The Road Less Traveled…Seriously.

19 Mar

I finished my second month in Italy, in Rome. Boy, was this an experience. My best friend from Los Angeles came to visit me, so we decided to meet up in Rome to start her spring break together. I took a morning train out there alone. This was the first time I rode the train alone, and honestly it wasn’t too bad. I usually fall asleep quite easily and am hard to wake up, but on public transportation, or just traveling in general out here, I’ve become more sensitive when sleeping. I usually wake up every 10 minutes or so and sleep with my bags hooked onto my legs. That way if anyone tries anything, I’d have to wake up because they’d have to move me in some way. A good tip to keep in mind for fellow travelers!

I got there several hours before her and her friend from school arrived, and decided to be spontaneous and walk to the hotel, which was already noted to be an hour away walking distance, according to Google Maps. I figured this would give me a chance to roam around the city and learn my way around, plus visit some sites on the way. Sounded like a plan, right? Unfortunately, I got lost, and it definitely did not take me an hour. If anyone knows the layout of Rome, I walked from the train station and eventually to the point where I crossed the bridge. Supposedly, the hotel was about 4 miles away, but with my supposedly keen sense of direction, I’m pretty sure I walked almost double that. I eventually gave up after 4+ hours and called a cab. Turns out I was down the block…that was 4 euros down the drain and a confirmation of my sense of direction haha. I waited on a bench and to my surprise, I fell asleep with my two bags attached to my limbs in some way and one of my books and a highlighter on my lap. In terms of timing, it was the weekend before midterms began. Pretty unsafe, but that morning/afternoon was pretty exhausting. The rest of the stay went smoothly, especially with my newfound knowledge of the city. What made my weekend is one specific comment that my best friend’s classmate said to me. She told me that she felt like I have such a strong sense of direction and that I can handle myself in any situation. This is exactly what I was aiming for. I’m glad I’ve checked one of the boxes in my study abroad goals!

Surprisingly, being in Rome and visiting the Vatican and everything, I realized I’m glad I studied abroad in Florence. Rome felt so…globalized. It almost reminded me of LA or Chicago, it just wasn’t as different as I thought. There were even more tourists than I was expecting and people dressed so casually, I didn’t have to worry about “bella figura” anymore. With my best friend at my side, I almost felt like I was back home. The Vatican was very memorable. We were approached by a random person for a tour that would let us skip the line and enter the Vatican. She was rushing us and I just wasn’t getting a safe vibe from her. In the end, we decided to go for it, for 25 euros. Our main reasoning was because the line to get into the Vatican circled around and faded into the distance, so we knew it would take literally hours of waiting before we could get in. We took the risk and it turned out to be a pretty cool experience. Our tour guide was adorable and very informational. Her personality definitely made the experience more enjoyable. After spending a chunk of euros on rosaries blessed from the pope from the gift shop, I experienced the unexpected.

About to purchase my items, I noticed a familiar face. I was staring straight into my locker buddy’s face from my high school back in a suburb of LA. I had not seen her for years and of all places, I bump into her in the Vatican gift shop. Talk about a small world! We had our moment of “OMG” for a while until we got down to the basics of why we were both there. Turns out, she is studying abroad in France. Since then, we’ve kept in touch and are actually planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast during Easter weekend. On another exciting note, we’ll both be in Barcelona on exactly April 21st and staying there for a few days. We also decided to stick together for that trip too. This is good news for me because even though I am staying at a cousin’s place for a few days, the majority of my traveling was going to be solo. It’s one thing to bump into an old friend in another city or state, but another country??? Now that’s crazy.

I took a morning train out that Monday and arrived in Florence at 12:48PM, prepared for my 1:30PM Italian class and my first midterm that night. That week was quite stressful because my friends and I still hadn’t fully planned out our spring break itinerary for the following week. Later in the week, my friends eventually finished their spring break in Florence. Beforehand, my friend sent me her itinerary, so I had a chance to ask advice on what could save them time. After adjusting their itinerary, I marked the locations they wanted to visit on the map my program gave me. Along with their hotel and my apartment marked down, I attached a set of directions from the train station to their hotel. Since it was midterm week, I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I wanted with them, but I wanted to make their stay here as easy and comfortable as possible. I wanted them to love Florence just as much as I do. Showing them around one day, I got more compliments making the decision of studying abroad. They can see that I’m very well rounded and I had them wishing they had the same opportunity. Having that moment of “showing off” what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed since this opportunity began, I have never felt so proud of myself. Proud that I’m achieving my goals and becoming the person I’ve wanted to be because of studying abroad.

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