Home Away from Home

Guest Post by: Cameron Wong is a Senior studying Finance. This summer, Cameron participated in the Foster Rome Program at the UW Rome Center in Italy.

“Home”, probably the last word that comes to mind when traveling to the other side of the world to a country you’ve never been, with people you barely know. To me, home was always right here in Seattle with my friends, family, and the routine of college at UW. Being a part of the Foster Rome Program this past summer taught me that home doesn’t always have to be one place. If you get out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in wherever you are and with whoever you’re with, anywhere can become home. 

When I first arrived in Rome, I was honestly overwhelmed. The airport was filled with foreign Italian words, hundreds of people, and sweltering heat. I remember thinking to myself, “How am I going to get through a month of this?”. The first few days of meeting new people in a new city and having to settle into a new way of life was hard at first. After meeting the other students and professors in the program on the first night, we all went out to a group dinner. The food was amazing and getting to talk with a few of the other students was fun and helped me open up a bit. Opportunities to get out of my comfort zone like these made the first few days so much better. Although Rome didn’t feel like home yet, it was becoming to feel less foreign.

Over the next week, we all started to get into the routine and way of life of Rome. I was beginning to be able to find my way around the city without having to open GPS all the time. Instead of seeming like foreign words, “Ciao”, “Buongiorno”, and “Grazie” became more like everyday language. I could start to order food confidently without the fear of sounding completely like a foreigner. The other students started to become less like strangers and more like friends.

Traveling to nearby cities during the weekends was one of my favorite parts of my study abroad experience. The freedom to go wherever we wanted in Italy and explore new cities was eye-opening and exciting. Going to Cinque Terre for the second weekend was the first of several of these experiences. There we captured beautiful sights of the coast of Italy and ate so much delicious pasta and seafood. Through exploring the five towns, jumping into the warm Mediterranean Sea, and simply spending time together, we all grew closer to one another. Even though we sometimes missed our trains or got lost, every experience just added to the memories we made. After a weekend of fun and exploring, we took a train back to Rome Sunday night – back to our apartments, back to the routine, back to the familiarity of the city, back…home.

I never thought that a new city in a foreign country surrounded by new faces would be a home to me, but the Foster Rome Program became just that. Being immersed in the Italian culture introduced me to a new way of life that I’m glad to say I got used to. The students and program leaders that I met taught me to get out of my comfort zone which helped me experience my trip to the fullest. Although I didn’t know anyone on this program before going to Italy, I fostered lasting friendships with all of them by the end of our trip. Even though Seattle and UW are my first home, Rome will always be a special place for me – my home away from home.