My last night in Rome, everyone was celebrating, but I was feeling down. Not yet ready to leave the place that I had called home for the past 4 months that next morning. After listening to my classmates sing karaoke and hugging all of my friends goodbye, my roommates and I walked 40 minutes to see the Pantheon one last time. Nearly 3:00am when we got there, it was pitch black out and there were only six or so other people in the usually bustling, crowded piazza. As I sat staring up at the magnificent, monumental structure which is lit up at night, I reminisced on everything that had happened since the last time that I had visited the Pantheon at night, during my first week of the program.
Coming in with zero knowledge of the Italian language, and living in a neighborhood on a hill outside the center of Rome where very few people spoke English, I improved my language skills and learned how to navigate the city on my own. I got lost multiple times for hours on end in a maze of narrow, cobblestone streets, yet always discovered something new and found my way back home. Living 45 minutes outside of the city center, I conquered the mess that is the Roman transportation system. I shared a bedroom with an Italian, who became my close friend and taught me so much about the Italian culture and way of life. I fought the crowds at the Vatican and had rosaries blessed by the Pope on Easter Sunday. I strolled through Venice wearing a mask during Carnevale. I interned at an Italian tour guide company, where I was able to go on a tour of the Vatican Museums and view Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistene Chapel, before it was opened to the public. I took a history course where I was able to go inside Ancient Etruscan tombs dating back to the 7th century BC and explore the volcanic-preserved city of Pompeii. I had a 5-course lunch with my Italian roommate’s family in a region in Italy largely unvisited by international tourists. I went to a winery in Naples and tasted wine that is not sold anywhere except at the vineyard. I went to Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen, and 18 different cities in Italy. The list went on.
When I returned to my apartment that night, it was nearly 4:00AM. My phone had been stolen the week before and I did not have an alarm clock, so I had planned on waking up with my roommates’ alarm clocks at 5:30, when we planned on getting up to watch the sun rise over the city. Everyone must have hit the snooze button, because I woke up at 9:00… for an international flight which started boarding at 10:40. I furiously stuffed everything into my suitcase and my roommate and I grabbed them and sprinted through the rain to the cab stand, where I waited ten minutes for a cab to the airport. I did not have a chance to tell my roommates the proper goodbye, but I was too nervous about catching my flight to even think about that. Once the plane took off, however, the tears started flowing. Never had I been so sad to be returning home… but I guess this time I was leaving one home to return to another.
I gazed out the window, looking at Italy until she disappeared behind the clouds. Although ending one chapter in my life and starting another, this last chapter is sure to always be one of my most significant. I will never forget all of the wonderful people that I met, and all of the incredible experiences that I had in Italy and in my other travels around Europe. It is a feeling that is difficult to describe; you cannot truly understand until you, yourself, have dropped everything and spent an extended period of time in a foreign country of which you knew no one and did not speak the language. I return home a changed person – more aware of both myself and the world around me. Although happy to return home to my family and my friends in Indiana, I am sad to be leaving the city that I have grown to love.
Arrivederci, for now, Roma.