If you had told the Mick from high school—or even from a year ago—that they would be going to Italy, they probably would have laughed in your face and made up every excuse in the book not to go. With what money? I can’t even speak Italian. All by myself? There’s no way I’d be that lucky. Something bad is definitely gonna happen, I wouldn’t even bother. I used to think that these thoughts were a matter of fact: I could never go abroad. I’m just not capable. If I am capable, I’m not deserving. If I’m deserving, then chances are, I’m not capable…and so on.
But after six weeks abroad in a beautiful country, I’ve come to realize that I was probably just scared, and it was easier to give up than be afraid. It was difficult to save up for this program, to make connections with the people that were going with me, to try and learn Italian, to not give up at the slightest sign of trouble. All of that was super scary! I guess, looking back, it was sort of like a roller coaster. You look at the huge loops and dips—and probably a long line, to boot—and consider not going. But you make yourself go, and once you finish, you feel like you just did something incredible, and you’re so proud of yourself for making it!
Of course, that isn’t to say that my time in Italy wasn’t without difficulties. I contracted COVID-19, I struggled with the language and the transport system, and I got stuck on a train platform overnight…and yet, I still didn’t want to leave when the first of July came around. That was more than just getting by or surviving the rollercoaster. That was a growing confidence, telling me that beyond any obstacle, there was something beautiful waiting for me.
It took me quite a while to get over having to leave, though. I cried a lot the day before we had to leave, and my mind was racing thinking about all of the things that I didn’t do. I hadn’t properly toured the Vatican, I hadn’t been to the Amalfi Coast, I hadn’t visited any of the thermal baths I had been interested in—I started to panic. Had I wasted my entire trip? I talked to my aunt for a bit to calm myself down, then sat in my room, opened my computer and read the blog posts I had made so far. I had made an album on my phone containing one picture for every day I was in Rome, so I scrolled through all forty or so of them, and realized that the six weeks I had spent in Rome were six weeks I couldn’t have spent anywhere else.
So, I got myself together, gently told myself that I could always come back sometime in the future, then finished preparing to leave.
Now that I’m back home, I’m starting to consider the possibility of that even more. At first, just like I had been talking myself down from going abroad, I thought that it would be impossible for me to come back to Italy. How had I even pulled it off the first time? No matter how it had come to be, it certainly wouldn’t happen again, would it?
But a week or so after my return, I noticed that this was just a repeat of the same old self-doubt that I’d had before. And I’d already done it! I’d worked hard for a scholarship, to make friends, to do my internship, despite the challenges that came my way. Even knowing that the future is as unpredictable as ever, especially as graduation approaches, I can say one thing for certain: If I want to go to Rome again, I’ll make it happen.
And I do want to go. I’m sad about all of the things that I missed, but that just gives me something to look forward to upon my return! The Sistine Chapel and the thermal baths await me, as well as all of the sites that I’ve already visited that I want to see again, like the gardens of the Roman Forum. Maybe by then I’ll be a big-shot lawyer, and I can book a room in Titignano! Even if I don’t end up going back, it’s so freeing to be able to think about it without forcing myself to disregard the idea entirely. I have so much time ahead of me, so it’s far too soon to throw in the towel with words like I can’t do that.
Compared to all of the reflection I’ve been doing, though, life back in the U.S. is startlingly ordinary. I started a temporary summer job at the grocery store where I used to work, I’m gearing up for law school applications to open in the fall, and I’m spending some time with my younger cousins before we all go back to school. Everything feels so normal, and yet I have a brand new perspective on things. I feel so much brighter and happier at work even when I make mistakes, I feel more confident about the upcoming law admissions process, and I get to tell my little cousins that once they get old enough, the world is their oyster.
I can’t wait to get back to the main campus, to finish my undergraduate career strong, and to see what rollercoaster I’ll hop on next.
P.S.: Penny the Penguin, the best travel partner ever, made it back safely with me! She was joined by Gianni the Gorilla, who I purchased from Bioparco Roma, and Romeo the Bear, who I bought from a gift shop near the Spanish Steps!