It was one of the best trips of my life and yet it wasn’t something I could have ever imagined doing in my wildest dreams. In the winter/spring of 2007, I spent four months overseas in a study abroad program through my college, St. John’s University.
Now, I didn’t push for this myself. I remember my mom saying, “You should look into that study abroad program and the scholarships it comes with. It looks like a great experience!” Next thing I knew, I was at a information seminar with my fellow accepted students being told what the upcoming semester of my college life would entail.
My biggest problem:Four months. I would have to pack clothes for the next FOUR MONTHS? That was the biggest worry I had. Hold on… wait… I don’t even own a large suitcase! The last trip I had been on with the dance team, my mom sent me with her brown tweed luggage. Okay, so vintage is in now but imagine being the only person toting one of these babies around when everyone else has the updated “upright” luggage.
So, I was lucky enough that one of my best friends since preschool, Tara, was generous enough to loan me her large suitcase for this semester-long trip. With her classy (well, more like up-to-date, atleast) big and black upright suitcase, a HUGE red Nike St. John’s University dance team duffel bag, and a Billabong carry-on bag with flowers on it (sounds like a very matching, complimentary set, right!!?) I headed to the airport in my green velour suit where I said bye to my parents, took a deep breath, and got ready to board my first trans-Atlantic flight. I was 20 years old. Was I ready to face the adventures that awaited me? It didn’t matter either way, the $700 flight and my semester fees were paid for and there was no turning back now.
Obviously, you know how this story ends. It was the trip of a lifetime! We were based in Rome near the Vatican (our metro stop was called “Cipro”). Our school rents gorgeous, spacious apartments in a housing complex called Medaglie D’Oro, and the school was based a few blocks away. I took 5 classes that semester including Art & Architecture, Italian Level 2, Sketchbook, Theology, and Anthropology. Even though we had classrooms, class was frequently held as field trips to other locations like the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, The Pantheon, Vatican City, Villa Borghese, Circus Maximus, Castel Sant’Angelo and more. There were no classes on Fridays – we were expected to use each 3-day weekend as an opportunity to travel and explore… and that we did!
In addition to living in Rome and taking a group field trip to Brussels and Luxembourg, I also visited Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Siena, Torino, Pisa, Pompeii, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. Some trips we planned a little in a advance while others I was packing a backpack the night before and hopping on a 4am train. We booked and stayed in hostels, read maps and tour guide books, and discovered new cities all on our own. Although I would be amiss if I didn’t tell you that we had our fair share of fun, enjoying both the nightlife and the daylife on what sometimes felt like a four month vacation (don’t worry… I got a 4.0 that semester!)
During my spring break, my parents even came to visit! They got to see Rome and other cities with me, something they never thought they’d do in their lives either. Overall, I believe I matured and learned so much about myself on that trip and will always hold that experience dear to my heart. I saw some amazing sights with some amazing people. I hope we will all be friends for a lifetime and always remember the connection we have as the “Roma Crew” of Spring 2007.