Flipping back through the pages of my memory to the first European chapter, the quantity of noteworthy images makes it appear that I have been here for years. So much has happened, the scenery has changed so many times and my heart has overflown with an inordinate amount of emotions in the relatively short amount of time that has passed. This semester has been composed of the material of dreams. I will be telling these stories to my grandchildren one day, and with the same breadth admonishing them of the importance of travel. There is no better way to expand your horizons or broaden your perspective, and to that sentiment I will never hold false. My adventures have been neatly knitted together with the thread of joy and guided by the steady hand of experience, which grows ever more confident through practice.
One specific facet of my experience came to a definitive close just this weekend. Throughout the duration of this semester I have had the honor of interning with Context Travel, an academically oriented travel company which offers small walking tours around twenty-four of the world’s cultural capitols. I had been working as an assistant to my wonderful supervisor, helping her with the day to day administrative tasks requisite of any small office; working, of course, in between espressos and laughs. When my more mundane tasks were finished, my boss would assign me something more thought provoking and challenging. For example, I researched the top tour agencies in Venice that are comparable to Context, and drew up a document containing all of the information necessary to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each rival company. Unlike many other internship positions out there, I was actually doing relevant and helpful work. No one had to take time out of their day to make up something for me to do. I left the office knowing that I had been a help and not a hindrance, and I was confident that the little bit of work that I accomplished helped everyone else working in the office to leave on time. I am proud of that.
Perhaps it is on account of my internship that each and every one of my days here felt so full. Even a mundane Monday here in Rome was brimming with activity, and although I found time to relax with my roommates, even this repose had limits. Participating in the internship experience provided me with the opportunity to be more than just a student abroad. I lived, worked and commuted with the rest of the Romans. It was a struggle at first, but after a few short weeks and only mild cases of embarrassment I assimilated into the daily grind of Rome’s inhabitants. I spent my time in Rome not simply as a college kid, but as a responsible and privileged adult. I put a bridle on a foreign public transportation system, learned the ropes of navigating crowded spaces, and taught myself how to keep my cool in the hottest and most frustrating places imaginable: packed Roman buses. My time abroad, and specifically my placement with Context, has shown me that I am capable of pursuing all of my goals, and that I am ready to lead a mature life anywhere I choose. Confidence is fundamental to success, and yet is something difficult to attain within the ordinary purview of college life. By working and truly inhabiting a city, even at its gritty levels, I have gained knowledge through experience. And a great deal of that knowledge has nothing to do with practicalities, except for the most practical brand of knowledge: and that is knowledge of my own fiber.
My supervisor invited me out to lunch on Friday to bid each other our adieus. We alighted at a bustling local café, filled with the pungent smells of Roman cooking and lively Italian chatter. We exchanged small, but thoughtful gifts, caught each other up on the goings on of our lives, and shared a spicy plate of couscous. Through our interaction I was reminded of what a gem of a woman she was; beautiful, sassy, intelligent, and endlessly good natured. I had written her a short note, and she read it at the table, becoming slightly misty eyed as a result. Every word was sincere, and she assured me that she considered me a friend and did not want this to be the last she heard from me. I realized then how much I was going to miss her in my life. Here was a woman that could have treated me indifferently or even coldly, but who instead had welcomed me with open arms into her office and into her life. The help that I provided her with professionally is insignificant compared to the companionship and security she gave me throughout my time here. I consider myself lucky to have met her and spent my time with Context; and I will never look back on those memories with anything but fondness. My time here has been a gift, and I appreciate it with all my heart.