“Ottobrare” is a type of lovely, warm, lingering late summer that lasts through October. It is an Italian term, though I don’t know if the phenomenon is exclusively Italian or Mediterranean in general. This year we stayed in that golden haze through September and four full weeks of October – a just reward, my host mother informed me, for enduring an unusually cold, wet, and altogether upsetting Roman summer. When I stepped off my plane yesterday I felt the difference in the air. Ottobrare had ended, summer was not everlasting. That slight temperature shift, which in my home state is the signal to return to school in early September, was calling me back to my studies at the end of Fall Break. Slanting light and brisk breezes announced the new season.
I am a competent habitant of Rome now. I can order in cafés and restaurants. People ask me for directions on the street, thinking I must be a local. I know instinctively which way the locks turn in my homestay. I hardly ever trip on the cobblestones. And I finally taped up the pictures I brought from the US because this place does feel like home now. I needed to go away to realize that.
And that’s (one reason of many) why study abroad is invaluable. It brings you into contact with strange places and faces and if you pay attention it makes you realize how unstrange these alien entities actually are. You begin to adapt, slowly at first and then exponentially in relation to your continued exposure. And you develop a skill which cannot be taught in a classroom or in a traditional college setting, and yet is so vital to being an effective adult in this growing world: cultural literacy.
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Grand educational thoughts and poetic descriptions of autumn in Rome aside, I am glad to be back. I hadn’t understood how much pleasure I would take in returning, and the greatest gift I received in doing so was my family’s cat’s warm welcome. He purred incessantly like a contentedly rumbling tractor, if tractors could be furry that is.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I’m your standard artistic mutt, head on the ground, feet in the clouds, brought to you by a serious case of wanderlust. Small-town Minnesota girl, ex-expat of Singapore, international traveler, art history major, varsity fencer, opera singer, aesthetics junkie, curious soul, gelato votary, far from home at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, making distance and immersion my teachers during a year abroad in Rome, Italy. You can follow along as I happily consume art and carbs in la bella città, but be warned I might not stay in one place for long!</span></p>