After four months abroad, I thought that I would be excited and anxious to come home, but I was actually disappointed. It felt like I had just gotten used to my surroundings and the culture, and it was already time to go. I spent my last three days in Rome desperately trying to finish up school work and see all my favorite sites one more time. Even though I spent four months in Rome, the crazy thing is that I still feel like I didn’t see everything. It’s not like I was just sitting around inside all semester. I was constantly going on tours, peeking in new churches, eating at new restaurants, taking public transportation, and simply wandering. It turns out that there is a lot to see in the Eternal City, so many glimpses of history, so many years that I walked on, so many stories. I truly fell in love.
On Wednesday I left Rome, and two layovers and 36 hours later, I made it home safely. Of course, I chose the cheapest possible itinerary, which meant that my friend and I had to spend the night in JFK airport. Welcome back to America! This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be except that we couldn’t figure out how to get to the correct terminal at 3 am. We were wandering around on the side of the rode with all of our luggage like we didn’t have a clue where we were. I might have been freaked out if we weren’t back in America where everything is in English and I feel so close to home. Finally, we realized that there was a secret shuttle above this parking garage that goes to the terminals. I guess confusing airports never end. We got to Minneapolis right on time, and my parents took me and my fiance out to lunch. I got a a nice and juicy American cheeseburger. Just what I needed. I tried to conquer the jet lag by sheer force of will, but it got the best of me at about 2:00 pm, which would have been 9:00 pm Roman time. Plus, with the all-nighter in JFK… It’s all messed up.
Speaking of mishaps, I cannot believe that I didn’t have any major problems during this trip. By the grace of God, I didn’t lose my passport or my wallet. I never got stranded anywhere. I never missed a flight… (It was the train that was always a close call.) I only got lost once, and everything turned out fine. Other all, I am patting myself on the back for making it all the way.
This semester, I had so many “firsts.” This was the first time that I left the country, the first time that I touched the ocean, and the first time that my language wasn’t the common language. This was the first time I have seen the Pope. This is the first time I’ve seen incorruptible bodies of saints and Eucharistic miracles. This was the first time that I climbed a volcano and the first time that I ate octopus. This was the longest that I’ve been away from home, and now Rome is the furthest place that I can call a second home. Not bad for four months away.
I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people on this trip with me. They really made this semester what it was. We had so many different personalities, and everyone was super caring and always helped each other out. I’ve never met people who were so game for anything whether it be 5:00 am train rides, Disney villain impersonations, frisbee tournaments, being way too loud in restaurants, dance videos, wrestling in the rain, or singing Italian songs (“El amore que CONTA!”). I will miss living with all these freaks.
I learned a lot about myself while I was abroad. I learned that I love being around people–I am often the loudest and most obnoxious of the Americans when we go out in groups–but sometimes I am happiest when I’m alone. I can take in the scenery and be fully present to my surroundings. When I am alone, I can feel inspired by the beauty around me, and it makes me realize that I don’t want to let life pass me by without following my dreams. Rome made me realize that I have to write. I can’t just let it be something that I do when I feel creative. I need to take it seriously so that I can look back on my life and say that I did something beautiful, or at least tried.
Although I was sad to say goodbye to Rome, I am content knowing that I get to keep the friends that I made there and that I will be back to Europe again someday. I am coming home to a busy summer: a full time marketing internship, planning a wedding, and spending time with my family and my fiance. Don’t think that you have seen the last of my blogging! This is only the beginning.