One month down, and a little over one month left to go until I’m back home in America. Time seems to fly by here, and it feels like I haven’t been able to do half of what I’ve wanted to do during my time here. Between visiting the beaches at Santa Marinella, hiking and swimming in Cinque Terre, touring Pompeii, visiting the Amalfi Coast, cliff jumping in Sorrento (it was off of some of the lower cliffs since I didn’t want my bathing suit to fall off and get lost, but still – it was a really cool experience), and exploring Rome even more than I already have, not a moment that’s passed has been boring or uninteresting. And with the time that I have left, I don’t doubt for a second that I’ll get tired of exploring even more of Italy and experiencing more Italian culture and lifestyle.
Something that I’ve noticed during my stay in Rome is that Italians don’t consider it to be rude to stare at people. Several of my roommates and some of the other students in my program have noticed this difference as well, and most of us are still trying to get past the awkwardness and uncomfortable feelings of being stared at and judged for being American – well, at least most of us figure that we’re being stared at for so long because it’s easy to tell that we’re Americans and that people are probably judging some of us for looking like too much of the stereotypical American tourist (flip flops, jeans, t-shirts, and a baseball cap for the guys, and bleach blonde hair and being slightly taller than most Italian women for the American women in our program). While staring in America is considered rude and uncalled for, staring in Italy (according to my Italian student companion) is meant to show appreciation for a beautiful person or object as well as being able to look around and observe your surroundings to get a better understanding of them without having to worry if you’re rude or judgmental.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the food in Italy is processed differently than it is in America. Several people and I are either lactose intolerant or completely allergic to dairy, and we’d normally have to avoid it as much as possible in America so that we don’t end up getting sick from the food. In Italy, however, most of us haven’t had as much of a problem with dairy because of how it’s process. While most of us carry around Lactaid and take it if we’re eating straight gelato or a cappuccino in the morning (which, by the way, is apparently only a morning drink), eating pizza or pasta with cheese on it or having dairy cooked into other foods hasn’t made most of us sick or nauseous. And although I can’t speak for everyone in my program who has a lactose intolerance/dairy allergy, I’m definitely going to have to get used to not eating dairy once I get back to America after this summer.
While it’s been a month since getting to Rome, it’s also been a year since my older sister passed away. Last summer, she unexpectedly passed away on June 15th after being hit by a car three days before she was supposed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Drexel University. Although the entire past year has been difficult in dealing with her death, I’m not going to lie when I say that it was easy to be in Rome last week – the entire week, I couldn’t help but feel like I was reliving the entire week leading up to her passing away, and the homesickness only made it worse. I tried to distract myself as much as possible last week so that my PTSD didn’t get any worse than it already was, and I managed to do generally okay for most of the week.
That is, until Friday rolled around and I couldn’t help but think of her and feel sad, especially while taking a tour of Pompeii and hearing about the life and death of the people living there. As much as I hate to admit it, the entire day felt stifling and as if I had to push people away and isolate myself so that I didn’t have to deal with other people pitying me or not knowing how to react to me telling them about what was going on. It took until around dinner to feel like I was starting to crack – I had trouble keeping my hands from visibly shaking while eating and from starting to completely cry over not being able to be home and spend time with my family for that week. Looking back on it, not having more people in my program know about it certainly didn’t help; it would have been relieving to open up to someone and be able to show all of my emotions and actually allow myself to experience them without trying to push them aside and force them to go away. But my reasoning for not doing so was that no one would want to hear that during their time abroad, and that everyone in our program should look and seem excited and happy to be in Rome and experiencing all of the amazing things that Italy and Europe have to offer.
But now, with that being done and over with, a weight has certainly been lifted off of my shoulders, and I feel as though I don’t have to be as worried or stressed out over what to do about that now. And with one month left in my program, I’m fully planning on enjoying as much of my time here as possible. After all, you only live once, right? (Cheesy, I know – but it still applies)