I'm going to attempt to keep the sap to a minimum in this post - however, this may prove to be tricky since in a maximum of 24 hours I'll be in Michigan once again. Back to breathable weather, reliable cell service, and friends & family - yes. But also 4,590 miles away from producing more water (in the form of sweat) than the Trevi Fountain ~while enjoying limone and fragole gelato of course. Twelve hours from the steps en route to AUR where you can see a beautiful panoramic of the city while grappling for breath. One ocean/pond/whatever you call it away from the workers at frequented cafes who have showed simple generosity through free cornettos or an extra warm smile when it's your 3rd morning visit in a row. All the minor occurrences of day to day life in Italy will stick with me the most.
From the "little moments", I have absorbed the greatest amount of knowledge - and joy, really. I've learned to always look out the window when on trains so to not miss the short glimpse of people at stations being unapologetically human or the scenic shot of Mediterranean waters hitting the coast. The Italian style of simply enjoying food will also stay with me. Nights spent leisurely eating dinner for hours with good company have been a highlight. Before, I had always viewed heavy importance placed on food as slightly indulgent - and especially American practice. Now I see how social it can be.
After being immersed in a different way of life for a few weeks and thriving off the "little moments", I can envision myself living abroad for a longer amount of time - either as a student or for work. Before the trip, I didn't have a lot of faith in myself that I could perfect my Spanish enough to live in a Spanish-speaking country. I can finally understand that it doesn't matter if you are the absolute best at the language - putting effort forth and showing you are trying is perfectly alright. Now I see how much I would have appreciated knowing Italian and having the chance to practice and improve in the language everyday. It's one thing to learn a language in a classroom. It's something completely different to interact with native speakers daily. My Spanish minor has taken on a new importance in my life after my month in a non-English speaking place. It's also motivated me to learn another language in addition to improving my Spanish. Possibly Italian!
My time here has also showed me my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to living and coexisting with people different from me. Even other students on the trip - all hailing from the same culture of America - have a myriad of views, personalities, expectations and attitudes. I've learned to work on my patience. Over the course of the trip, I have improved in trying to understand and sympathize rather than criticize. Attempting to understand (or sometimes accepting you don't have to understand) others reactions are different from yours has helped to enhance my time in Rome. Even if you are experiencing the same incident, chances are you will have a different take on it than the person next to you. Everyone you meet has value and is valid - no matter their actions or attitudes.
Whether it was small takeaways - like appreciating a good cappuccino - or large epiphanies - like accepting dissimilar qualities in others - this study abroad has had great impact on me. I hope to go back home a little better off than before.
By Maura Bayagich