Friday, June 12, 2015

Un'ultima volta: Day 141

Hello again! I’m back for one last post about, well, I hope you know what this is about by now!

Sidenote: When I published this post, the date said June 13th... I was confused until I realized it's still set to the Central European Time zone... :.(

So it’s been exactly one month since I got back (cry face again) and both a lot and a lot of nothing has happened.

I flew to Rome from Detroit, but I had booked a multiple city flight so I could fly into Minneapolis/St. Paul to visit with family for a few weeks before I headed back to Michigan to begin reality again. My flight home was smooth (I watched four movies, two episodes of New Girl, and one episode of the Big Bang theory), except for my limited one hour to get through customs and security again at the Detroit airport, but I made it to my gate five minutes before boarding and landed safely in St. Paul less than two hours later. I waited for a little bit to get my luggage, and right as I had gathered it all and sat down, my parents and sister walked up with flowers and big hugs to give.

I wasn’t exactly tired yet, even though I had been traveling for 18 hours and had been up for 20, but I started to get groggy as soon as I got to my grandparents house and sat down. It took about four or five days to really recover from my jetlag, but I was able to function so it wasn’t really a huge problem for me!

I hadn’t really experienced much culture shock when I had arrived in Rome and traveled in Europe, at least no negative aspects of culture shock, but I was expecting a little more from the reverse-culture shock. There were some things I experienced, such as the overwhelming smell of fast-food everywhere, the unattractiveness of buildings and etc., and even the annoyance of understanding everyone and everyone being able to understand me. But I think what was least enjoyable upon my return was the feeling of slipping right back into my “American” routine; feeling that the past four months hadn’t actually happened.

My friend posted this blog post on Facebook a few days after I returned, and I of course shared it because I wanted to read it later, but I didn’t really start feeling these things the article describes until about two weeks after my return. It’s a really good read, and doesn’t take very long!

I enjoyed spending time with my family both in Minnesota and Wisconsin for about eight days, and then my sister and I drove back to the mitten (I will admit, I truly missed driving), I moved in with my best friend for a long weekend, worked at my old job for four days, and then moved into my apartment in Mt. Pleasant on May 26th. I haven’t spent much time there or with my new roommates yet because I have been driving back and forth between here and Stanwood working at my two different jobs. I will admit, it is nice to be back at work; I hadn’t realized I had missed it that much. Shameless plug, stop by the Dreamer Coffee Shop sometime and maybe I’ll be there to shower you with my European tales – open from 9-6 every day except Sunday!

My extended family members have by far asked me the best/most interesting questions about my experience, and for that I am really grateful.  Talking about it has been one of the hardest things to do. I was able to have discussions with people who have also traveled and care just as much about what I learned as where I went and what I saw. Of course, they still had to ask the question, “What was your favorite place you went to/favorite part about the whole trip?” My answer to that varies somewhat. It’s so hard, nearly impossible, to pick one thing out of the whole four months and label it “my favorite.” So I would say, I loved visiting Prague and Ireland because of the varying types of beauty and the people (plus I am part Irish and Czech), but my favorite place was Rome because I spent the most time and actually lived there and experienced it in such a different way than any tourist does. My favorite part of the whole trip? Well, to put it simply, living in Rome. I am unable to describe it well, but it’s so different, in neither a good or bad way – just different. You have to learn new things, change and adapt old habits and lifestyle, adjust to a different culture, and live.

I’ve also been asked a lot if I would move there for good. My answer is probably not. I absolutely loved living there, and would definitely live there for a few years or more, but the Italian film industry isn’t quite where I want to pursue my career, so that ultimately decides for me.

I mentioned that talking about my experience has been hard for me since I returned. It’s not because I don’t want to talk about it, or don’t have anything to say, it’s just hard to say what I mean sometimes. But for the most part, people don’t want to listen. Don’t talk about it enough and people forget you were there, talk about it too much and they get annoyed. When I was in Rome… Stop bragging, we know you were in Europe. I get it, I would be jealous too. But the people I want to tell the most about it don’t want to listen. So I don’t talk about it much. And when I do, it’s the pleasantries. How was your trip?! It was great, I want to go back so bad… I bet, that must have been so much fun.

Yes, thank you, it was fun.

