Eighteen months ago, I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The legend of the fountain says that if you throw a coin into the water, you will ensure your return to Rome someday. I do not believe in magic, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason why I am returning to Rome, but I have yet to discover what exactly that reason is. The good news is that I have four months to figure out what that reason is.
Now, over a year and a half later, I am once again preparing to return to Rome. Commonly referred to as the Eternal City, Rome is a place of Popes, artwork, layered history, gladiators, and pasta. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and was once the center of an empire that spanned across the entire European continent. It is the base of the Roman Catholic Church, capital of Italy, and is considered to be one of the most important global cities. It is impossible to walk down an alley or street without being caught in the crossroads of something historical. Over 50 percent of the world’s artwork created in the last 2800 years resides in Rome. But none of these facts are what made me want to spend over four months of my life studying in a city that I still have so much to learn about.
Countless people have asked me, “Why Rome?” I always have a difficult time answering this question because I myself don’t know the answer. I usually say that I wanted to immerse myself in an entirely new cultural experience and thrust myself into an environment where I would be forced to learn at least some portion of a new language, however insignificant. Or that I felt like out of all the cities I’ve visited over the last four years, something about Rome stuck out. I’ve always been fascinated with the notable monuments of Rome and how they have remarkably survived through the centuries. Nobody ever questions why I chose Rome because they feel I will have nothing to do there for four months. Most people simply don’t know how, out of the hundreds of cities in the world that I could have chosen to study in, I was able to choose just one city. They feel that if faced with the same daunting task, narrowing their choice down to just one city would be too overwhelming.
I still don’t know how I was able to come to a decision of Rome. Perhaps it was the delectable food that I would be eating day in and day out and the promise of mouth-watering gelato around every corner. Perhaps it was to see the works of art that I had only read about in history books and how I have always wanted to spend hours looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and wonder how Michelangelo had the patience to create such a masterpiece that is still unmatched in talent to this day. Or it could have been from reading and watching Liz Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” and that somehow her story of going to Rome to find herself appealed to me in a way that I too hope to find myself in a city that allows you to reinvent yourself. I am very fortunate to have seen what I have seen of the world already, and I feel that I have gotten a decent sampling of the places that I have visited. But something inside of me told me that I was not done with Rome; that there was more to be explored and that I still have more to learn from this beautiful city.
I know that by the time I will be leaving the city in May, I still will not have seen everything and I am accepting that fact now. But I do want to get the most out of Rome as I possibly can. By the time I leave in May, which right now seems like a long ways off, I want to look back and be able to call Rome my home. I want to feel like I have accomplished something; I want to feel that I made lemonade with the lemons that Rome will undoubtedly be giving me next week during my on-site orientation. Most importantly, I hope to make new life-long friends and learn more about myself and hopefully grow as a person.
Some people call me “the trip whore.” Those who know me from high school know that I jumped at the opportunity to go on any foreign trip that I could, and if it wasn’t for these trips I’m not sure if I would be writing this blog post telling you of my upcoming travels. But after three trips abroad I know with the utmost confidence that I am ready to take my travels to the next level and actually live in a place that I was previously a tourist of. I have been planning this experience for the past two years, have worked many, many hours, saved up a lot of money, put in hour after tireless hour of work on obtaining documents, visas, attending advising appointments and financial aid meetings, and gathering the supplies that I will need to make a home out of a place that is still so unfamiliar to me.
Everything that I have learned and every possible facet of my life up until this point has helped to prepare me for what lies ahead when I board my flight at Logan Airport next week. I am excited beyond belief but I am also extremely nervous. There are so many unknowns but I know that this is will be a positive experience no matter what. This is, in effect, the beginning of the next chapter of my life. It will no doubt be a thrilling chapter, but also one filled with many challenges. International travel is not something that one should just wake up and do and it is not for the faint at heart. To travel the world, you must be open-minded and willing to accept that just because something is done differently in another country than it is in the U.S. does not mean that it is wrong; it only means that it is different. This difference is something that I firmly believe should be celebrated. If we were all the same the world would be a boring place with no vibrancy. Even though some of these differences are often frustrating, they often make you appreciate your life back home and they help you put your own life in a new perspective that you may have not considered before.
I plan on posting one long post at least once a week during my time abroad and maybe a few smaller posts throughout the week depending on what is happening and where I happen to be. I plan on traveling to as many places in Italy as I can physically get to and to also branch out to the rest of Europe and hit some points that others have recommended to me. You can subscribe to my blog by entering your email address on the side of the homepage, this way you will automatically be notified whenever I post something new. I am also in the process of setting up a Flickr account so that I can share pictures of my travels and will upload pictures as often as I can. You can also follow me on Twitter @djpeltier where I will tweet about things that might not be worthy of a blog post but still worth sharing. But for now that’s all folks, stay tuned for a post sometime next week letting you know how my orientation went and what my first impressions of my new home are! Ciao for now!