Studying In Rome: Week One

Studying In Rome: Week One

Well, not studying yet, but still learning

As surreal as it feels, this Monday marks one week since I left home to spend the next four months studying in Rome. It feels like I just got here yesterday after leaving New York behind with my dad, carting four bags between us. The two of us have spent this week experiencing Italy for the first time while I went through orientation at John Cabot University, feeling like a freshman again.

Our flight left in the afternoon, last Monday, and the trip took close to 12 hours. It was my first time leaving North America, so it was also my first flight over water. Without human life beneath us as we passed over the ocean, the night brought complete darkness. I had almost given up on seeing anything from my window seat when I realized that without the light of the world's cities and towns over the ocean, every star was beginning to come out. As tired as I was, I spent hours staring out the window, watching the sky light up.

Our flight stopped in Paris for an hour, so we had just enough time to get through customs and grab a croissant. Not completely unsurprisingly, an airport croissant in France is 10 times better than any other croissant I've ever had. The flight from France to Rome also gave us complimentary croissants, though they were kind of cold and soft. The flight was short, though, and we landed in Rome around 9 a.m. (or 3 a.m., our time). The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the airport were the surrounding palm trees -- always a good sign when leaving an airport -- and that the sun was bright and warm. It became a little easier to be away from home.

That first day was spent exploring Rome and sitting in a hotel fighting jet lag. We walked through Trastevere and then crossed the Tiber at night, hoping to find some ruins. It turns out that ruins are scattered throughout the area, right in the middle of walkways and shops. We almost walked straight past Largo di Torre Argentina, where Caesar was stabbed, and ended up walking along the side of the Pantheon without realizing it until we had stepped directly in front of it. One of my favorite parts? Even though you're standing right in the middle of a city, the lights are not enough to blot out the stars. We could still see them scattered above the Pantheon and over the square.

The next morning was spent checking in at the school, getting my ID photo taken, and getting my new apartment keys. The apartment is on Viale di Trastevere, a main road about a 20 or 25 minute walk from each of the school's campuses. We took the scenic route through Trastevere's crisscrossing cobblestone streets, winding past churches and restaurants and little shops. By this point, it was the afternoon, so I figured I might find at least one roommate waiting, but I ended up arriving to an empty apartment. The first thing to catch my eye was the blue tile terrace that looks out on pine and palm trees and colorful homes and buildings cluttered over the hill across the street. The rest of the apartment is pretty spacious and open -- definitely enough to house seven girls, even though the seventh has not made an appearance yet. As the first in the apartment, I got first choice of the beds, so I grabbed one in the quad and started unpacking. I ended up meeting roommates as early as a few hours later to as late as the following night, until they'd finally assembled into a group of amazing and funny girls whom I can't wait to spend the next four months with.

Our orientation and exploring with my roommates and dad have brought me to various places throughout Rome, finding good food and ancient ruins, and I've still only seen pieces of it. I've had handmade pasta and seen the Roman Forum, learned how to actually say "bruschetta" and walked to the Colosseum. The city is huge, but small enough that the idea of walking never seems all that daunting. Classes start on Monday, my first being a figure drawing class and a class on writing about Rome, and even though I'm still a little jetlagged and missing home, I'm actually excited to make that 25 minute walk when the day comes.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.

Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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Life In The Mountains Of New Mexico

In 2013, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life with the Boy Scouts with the Philmont expedition


At least once in your lifetime, you've probably gone on a family camping trip. Maybe even a scouts camping trip.

You know the drill:

Campfire, tents, marshmallows, a guitar, bug spray, animals. And if things get too extreme, there's always the car to hide in during the middle of the night in case things get too cold or uncomfortable in the tent.

But what if I told you that you could go on a camping trip so challenging and extraordinary, that your own life may depend on wilderness skills.