I’ve been putting off this blog post, because once again, I wasn’t entirely sure what to say. I know what everyone wants to hear, and all of that’s true too – my experience was phenomenal, I learned so much, traveled a lot, and fell in love with Rome (sorry, not any Tall Dark and Handsome’s) – but there’s a lot more to it.

When I got to Rome, I had a lot of adjustments to make, a lot of new people to meet, and an entirely new culture and city to learn. It was new and exciting. Coming home, I fell back into my same old life-style for the most part, just in a new apartment. I am thrilled to get back to work on summer productions and screenplays for Central Premiere Productions that I will be Secretary for in the fall, to join the Alternative Breaks Advisory Board as the International Breaks Chair, and to resume my volunteer service as a leadership facilitator for the Michigan Association of Student Councils and Honors Societies. I am excited to start classes again in the fall, and to see all of my friends here again. But to be completely real, it is boring. I’ve gotten used to it again, and it was nice to take a little bit to just be lazy and recover from my hectic semester, but now I need to find things to do to fill my time. I’ve always been like this, so that’s nothing new, but it’s harder now that I know what traveling to a different country every other weekend is like.

And to sum up everything I’ve said: I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I had an eye-opening, life-changing experience, and have a life with routines to fall back into. There are always going to be challenges (my whole study abroad wasn’t a lounge on the beach, let me tell you), but I’m lucky to only remember the positives from every experience in my life. Studying abroad is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I need to stop typing now because I’m starting to miss Europe too much.

Observation of the Day: It couldn’t have been more perfect that a regular at The Dreamer who works in the English department came in today and had an awesome discussion with me about traveling and living abroad! The most exciting thing is, I will never stop learning from this experience even though the actual physical experience is over. It will live on in my memories. And the thousands upon thousands of pictures I took. So until my hard drive, backup hard drive, and heart stop beating…

Arrivederci ragazzi! Buona giornata.

Fino alla prossima volta mia bella Roma.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Coming Full Circle: Day 110

Well it’s my last day in Rome… I took my last exam, donated extra clothes and the coat I bought in Sicily at school, cleaned the apartment, and went out to one last dinner with my roommates. 

As I stand victorious at the top of the stairs I wheezed up every day... until I found a larger set of stairs with a shorter route!

My delicious last meal in Rome: Armatriciana - although I wasn't a huge fan of the pig jowl...

Mmmm raspberry and lemon sorbet/gelato!

We walked to the Trevi Fountain after dinner, but I didn’t throw a coin in because it’s still under construction and I feel like that’s cheating – so next time I’m in Rome… 

Then I wandered over to the Colosesum and sat for a while just appreciating and reflecting on the past semester. 

I decided to trace the steps I took my first night in Rome, so I walked from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum, 

The white speckles are birds - they may drive me crazy during the day, but they were pretty at night!

then to the Wedding Cake Building that I will never learn the actual name of and Piazza Venezia,

 then the HUGE obelisk right off of Via del Corso, 

then the Pantheon, 

then the elephant statue in front of the Santa Maria Minerva church, 

and then finally the Cat Sanctuary at Largo Argentina.  

I think its only half hit me that I’m actually going to wake up in Rome and go to sleep in the States tomorrow.

I’m not saying I’m excited to leave, but I think I would be a whole lot more sad about it if I wasn’t going straight to Minnesota to see my parents and all of my relatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin on my way back to Michigan. And then I get to see my best friend, and I cannot tell you how excited I am - I miss her! I’m not sure when I’ll be seeing all of my other friends, but I move into my apartment on May 26th and start work shortly after, so it will definitely have to be after that!

This semester has been absolutely mind opening – I can’t tell you how much I’ve even learned because it’s hard to remember what I didn’t know before. All I can say is I have come to appreciate other cultures more than I did before, and I have learned a lot about myself! I did not by any means get to do everything I wanted to do (the one thing I really wanted to do when I came here was travel to France), but I have zero regrets. I’ve seen so many amazing places I’ve never dreamed of seeing or even thought of visiting. I have met people from all over the world, and eaten food from all over the world too! This was also my first semester living in my own apartment and not the dorms, so I even learned a lot about that. Like how different people consider dishes to be “clean.”

