I fell in love with Rome on the tram, when a guitarist sang about amore. It was the sort of love that my Italian-deficient mind thought could ease the turbid emotions in my chest and make a city like Rome truly eternal.
The first week of any study abroad experience is a roller coaster of emotions. Within the first three days in the city of Rome I found myself bouncing between the dread of being away from my family and home for four months and the excited panic of needing to see everything I wanted to see and learning as much as I possibly could in only four months.
I was beginning to call this emotional roller coaster the Pinball Effect, mainly because my goal was to keep my emotions (metaphorically, the pinball) contained within the colorful confines of my mind (the pinball playing field) by means of slapping them hurriedly away from the gaping hole of homesickness at the bottom of my chest. With less than a week in Rome under my belt, I had a pretty bad pinball record. But, as the guitarist on the tram showed me, you don’t have to study abroad alone.
Sure, I didn’t have anyone I knew going with me to Rome, I was literally taking one giant leap of faith and nerve, and after finally, finally getting to Rome, I was stumbling at the finish line. I had to make new friends, learn about a new place, speak in a new language, and I had to do it, as far as I was concerned, on my own. And in some ways, I was right. I have to take care of myself, make sure I go where I need to go both emotionally and physically during my trip. But in a lot of ways, I was wrong.
Not only because my family was waiting impatiently halfway across the world to hear about my amazing first experiences in Rome and not only because I had a great support system in Rome and wonderful roommates to go on misadventures with, but because Rome herself was not going to let me down. The guitarist on the tram reminded me that the Rome I had been studying for the past two and half years, the Empire whose language and culture I had fallen in love with, had become a city that was a beautiful blend of the past, present, and future. I couldn’t help but beam at him as he played his guitar and the tram moved through The Eternal City, taking me back to my new home.
It was going to be ok. I’ve got a bed to sleep in and the most amazing pasta I’ve ever eaten in my fridge and I’ve got a man playing the guitar and singing a song that I could almost understand. So if you’re caught in the Pinball Effect, don’t panic. You’ll be just fine.
The world awaits…discover it.