Settling In

The casualty of passing monuments that are societies old and walking their same worn stone steps. Though it never feels completely casual passing a full view of Rome, a Cyprus, or a palm tree, or even a dog in a grocery cart. 

After two years of not traveling, how do you prepare yourself for a full semester abroad? You look at pictures of your city, maybe try to pick up the basics of a new language, but a camera can’t capture the emotions of the Colosseum or the first struggle to order a slice of pizza when you don’t speak Italian.

Writing this, it’s my twelfth day here, and I’m already aware this is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m at the coziest café, drinking fresh mint lemonade paired with a chocolate croissant and listening to California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & The Papas (they play the greatest music). It doesn’t get better than this.

In twelve days, I have been to the colosseum, followed fountains from Trastevere to the Trevi Fountain, eaten the best carbs of my life, and made friends that I know will last a lifetime. 

Italy has always been number one on my list, but a pandemic was never part of it. Yet, besides some extra paperwork, masks, and the pure luck of my negative COVID-19 results coming in on time before my flight, traveling was not severely different. The only thing I had to worry about was packing and hoping I had good roommates. 

I’m not far enough into my trip to give packing advice, but I can say that there are certainly some differences from the United States. 

Grocery shopping is done frequently because things go bad quicker and have fewer preservatives. The city was made for people, not cars, so the driving here is chaotic and filled with tiny cars and tiny streets. Dogs are allowed everywhere, in stores, restaurants, and everyone has one. It’s almost impossible to find a thick comforter, so I accepted defeat to the thin ones people pay 55 euros for. 

When ordering pizza for the first time, my roommates and I got unlucky facing a woman who did not speak English. All of us were too embarrassed to say the little Italian we knew, but with some hand gestures it worked out. If you know “Grazie” and “Ciao” you can get by. Most retail or restaurant employees will be kind and patient. 

The relaxed mentality compared to the United States is calming once you settle in. The first week was packed with unplanned exploring which is beneficial, immerse yourself quickly and do not nap no matter how tired you are. These are rules to live by.

Packed days, far away from New England snowstorms, instead filled with sun, history, carbs, and shopping. These are the positives. 

Lily Richard is a college student at Massachusettes College of Liberal Arts. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Rome, Italy.

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