Almost everyone I’ve spoken to who’s studied abroad has told me about their moment — the “this is my life now” magical moment. The one where suddenly everything hits them, the dreamlike trance fades, and the shock of living and studying abroad sets in as reality.
I thought that overwhelming feeling of fear and excitement would hit me when I stepped off the plane at the Fiumicino Airport. I tried not to be too disappointed when I walked down the rickety, metal stairs on the side of the plane into the Italian air and felt nothing. I carried my travel-weary self into a crowded tram that whisked me off to baggage claim. As I grabbed my luggage, I defeatedly noted that Roman airports were not all that different from American airports. I took a deep breath and told myself that the fact that I didn’t feel any different from when I left the U.S. was normal and that there was still plenty of time for me to have my moment. I figured I probably needed to get a good night’s sleep and to see something unmistakably Italian before coming to my senses.
Flash forward a couple of nights and I found myself face to face with perhaps the most Roman monument of all time: the Colosseum. I stared at the colossal creation standing before me and waited patiently for something in my mind to magically click into place that would send a rush of emotions flowing through my body. Instead, I felt absolutely nothing. Well, nothing might be a bit of an overstatement — it’s hard to remain completely unfazed by such an iconic piece of European history — but it didn’t bring about the deeper change I had been hoping for.
Walking back to my apartment, I questioned why I decided to study abroad. Why go through months of preparation to study in Rome if I wasn’t going to be able to recognize and appreciate the gravity of my situation? Why travel to a new country just to feel the same as I did in America? Why hadn’t my moment of revelation come yet?
I tried to think of all of the big moments that could have been THE moment from my first week in Rome, but instead found myself reflecting on the smaller moments of my week. Like a kind waiter teaching me the word for “check” in Italian, il conto, or a friendly Italian businessman giving my roommates and I a list of must see spots that tourists typically miss, or a grocery store clerk smiling politely as I fumbled what little Italian I pretended to know while checking out.
The more I thought about these moments, the more I realized it wasn’t the moments I was remembering so much as it was the people. The people I’ve met over the past week have been so incredibly exceptional – everyone from the staff at Temple Rome, to the shopkeepers, to Paola, my lovely landlord. Focusing my energy on trying to have one moment this past week distracted me from recognizing all of the wonderful little moments. I’ve always believed it’s the people that make the place, and I somehow forgot that in my quest for self-revelation. It was naive of me to think that traveling out of the country and culture I call home would change my entire state of being. So from here on on out, I’m done waiting for my one moment. I’m ready to appreciate the everyday interactions and get to know Rome through the people that live here.
Ciao for now!