Managing Expectations

Elisabeth Hawthorne
September 3, 2014

Google tells me there are 4,889 miles between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Rome, Italy. indicates a slightly more jaunty distance of 4,895 miles, 7,877 kilometers, 4,253 nautical miles from MSP to FCO airport.  Whatever the physical separation of here and there, I suspect that my understanding and impression of the city I am going to live in for the next year will likely be already half-formed by the time I am half-way across the Atlantic.

Um, how, exactly?  We all have ideas of a place before we truly know it; in my mind the Eternal City is a composite of childhood vacation memories, romantic daydreams, remembered gelato, hours of language study, the focus of art historical yearning, and shameless adoration of Roman Holiday.  Places, like people, suffer from that lightning-quick, presumptuous, often-misguided generalization of the first impression.  And before you are even IN a place you are persuaded you can KNOW it’s character and temperament based on guidebooks, representations in media, cultural stereotypes, etc.

There is a trick to managing expectations, I believe.  I do not know this trick.  I just do the best I can to remain open to the unexpected and also mentally prepare myself by retaining a realistic outlook.  All I can say is:

FOREIGN CITY + TRAVEL + IMMERSION = HARD WORK ( + a smidge of terror/angst)

I think that’s a realistic statement.



…Meaning no matter how prepared I am for the challenges of study abroad, I still probably have no idea what I’m getting myself into.


But, of course, FOREIGN CITY + TRAVEL + IMMERSION + HARD WORK ( + a smidge of terror/angst) = A REAL ADVENTURE.


As I sit here in the Detroit airport during my layover, having already traveled 696 of those 4,889 miles, I think about how my mother’s study abroad experience changed her life, and I know mine is about to be altered to a similar degree.  Like me, twenty years-old.  Like me, curious about the world, passionate about travel and art and literature.  And I, like her, enrolled in IES, more than three decades later!  What a legacy!  And what an opportunity to experience real adventure.

My mother's IES ID from her year spent in Durham, England, 1977-78.   My own IES Rome ID, 2014-15.   I suppose I'm not left entirely alone to ponder my expectations, not while I have a few travel books!

[matching IES ID photos, because I don’t look enough like her already ;P]

So there’s the first post and now I will ford the Atlantic with only my expectations and possibly a gently-encroaching, snoring neighbor or delightful screaming baby for company.  See you on the flip side.


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Grazie, Roma! Bella cosa tosto è rapita.

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Elisabeth Hawthorne

<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&rsquo;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>

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