When I was eighteen I packed up my bags, hopped on a plane and headed over the giant pond and landed in Rome, Italy. This was no vacation for me, this was the biggest life changing event to happen to me by that point. I had decided a year earlier that I would be moving to Rome, Italy to attend the American University of Rome. I had only been to Rome once before in my life and did not speak a lick of Italian. I think I might have known how to say hello but that was it. This was going to be my biggest adventure yet and I was nervous and excited about moving to a different country.
As soon as I arrived in Rome I was greeted by blasting horns and taxi drivers throwing their hands up at each other, which at the time were completely foreign gestures to me. My senses were overwhelmed and I was put into a state of shock. The next thing I knew I was being herded into van at my University and being shipped off to my new home for the first semester. I was crammed in a van with five other strangers who I realized were to be my flatmates for the next year of my life.
We entered a tiny and cramped apartment with three bedrooms, two people per bedroom, and all of us sharing a tiny kitchen/living area. I was shocked by how small it was and later found out that my apartment was big compared to my friends’ apartments. After settling in and finding our rooms we sat in our kitchen getting to know each other. The four of us who were under twenty-one decided that after all of the welcome procedures of the University we wanted to go out on the town and drink. We decided that there was no better way to go out and see the city than to bar hop. We were in Italy and wanted to drink wine and party like the Italians. We decided to head to the University together. It was August and it was so hot and muggy I felt like I was melting. This heat doesn’t just last during the day but all night as well. The humidity seems to engulf you and makes everything you do just that much harder. We hopped on a crammed Italian bus which made this August heat even more miserable. It got even worst when we realized we were on the right bus but going in the opposite direction of the school. We did not realize this until the bus stopped at its final destination. We had gone an hour out of the way and the bus was in no hurry to turn around and take us back the right direction. This was our first introduction to the notorious Roman transportation. (I’ll talk about the Roman transportation in another article.)
After a long day at the school, getting all our starting packets and introductions done with, we went back to the house and got ready for the night. We headed down to the the Tiber river that runs through Rome and wandered along the open air bars and lounges that they opened up along the river during the late months of the Summer. I was in awe of everything, taking in all the quirks of the Italians with awe and amazement. We stopped and bought a bottle of wine while walking down the river, passing it around and taking long pulls. We were enjoying everything that we were coming in contact with. I was eighteen and knew very little of the world and here I was hanging out with people from countries I knew nothing about. My University had at the time has about 250 resident students and 52 different nations were represented in that student body. I was fascinated by every one of the new cultures I came into contact with. My life was already changing for the better and I had only been in Rome for a day.
Our Spanish roommate convinced all of us to sit down at a hookah lounge. Even though smoking hookah was not a traditional Roman activity, we enjoyed it nonetheless with all the other Italians. We were there for at least two hours smoking hookah and drinking wine. I truly felt that life could not get any better. I was in Rome, the Eternal city living a new traveler’s dream. The night continued with more wine and beer as we hopped around to different bars running into other new students and just taking it all in. I know it is a little cheesey but at the time everything was new to me and I was like a little kid going to Disneyland for the first time. Everything was new and perfect.
I woke up in the next morning in my new bed and walked out onto the balcony. Rome was already up as people went to the markets, were sitting outside smoking cigarettes and drinking cappuccini. The heat was already up into the nineties and even though I was sweating like a dog, I knew I had made the right decision to move to Rome and it finally hit me that I would be waking up in this eternal city for the next four years.