By Sunshine Arcilla, Foster Senior studying Accounting and Marketing. Sunshine participated on the Accounting Rome Exploration Seminar this summer. She was a GBC Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.
As someone who grew up in the rural parts of the Philippines, I never thought that I would ever have the chance to travel the world, much less visit Rome, the center of the ancient world. Considering that my knowledge about Rome was limited to roman numerals (though I must say, I was one of the fastest in my third-grade class to convert roman numerals to the Hindu-Arabic numbers) and the fact that it’s where the Pope lived, my three and a half weeks in the city was a privilege.
Leading up to the trip, I didn’t know what to expect because I had never been to a study abroad before. So, I just went through the motions, and I remember the moment it finally hit me. After checking in at the Rome Center, I dragged my 50-pound luggage across the uneven black cobble stones. After thudding my way through the plaza and attracting unwanted attention, I spotted my landlady, to whom my first question was: “Do you have an elevator?” She said, “Honey, you are in the heart of ancient Rome. These buildings have been around for centuries. You are not going to find a lift in any of them.” It wasn’t the sass or the snickering of others who heard our conversation that turned me slightly flushed. It was the realization that my adventure was just beginning. I carried my luggage up the dark and spiraled cement stairs, and with every thud, the excitement grew bigger.
1. Remember that not everyone is as lucky as you are.
One of the best parts about my experience was living in Campo de’ Fiori. Every day, the plaza transformed from a market to a romantic scene of street performers and scattered restaurants at night. My roommate and I would crack the window open every night and listen to the guitar tunes of Hotel California, which we now proclaim as our summer anthem. The buzzing of fellow tourists, reminding me to take every opportunity to make memories and be in the moment.
Our group of 22 visited all of the iconic sites like the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, had dinners every week, and we even stayed in Florence as a group. But my favorite experience that made a lasting impact was our visit to the Jewish Ghetto. Our tour was led by a Jewish woman who shared all about the Jewish community’s legacy of struggles and resilience throughout the years. At some point, she took us to the place where hundreds of Jewish families were gathered before being taken to concentration camps. I listened in admiration and awe for the rest of the tour, pondering at how a place that experienced so much suffering can also be a symbol of hope, love, and pride. Not one picture was taken during the tour because it was one of those things that I wanted to keep for myself. It was a feeling and an experience that no picture could have done justice.
2. Remember that it’s a sign of respect to those whose culture you are exploring.
This trip was truly a humbling experience. I am privileged that I got to see more of the world. I am privileged to have gotten to know 19 other peers that I can now call my friends, one amazing professor who somehow managed to teach us Tax Accounting in three and a half weeks, and one heck of a coordinator who we would not have been able to survive without. Lastly, I am privileged because I had the support needed to make this trip happen. To Mr. Bob Christensen and Mrs. Ann Christensen, as well as the Thomas M. and Leonore Y. Armstrong Endowed Scholarship– I am eternally grateful.
3. Remember that you owe it to yourself and others who helped make your trip possible.