As I’ve relaxed in my apartment after my first week of classes and internship work in Roma, I’ve found myself unsure of what exactly to write about this week, for there is no way to encapsulate the true beauty of this journey in just one post. In the 2 weeks that I have been here, I have found my life turned upside down time and time again; around every corner, I am prompted to think in new ways as I find myself exposed to new ideas, ways of life, and responsibilities to undertake. That said, I feel comfortable in this often uncomfortable transitional period, and I believe that my experiences growing up have molded me into an adaptive individual that has been conditioned to thrive in uncertainty. As such, I feel that it could be beneficial for me to share some insight on the ways in which I have faced the adjustment process head on.
Before I delve into the fun stuff, I believe that context is necessary. I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up as a low-income youth in rural Ohio. While I look upon this time of my life mostly fondly, I acknowledge that my identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community was at the forefront of my character. I often faced rejection and judgment from peers due to this, and at times I was alienated as the only openly gay student in my high school. It was in these times, however, when I learned the value of thinking and existing for oneself. Furthermore, I have become experienced with big transitions, as I moved across the country and away from everyone and everything I had ever known to Los Angeles for college. On that note, I will offer 2 of the lessons I have learned in my life that make every scary, major change a little bit easier.
Lesson 1: Pack comfortably and pack for comfort.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: that’s a redundant statement. I disagree. I like to view it as a sort of double entendre. When getting ready to go abroad, one of the crucial considerations we must make revolves around what articles of clothing and belongings make the most sense when it comes to occupying limited suitcase space. Of course, it is important to have an understanding of the climate in which you will be living, and you need to bring clothing that will leave you comfortable. That said, I am confident that there is more than one way in which we must be comfortable. In my suitcase, one of the first items I made sure to pack was a pearl necklace, an item that was once my grandmother’s. I have found myself wearing it quite often here, clutching it when I find myself confronted by a new experience. Having this piece of home grounds me, and this is an exemplification of the idea I am getting at. We must feel inside and out when we travel into the unknown, and a small trinket from home can help you do just that.
Lesson 2: Be a friend to others, but also be a friend to yourself!
One of the fundamental pillars that studying abroad is built on is the exposure to new people. I have made friends with individuals from across the country in these last two weeks. Whether they go to school in Maine, Minnesota, or New York City, I have found that every single individual has their own incredible stories to tell. If you are willing to listen, you will find people willing to do the same, and you never know what you might have in common with another person! I have already learned so much from my new friends, and I think that these pieces of wisdom will be some of the most valuable takeaways from my time here. I have also spent plenty of time with these awesome folks exploring the city and discovering the new hangout spots. Whether I am grabbing a coffee with my awesome housemate before class or making a pitstop for lunch with a classmate, there is no absence of ways to spend quality time with others; however, there may be moments when schedules conflict and you will be left on your own. In these moments, it is so important to nurture your relationship with yourself. These times of independence give you time to figure out what you love to do, and these moments could be the ones that allow you to find true comfort in your surroundings. For example, I went for a stroll this weekend that led me to a flea market where I thrifted a beautiful necklace. Had I felt as though I couldn’t venture out on my own, I may have never discovered this new place. Ultimately, finding a good balance between togetherness and independence has been paramount to a fulfilling experience!
All in all, the transition to a life in a new country can look different for everyone. This time is full of experimentation and learning through trial and error, and there is no guaranteed formula for a seamless shift. That said, thinking about what comfort can look like for you can help find the balance that is best for your wellbeing, and I believe that these two pieces of advice embody how I find comfort. I hope that they can do the same for you!
With all of this said, now that I have gone in depth about dealing with new lifestyle changes, it is time to pivot to the lighthearted, sweet life of Rome! Stay tuned for future entries about my favorite restaurants, tips about spotting the best gelato, and all the hidden gems I uncover as I explore the city of living history!
Till next time, ciao ciao!
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Hey there! My name is Andrew Masciarelli, and I am a rising junior from Occidental College studying economics and politics. Outside of my studies, I love to cook, and I am also spending as much time as I can teaching myself how to play the guitar!