The trip began on the morning of the new year, so early that it was still dark outside. I boarded an airplane alone, on my way to Philadelphia for a connecting flight–I was nervous because it was my first time flying alone, my first time leaving the country, my first time going on a trip without my family. The trip was a Study Abroad program, and I was going to Philadelphia to meet the boy that I adored so that we could fly to Rome together to stay there for three weeks.
In Rome, we saw historical monuments aplenty: the Forum, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, various piazzas and ruins. We traveled on foot and by bus through the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen; we went to museums and saw some of the most true art in the world; we stood where ancient civilizations had been risen and fallen, and it changed my life.
I learned how to live without my family, I learned how to get around in a foreign city, I learned how to conquer my fears and make friends wherever I go. Though the historical sights were incredible, they are not the ones that I’ll remember forever. Instead, when I think of Rome, I will think of sharing umbrellas found in trash cans on cobblestone streets in the unexpected rain. I will think of curling up with a boy who loved me on trains to foreign cities. I will think of the breakfasts of coffee mixed in with my hot chocolate, the cold floors of the hostel beneath my bare feet in the winter. I will recall playing cards on the bed, and taking naps together before dinner, and the ceiling light that flickered all through the night in the dark of my small room. I will think of the street performers and the artists and the man who made a bracelet out of thread for me and told me, “Three wishes only!” and I will remember the girl who sold me gelato and the boys who skateboarded at the back of the church.
Though I do remember what the Coliseum looked like after the steep sets of stairs that we had to climb to get to the top, more accurately I remember him putting his arm around me when we took a picture inside of it. Of course I recall the wondrous statues by Bernini at the museums, but I treasure more the memory of him surprising me with a magnet of my favorite painting when I thought that he was going to the bathroom. Yes, the thought of the Trevi fountain on our last night, glimmering in the darkness and teeming with tourists, is beautiful, but more beautiful to me is the image of our Professor buying us all gelato as a treat for our last memory of Rome in the nighttime. We bought roses off of a streetcart and we decidedly looked away from the gypsies, and we cringed at the scent of incense in the churches and we ate pasta every night and we spent too much money on souvenirs and we learned so, so much, not only about the culture of Italy but also about ourselves, about each other. The city would have only been half as beautiful without the wonderful company that I had. On the trip home we flew over Greenland and the glittering ocean and wished we were only flying back to Italy, but now that I’m back in my fabulous little home, the world will never look the same.
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