Guest Post by Oksana Klimenko, a Foster senior studying Finance. This last summer Oksana participated in the Rome Core Abroad Program. She is a recipient of the GBC Scholarship.
VENI. VIDI. AMAVI.
We came. We saw. We loved.
As cliche as this saying is, it’s the only one that truly, and concisely, summarizes my time in the beautiful and historic country of Italy.
The country began to make its impression on me the second I left the airport. From historic ruins being in the randomest of places to the way the cars drove on the street to the way people talked to you, I realized that this place was going to be way different than home. And that’s what scared me at first. I was so used to the comfort of my own home. To the comfort of having family around. To the comfort of my own city. To the comfort of familiarity. I have never been away from home by myself, yet alone for a long period time. As the fear of how I would assimilate to this new culture set in on the ride from the airport to the UW Rome Center, I made a conscious decision to not let anything get in my way of fully enjoying my experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew things weren’t always going to work out on the first try. I knew getting the lay of the land would be difficult at first. I just decided that I wouldn’t let the difficult things hinder there. Upholding this decision wasn’t always easy, but let me tell you: it was one of the best decisions I made during my time aboard.
I remember the day we took a group trip to the Vatican. After spending at least six hours roaming and exploring the beautiful architecture, art, and history, we were free to break off from the group and finish off the day how we wanted. Some people decided to spend more time within the city limits, others went back to their apartments to take their afternoon nap, seeing as it was time for the daily siesta. My group of seven decided that we had involuntarily fasted for way too long, so we began our hunt for food, but first needed to stop by someone’s place so they could get their wallet. The hunt for his place took over thirty minutes. . . he lived about 7 minutes from the Vatican. And so our hunt for food commenced. After walking around for another thirty minutes, we remembered. It was siesta—a designated couple of hours in the day where people close up shop and go home for lunch and, of course, a nap.
We went hungry for a little while longer, until we found what seemed to be the only restaurant open in the entire city of Rome. And let me tell you, to my starved stomach, that was the best pizza I ever tasted.
Walking through the heat and humidity of Rome, while starving, was obviously a major downer, but I promised myself I wouldn’t let anything let me down or keep me from having the best experience I could. We were hungry—true. But during those two hours, I got closer to those six people that I ever thought I would. That was the start of several amazing friendships that began by getting lost and exploring the external city.
I came. I saw. I loved.
If you asked anybody who knew me since I was a child, they would all tell you the one place I wanted to visit more than anything was Italy. I’ve seen pictures of the country and read about its rich history and culture. Its beauty captivated me even from across the ocean. And let me tell you, the reality surpassed expectation!