Rome is Where the Heart is

by Melissa

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I have always heard people say “home is where the heart is”, but what happens when your heart is in two places at once?

As I sit on a plane heading back to the homeland of the red,white and blue the realization of coming home as actually set in. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic to be seeing all the loved ones I have missed over this whole whirl-wind of an experience but there is this strange hole in my heart knowing I have left a place I call home and friends I call family.

Studying abroad is a gratifying, strange, overwhelming, exciting, once in a lifetime experience. When leaving for Rome four months ago I was blindsided by what this experience would truly mean to me.

I came to Rome with the clichés anyone traveling to Italy must have: expecting massive amounts of mouthwatering home-made pastas, throwing maybe one to many coins in the Trevi Fountain, strolling by the Colosseum with gelato in hand,windowshopping by the Spanish Steps, getting lost in history at Vatican City and of course drinking the best Italian wine grapes can make. While these clichés, are very much valid, they are just skimming the top of what Rome has to offer.

After a week or two of jet lag getting settled in you start to notice the true life of Italy, like the friendly coffee baristas, the bustling cars and vespas, the five hour dinners at local restaurants, small churches filled with frescos on every street corner, staying out all night and thinking nothing of it, Italian men winking at you as you walk down the street, and the slow pace atmosphere that lets you enjoy every minute of every day. These little things are what truly make Rome.

Getting thrown into a new culture and learning a new way of life makes you redefine and refine yourself as a person. This is something I never knew I would do or need to do. But after going through this experience I realize letting go of the fear of losing yourself can actually make you find yourself.

Between the cliches, finding a new version of yourself and adjusting to culture shock you realize the people you hop on and off planes with to different countries every weekend become more than travel companions or friends. You become so close so quickly with the people you meet abroad that these people become like family. The group of friends I have made while in Rome could not be more diverse. From Miami to New York to Minnesota to Philly, we could not be anymore different yet in someway all the same. These friends know me better than most. Something about going through so many new experiences together makes people open up and fall into themselves. The experiences you go through together are so unlike any other experiences that no one back home will ever begin to understand. For this reason you form a connection with these new friends that can never be broken. While, yes, the places I have gone, the things I have seen and the adventures I have been on are incredible experiences all on their own, but these experiences with these great people make them worth a lifetime and for that I am truly grateful. Staying up all night reminiscing before flying home over the Atlantic made for an incredible bittersweet night. Saying goodbye to these friends was heartbreaking but I am positive I will see them all again. Friends like these you don’t want to lose.

After experiencing these four months I now know what studying aboard means. Before these four month I was ignorant to what this experience would lead to. But now I can confidently say I am an experienced traveler. I have become more of myself. I have seen the most beautiful places. I have met some of the most amazing people I will ever come across. I have discovered many new cultures. I created moments I could never forget and lived a once in a lifetime opportunity to its fullest. And for that I could not be any happier.

If what they say is true “home is where the heart is”, then I have decided to leave a bit of my heart in the Eternal City. Because I know if when I return to Rome memories of this experience will come flooding back in to my mind and Rome will once again feel like home.

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