2015 Spring Jessica Benmen Temple Rome

Ciao for Now

Ciao ragazzi! Thought you’d gotten rid of me? Well as it turns out, even a month after leaving the eternal city I’ve still got Roma on the brain, so here are some final thoughts:

Having been home for a couple weeks now, I’ve gotten a chance to catch up with friends about their study abroad semesters, and it’s become clear to me that I had one of the most positive experiences of anyone I know. In a lot of ways it’s because Rome was so right for me—it complemented my studies, I loved the food, and my inner city girl was free to explore to her heart’s content. But pastries and metro lines aside, I think it’s hard not to be in awe of the grandeur of Rome. The city has been a (religious and secular) pilgrimage destination for centuries, and the reason behind that far pre-dates the Lizzie McGuire movie. From soccer to opera to ancient ruins, Rome in particular—and Italy in general—has something for pretty much everyone.

The views aren't too shabby either... find this one at Monte Mario park, really close to the residence
The views aren’t too shabby either… find this one at Monte Mario park, a short walk from the residence

Having said that, coming home has been an adjustment. Whenever I approach a store, for example, I start mentally choreographing the charades-like dance that will hopefully convey to a shopkeeper that I need sunscreen. I haven’t eaten pizza or pasta in weeks, because I’m not quite emotionally prepared for what a letdown it’s sure to be. I carry my Italian Harry Potter with me all over New York, trying to display it as prominently as possible, hoping an Italian expat will mistake me for a fellow countryman and start a conversation with me in Italian (I choose to believe that it’s my pale skin and blonde hair that give me away as American, and not my lack of Italian style).

The toughest problem of being home, though, is trying to explain my experiences to friends and family. There’s just no adjective that’s big enough to capture Rome; I’ve described my semester as incredible, magical, perfect, and a million other synonyms for awesome, but it doesn’t seem to do it justice. “I don’t get it, it sounds like you were so happy abroad,” a friend remarked recently. “Are you not cynical anymore? Have you lost your inner New Yorker?” Well, to some extent, I’d like to think so; I was really happy everyday in Rome. Not all day, everyday—acclimating to Rome wasn’t always easy, planning trips could get stressful, and then there was the whole “studying” aspect of “studying abroad”—but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t justify feeling anything less than ridiculously fortunate for the hand life had dealt me. I walked to school most days (partially to offset my doughnut consumption, and partially because the route took me past an incredible bakery) and everyday, as I envied the Italian preteens who were more fashionable than me, and eavesdropped on Italian conversations that became increasingly more intelligible to me, I remembered how lucky I was. That’s generally what I tell people now, when they ask about the trip—I’m the luckiest person I know.

So even though the Trevi fountain was closed for construction, and I never got to live out my Lizzie McGuire fantasy, I can honestly say that this semester was what dreams were made of. Ciao for now Roma, and I’ll see you soon.

1 comment

  1. I totally understand your emotions about your study in Rome. You see yesterday before I found the Temple Rome Study website I tracked the location of my former Tyler school of Art study in Rome 42 years ago! Villa Caproni. I walked my former return to my pensione on Via del Babuino, off of Piazza del Popolo and had a capuccino at Canovas. I am back in Rome for one more day with my husband. I made trips to Rome two consecutive summers after my junior semester there, but haven’t been back since. I also went to my study abroad program knowing no one with one semester of college Italian under my belt. I can’t begin to tell you my emotion at entering this magical city again . Study abroad in Rome was a once in a lifetime best thing in my life. Other friends studied in other smaller cities, but not until this trip did I really understand how special it was to study in Rome. The city really hasn’t changed so much. There are more tourists and now we can get around with google maps, but it is still my Roma and so very special. I was so thrilled to read how much it meant to you. I strongly encouraged my two sons to study abroad and they appreciated it almost as much as we did, one to Luxembourg, and one to London, but there is still no place like Rome. We were so very lucky, weren’t we! Suzanne Schwartz Stone studied painting at Tyler School of Art in Rome Spring Semester, 1974, it seems like yesterday! Thanks for the blog post!

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