of our hands. Well, speaking for myself, this claim falls false to the reality. The reality is that Rome, and most of Italy for that matter, is full of surprises. If you go for a walk, you will most likely turn a corner and bump into a basilica from the 14th century with the most beautiful rose windows you’d ever see. If you continued on your walk, you would soon bump into a fountain. There are fountains everywhere in Rome; almost every piazza has one. If you take the touristy route (which is not a bad thing by any means), you’ll probably see Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. If you go your own way and venture through the curvy side streets, you’ll find children gathering at smaller fountains—wetting their hands and cooling their faces. I’m not the type of person who is innately good with direction. In fact, I’m the person who tends to get a little lost. In Rome, I didn’t mind getting lost at all. Needless to say, I always traveled with my friends and if we got lost we’d figure out our way together. However, the times I did get lost in Rome, ended up being so rewarding. I got to see an elderly woman shaking out a white towel from her window and laying it out on a clothesline to dry. I also got to see a woman greeting the butcher and buying bread and meats for lunch. There is a whole other world outside of the museums and main attractions.
During our final week in Italy, the program took us to Capri. Capri is a small island off the coast of Naples. I have never before been to an island, and after seeing Capri, I don’t think any other island will match up to the beauty. Capri was gorgeous! The water was clear and cool and the mountains were full of green, luscious trees and yellow and blue flowers. We all jumped onto small buses so we could explore the mountain town. I will never forget that ride up the mountain. The streets zigzagged and the bus made blind wide turns—at some points I couldn’t tell if I was left breathless from the beauty of the island or my fear of falling off of it. After the bus dropped us off, we all had a bite to eat. We had spaghetti Bolognese and the most delicious French vanilla ice cream. From the restaurant, my friends and I took a chair lift (very similar to a ski lift) to the very top of the mountain. From the summit, we could see the entire island. I got to see the small houses resting in their own little nook on the mountain side, children climbing rocks and young men preparing their boats for a day out at sea. After taking many pictures, we took the lift back down to the mountain town and took our small bus to the coast where we rented a boat. We spent a half hour or so on the boat, feeling the cool, salty breeze pushing our hair back and watching the sun light dance on the ocean waves. Soon, the boat came to a stop and the entire group stripped to their bathing suits and jumped off the boat! It was, by far, the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced.
After we returned to Rome, the week went by pretty fast. We tried to do as much as possible but before we knew it, we were back on a bus, traveling up to Tivoli for our farewell dinner. All 140 of us, polished and dressed up, took pictures at a park full of fountains on the mountain side. Then, we went to our farewell dinner: A delicious five course meal including tiramisu from the Gods. Everyone drank wine and danced and sang songs and laughed as one big family.
I’m writing this in my room back in Queens. It’s weird being home. I miss my friends and my constantly busy life. I miss the gelaterias at every corner and I definitely miss the feeling that anything could happen. So, I’m allowing myself to get a little emotional now. I really believe I grew a lot in Italy. I learned a lot more than I expected to. Yeah, I learned a lot about Italy and its history, culture and art but I also learned a lot about living. Simply put, Italy taught me how to live. It taught me how to see the beauty in the little things and how to communicate and joke around with people despite any barrier (even as challenging as a language barrier). I had the time of my life in Italy and I made the friends of a lifetime. The memories I made will stay in my heart forever.
Anyone who is contemplating on whether to do study abroad or not, I strongly recommend taking this trip to Italy. My only advice is to make sure you follow through on your plans and actually go, don’t hesitate! In the words of a friend from the trip, Victoria G., “Let’s Live!”