This past month has been a whirlwind of changes and newness. It feels like being a freshman in college all over again; meeting new people, living with a ton of roommates in a small space, trying to figure out the city where you’re living… Yet, I still have three years of college under my belt and have not forgotten the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Finding balance has been something I have been working on for years. Even in high school, I had trouble with this, attempting to balance too many extracurriculars with regular school work. College was a much better balance for me. I liked having the schedule of only having a few classes a day, allowing me the much-needed time to study and do academic work. At home, my life is very simple, in a way. I go to class, use most of my spare time to study then do things with friends or family in the evenings on weekends. It does get a bit monotonous, but I had gotten used to it. I think studying abroad was one of the best decisions I made to break up this cycle. I have never been one for routine, but had accepted it as a part of college life. Coming to Italy has changed how I approach leisure and academics completely. Traveling on the weekends makes it very difficult to do any school work, much less motivate myself to sit down and focus on anything for more than ten minutes. Even the last few weekends where I have only done day trips, it has been a time trying to study for midterms. There are so many things in Rome that are calling me to go see or do that I almost feel like I’m wasting my time by sitting in my house or at a café doing homework. After a short internal debate, I am now procrastinating on my homework by writing this article (sorry, Mom). But, I know focusing on writing will get me in a studious mood that will hopefully help me get some work done this afternoon.
While finding balance is good for my grades, it also is important to my mental health. I am hard in the center of the introvert-extrovert spectrum and despite loving being around my new friends and exploring with my roommates, I need to get away from the world sometimes and just sit on our terrace and read a book or listen to music alone. For me, it helps give me energy to be productive or go check out something in the city, but it also gives me time to reflect on myself and how I am doing. I’ve had some personal stuff go down at home that I’ve had a hard time dealing with while so far away. Having these rare moments of solitude help me to process my emotions and let myself feel. For a long time, I tended to bottle up my emotions, thinking that letting others into my emotional world would not only show weakness but that people wouldn’t care. Over time, I have realized how scarily wrong I was. The amazing friends I have back in the states and the wonderful roommates I have here in Rome have become such a strong backbone of support for me that I know by sharing, I am only strengthening my bond with them. Sometimes processing my emotions means sitting alone for a while, but it also means calling my best friends at home or having long chats with my Rome friends over lunch at a café in the middle of the beautiful streets of Rome.
Just last week, I was worried about my Italian midterm and feeling prepared. It usually takes me much longer to read and study than most people, so I was extra stressed about having enough time. I stayed in Rome and found myself holed up in a café all day studying, feeling a little incompetent, but glad that I was getting some homework done. I had planned to study all weekend to make sure I felt good about my exam, but last minute, my Italian roommate invited us to a festival celebrating the patron saint of grapes in a small town outside of Rome called Marino. After doing quick research on Sagra dell’Uve, I found myself really wanting to go. But once again torn between experiencing Italy and studying. I ended up going, and I am so glad I did. The train ride was only a half hour and the town was so cute. It was all decorated with vines, grapes, lights and colors. THIS is what I imagined when I thought of Italy. The town was surrounded by hills, all terraced with vineyards and small colorful homes. Inside Marino, it was bursting with energy. It reminded me of the state fairs I used to go to every summer in Indiana when I was little and honestly felt very nostalgic. There were food vendors, tents selling spices in bulk, donuts as big as my head, and live music drifting through the streets literally stuffed with people. It felt as though every Roman under 30 was there. We wandered around, buying food, drinks, more food, and people watching, until we eventually reached the main square. A parade was running through the center, complete with giant floats of caricatured politicians and marching bands playing traditional Italian songs. I hadn’t felt so at peace and so excited at the same time in a long time. This is what I came to Italy for. To experience the real Italy, not just the things off a travel guide.
One of my roommates said something while we were in Marino that changed my perspective on feeling guilty about not being home studying. To paraphrase, she said: you’re not going to remember the times this semester you spent studying at home, doing well on a test or stressing yourself out about little insignificant things. You’re going to remember times like this: surrounded by friends and strangers, all having the time of their lives in a tiny town outside of Rome.
Finding a balance is so important: to your mental and physical health. But allowing yourself to shift that balance is healthy and good! Life is not an equilibrium. It is a series of peaks and valleys meant to let you learn and grow from each experience. While I still take pride in my academics, and want to do as well as I can, I need to remember to allow myself to live. Because who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself in a small town in Italy, practicing your Italian on real people instead of using flashcards.
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<p>Hi! My name is Allie Wineland and I am an Arts Management major (and History minor!) at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I was born in Indianapolis and love all kinds of art: performing, creating and experiencing. I am a huge history buff and love films. I have three pets: a corgi named Theo, Tamir the hamster, and Podrick, a betta fish. I am passionate about advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities and hope to incorporate that into my future career.</p>