Studying abroad in Rome this summer was the first time I have been abroad. I expected to be nervous, experience new things, feel culture shock, and learn a lot. I can honestly say that I did not expect to meet friends that would last a lifetime. One of the things that stood out to me the most was how comfortable I felt with people I had just met. I found a new family in Rome. Everyone in my program was from all over the United States, and somehow, all twenty something of us clicked instantly. Since leaving Italy nearly a month ago, I have already driven eight hours to meet up with my study abroad friends in Florida and they have driven to meet me in Tennessee.
We studied in Rome and small groups of us traveled to other places around Italy on the weekends. I was fortunate enough to visit Venice, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Naples, and Florence. It never ceased to amaze me how different each city was. Every building had the most amazing history behind it. Not one thing did not have a place, purpose or meaning. A combination of always traveling, being extremely busy with plans, and being surrounded by the most amazing people, allowed me to avoid the culture shock/ homesickness I was warned about. The only thing I missed from the States was my cat. It also helped that the program directors were so welcoming and understanding.
I was able to find myself in Rome. Navigating the busy streets, figuring out how to communicate through a language barrier, calculating the euro exchange rate, and being among strangers pulled me out of my shell. I really surprised myself with how much I was able to push myself in this experience. I actually did not have any data while abroad, so my phone was basically useless, other than to take pictures. This made me memorize the twenty-five minute walk to school everyday. I got lost a few times, but eventually I was able to navigate my way through Rome’s diverse architecture and beautiful street art. One of the only negative parts of my time abroad was getting covid-19. Thankfully I was only in quarantine for four days before testing negative, but missing out on field trips and plans did crush my spirit a little bit.
Out of all of the places I visited in Italy, I felt a special connection with Rome. I am not a big city person, but I could see myself living in Rome. Studying abroad really expanded my horizons. I truly thought I would never have an experience like I did in Italy. This trip made me realize that traveling to places I really want to go is a realistic goal. I cannot wait to see the rest of Europe and so many other countries and continents. I know that I am capable of so many things I never thought I was before studying abroad, and I made so many memories and friends that will last a lifetime.
Phoebe Istas (BS Sociology and Psychology) spent summer 2022 interning abroad in Rome, Italy through AIFS. Phoebe had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad is the time to find yourself when everything around you is unfamiliar. Taking yourself outside what you are used to makes you realize how you find solutions and cope with challenges. Studying abroad is also a great time to be the person who you want to be.”
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