I’ll post a little bit more about my final thoughts on my semester abroad once I return home and have a really good chance to reflect on my experience. Reverse culture shock, here we come.

Observation of the Day: We go through so many changes in our lives, and have to say goodbye to so many things, just so the next opportunity can open itself up to us. This year alone I have said goodbye to the house I grew up in when my parents moved to Minnesota, then Ciao to Roma when I moved here in January, and now it’s time to say Arrivederci to Roma for everything that’s coming next. I have a lot of things to be looking forward to for both the summer and next fall, including my favorite leadership camp in the world, a position on Central Premiere Productions Eboard, and the International Breaks Chair for the Alternative Breaks Advisory Board! This trip actually inspired me to apply for that position as one of my choices, and I am so grateful I was offered the opportunity!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tivoli, This is what some dreams are made of: Day 108

My last-weekend-adventures continue on out of Rome with my friend Jackie for a day in the beautiful Villa D’Este in Tivoli. Now if any of you have seen the Lizzie McGuire movie where she goes to Rome (and has a concert in “the Colosseum”), then you will remember part of this Villa.

Tivoli itself was a very cute town, but the Villa D’Este was phenomenal! It was up on a hill, so there was an amazing view of the town below it and the mountains in the distance. When we first entered, we walked through many rooms of all different frescoes, that were of course, beautiful.

Then we made it outside and climbed down the many sets of stairs appreciating all the fountains along the way. These fountains are all designed out of the natural waterfalls in the gardens, and the result is really quite interesting.

We sat on the side of one of the pools for a while just soaking in the sun and the noise of the fountains/waterfalls. When we got too hot and hungry, we left the Villa and found a nice little Trattoria to have lunch, then made our way back to the train station and got back home around 4 in the afternoon.

Again, I cooled off in the apartment for the rest of the late afternoon, then headed out to meet some friends from my Italian class to have one last dinner together. We walked out by Piazza Navona intending to have my favorite pizza from Da Baffetto, but instead ate at a little place nearby and had some delicious Gnocchi 4 formaggi.

We were all stuffed, so we decided to walk it off before we got gelato, and walked over to Piazza Navona for a while. Rome is really a magical place at night – the right parts of Rome of course. We headed towards the Pantheon and did some tourist gift shopping, and finally got gelato at a place called Grom.

Observation of the Day: I know I already said it, but Rome is a really magical place at night. The fountains are lit up, the temperature is perfect, and the crowds aren’t so large and sweaty that you get annoyed.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Chances Are I'll Come Back Someday: Day 107

So I finally made it to the Baths of Diocletian Museum. I have been wanting to go there for a long time and finally had a good time to do it! The museum was huge, and there was so much to see! I had a wonderful morning in the museum and the part of the Baths that are open, and then I walked around the corner and visited the Santa Maria Maggiore again! This is definitely one of the most beautiful churches in Rome in my opinion.

There's Hercules in the middle on the left!

Another panel of the inspiration for my final painting

Afterwards, I decided to walk home from the Baths, which are right by Termini train station, which is about two and a half miles from where I live. At this point in the day, it was sunny and humid and hot, so I definitely worked up a sweat! I stopped in some leather shops along the way and bought a few gifts for friends back home. Then I went to the market at Campo Dei Fiori and bought the purse I had my eye on the last time I looked there, and also some delicious fruit from the fruit stand.

While carrying an “I <3 Shopping” bag looking like a fool without even knowing it, I got some sorbet at my favorite gelato place right on the Tiber River, and some pizza at a pasticceria/pizzeria (pasta means pastry) along Viale Trastevere and had it for lunch when I got home.

I cooled off in my apartment in the afternoon, made dinner, and then was off to the Vatican again to meet some friends from my Italian class and see the Vatican Museums at night! It was more crowded than I was expecting, but it was really nice to go back and see everything again. The museums were one of the first things I did in Rome, and now they are one my last.

Michelangelo painted by Raphael

We sat in the Sistine chapel for a long time and just appreciated how lucky we were to have that opportunity in the first place. Plus we let our feet rest, because we had all walked a lot during the day!

Observation of the Day: I don't think I could ever run out of things to do in this city. One of my roommates was telling me about their teacher who has lived here his whole life and said he still gets lost going places... makes me feel a little better about confusing my directions all the time!