The camping trip I went on in the Summer of 2013 was exactly that with the two week Philmont expedition in the middle of New Mexico. It had been about half a year since I turned 18 and earned the highest honor in the Boy Scouts with the Eagle Scout rank. But with this Philmont expedition opportunity, I knew that my full potential as a Boy Scout had yet been reached.

My Philmont Boy Scout group included my brother, members of our Scout Troop 149, and a few other Pennsylvania-based Boy Scouts. Our journey actually did not start in New Mexico, but in Denver, Colorado where our flight landed. The first adventure we embarked on was going down the Colorado Rapids. It was such an exciting raft trip through the rivers of Colorado and the rocky landscape surrounding us was fantastic.

I'll never forget being in the hotel the night before our arrival at the campsite and seeing the mountains in the distance. You could see the lightning strike in the distance and could count long it took for the sound of thunder to arrive, indicating how close the lightning actually was.

What was a typical day like during our never-ending hike through the mountains?

It consisted of hiking while carrying huge backpacks, carrying our concealed meals for every day of the week. There were no convenient stores or grocery markets nearby, we had to carry every meal with us during our 10-day journey and having them exposed to the air was not an option.

Any trace of smell, or smellables as we called them, had to be captured and contained in a bag which we had to tie up and suspend in the air as it dangled from a tree. That was important because it prevented bears or any form of wildlife from finding us while we slept overnight. It was not only a procedure we had to follow to save us, but also to save the animals because if they found the scent of a smellable item then they're lives were in jeopardy too. Philmont authorities may be forced to execute animals who discovered and were used to a new scent exposed by the Boy Scouts.

The only time we caught sight of a bear was when my brother spotted one in the distance while we hiked. We were extremely quiet in trying not to disturb it and could also see a cub with it.

I also recall getting out of my tent one morning and all-of-the-sudden a deer, a doe, and a fawn all sprinted in line across the woods, about thirty feet in front of me.

Our favorite animals in Philmont, however, were called Mini-bears. Too big to be considered squirrels, but too small to be bears, mini-bears were all over the hiking trail as an advanced type of squirrel. They were the most likely to find and eat our food, but we loved them nonetheless for being consistently around.

Even brushing your teeth was a chore. You couldn't slab on a typical amount of toothpaste and brush, you had to put a small dab of the toothpaste on the brush and had to swallow it all. No sinks or toilets to spit into, no trash cans. If you had to throw up, you better swallow that too because you'd be screwed.

Wanna drink some water? You gotta find a streaming river and fill it against the current, then put in a tab to dissolve in and make it clean. How about a travel mule? Just kidding we didn't take one, but it was an option.

We had to wear reusable clothes, there was no laundry, everything down to socks and underwear had to be conserved. The closest thing to cleaning them was hanging them to dry at our campsite. (All the clothes I wore in Philmont I use to this day, they're perfect for exercise.)

The height of the trip was the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the Philmont mountain range with Mount Baldy. It was such a long trek up the peak of the mountain that my group and other teams were singing songs like Taylor Swift's "Love Story" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." When we finally reached the top of Baldy, the view spoke for itself. We could see clouds near us and saw the lands below us like pictures on a map. It was simply breathtaking.

Despite the challenges and incredible circumstances we faced on a daily basis, Philmont was the greatest bonding experience I had ever been a part of. Our entire group came together fully understanding that we as a group were as strong as our weakest member and that the slowest person would lead the trail, no man was left behind (that guy was occasionally me.)

We went on plenty of adventures and met plenty of great people working throughout the mountains. Some were pretending to be living in the early 20th century, others were guiding us through challenges like pole climbing (THE WORST) and rock climbing.

The days were long but well spent, the weather was almost always nice, and the views down the trail were often breathtaking. When our trip finally ended we were glad to finally shower and get comfortable back in our own homes, but wouldn't have changed a thing about the experience.

Philmont was the greatest adventure of my life (so far) because it felt living through a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel with me playing the role of Bilbo Baggins. All that was missing were orcs, dragons, an epic battle and Enya music.

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