While UP students are gearing up for finals here in Portland, one English Major, Junior Sarah Hansell, is studying somewhere very different. Here is her story:
Almost three months after arriving in Rome, I can’t believe that in just three short weeks I will be back on American soil, the people around me speaking English (in a wonderfully American accent), the signs in a language I can understand, and the drivers politely avoiding proximity to pedestrians. After having been abroad for almost a semester, I have never appreciated home more. I can’t wait for Mexican food, free water at restaurants, smooth pavement, and not being bombarded by vendors whenever I venture too close to touristy destinations.
But there is no question that I’m going to miss this place. Rome is a strange intersection of the ancient and the modern – ruins from 600 B.C. across the street from brightly painted apartment buildings and bars with neon signs hanging on the door. I already know that as soon as I’m back in the States this whole experience will feel surreal and distant, like a book I read and fleshed out every detail of in my mind. And yet, it’s strange to think that I am here, living in an apartment in Italy, worrying about things like finals and the weather while in the Eternal City. The Vatican is less than a half-hour walk away, the Colosseum an ancient structure that I pass by once every week or two, outdoor markets in Piazzas places for me to buy fruit and vegetables. The subjects of pictures in Art History textbooks are in front of me every day. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m not living in a travel guide or a fairy tale.
One of the biggest things I know I will miss about Rome is the food. There is nowhere in the States where I’ll be able to find the spaghetti alla carbonara and bucatini amatriciana that you can find in almost any (or maybe literally any) Italian restaurant you step into in Rome. The pasta dishes in Italy simply cannot be matched in Portland. I can safely say that food is one of my UP roommates’ and my biggest preoccupations here. Whenever we visit another city, the food is what we never seem to stop raving about. However, we have all definitely reached the point of missing Portland food. While in Italy the majority of restaurants offer up exclusively traditional Italian cuisine, in Portland there are a million choices of what kind of food to eat when you go out – Mexican, Thai, Cajun, Asian Fusion, waffles decorated with blueberry cheesecake…the list goes on. My roommates and I have an almost 30-restaurant-long list of all the places where we want to eat when we get home, and we’re having a hard time deciding which to choose first.
Okay, here’s my plug: if you can do it, travel! Whether it’s study abroad, or it’s a weeklong trip to the East Coast because you’ve never been. There is nothing like experiencing something totally different than what you have become comfortable with. Go somewhere you never even considered. Nowhere in Eastern Europe was ever on my list, but I ended up going to Budapest, Hungary, for the weekend, and it turned out to be one of my favorite trips. Don’t even get me started on Hungarian food…. But being here in Italy has made me hungry for travel. I want to experience a culture that is even more different for me than this one. I want to try the foods of other countries, meet the people, learn the most common phrases in other languages, come to know the little intricacies of other cultures’ customs. Being here has taught me so much, but most of all, how to be independent, open, and how to adapt to things I may not at first understand. And of course, how to drink coffee the Italian way, dodge oncoming traffic, and dry my clothes in the oven (no dryers in Italy!)