The Very First Day

Looking out the window over the green countryside, I actually have to remind myself that I’m flying over Italy and not northwest New Jersey. The little houses are becoming bigger and bigger dots from underneath us, and it’s becoming more obvious as the seconds pass that we are not in the States anymore, not even close. Seeing Italy is a lot like seeing a movie star in person– they look different when they’re not on a screen, and it’s hard to imagine that any of it is even real.

Being here in itself doesn’t even feel real. Out of all of my trips, I have never been anywhere for three and a half months, making it longer than a vacation, less than living quarters. It’s hard to imagine being anywhere for such a long time; having to buy groceries, go to the gym, watch television. Along with this, I don’t feel like a vacationer. I feel like I am a part of a whole nother animal, a pack of students that seem to mob this city, a city that has more tourists annually than it has citizens.

When we arrive at our apartment, close enough to the Duomo I could spit on it, I see many families toting their one suitcase a person as I try to lug my two giant ones and a black backpack up the two flights of stairs as our cab driver speeds away. There is no elevator, but even though I have been traveling for about 13 hours, I am full of energy and speed.

Thankfully, our landlord, Francesco, opens the door just in the knick of time and and finagles the door with the gold skeleton-looking key he totes. He opens the double doors and my roommate and I see the looming hallway, and then we open our room to see two twin beds with headboards, two giant closets, our own private bathroom, and a great garden window that overlooks the Duomo. I thought that was basically all of the apartment, but when we walk around, we see the place is huge- huge even for five girls. By no means is the place catagorized as nice by American standards, but for once, the cracks in the walls and the lopsided chandeliers and old curtains seem romantic, not dingy. When we see many of the other apartments, though, we see that we really lucked out.

This city feels impossible to navigate, making something overwhelming feel that much more. Unlike many other big cities, nothing is organized into neat little squares, and to an ignorant American, all of these buildings look the same to me. I constantly have a map under my nose yet it seems to take me nowhere.

Since we haven’t made it to the market yet, it’s for the best that our school has paid for a dinner at Acqua al 2, where our group of about 20 is served five different kinds of pasta, a chicken salad, and four desserts each. By 9, the place is packed and people are laughing and swigging glasses everywhere, although most people in our group can barely hold their heads up over their wine glasses. I fall asleep that night to the light of the Duomo of the chatter of tourists roaming the streets in a matter of seconds.


There has rarely been a summer where, at this point in time, I didn’t feel the same as I do now. Midway through, I’m a little bored and antsy, I’m sick of working and being cooped up in my house and I am ready to move on out and go back to the water and go to class and live with my best friends. I go on Facebook and talk to my friends and I know that I’m not alone in this– most feel the same and are ready to go back to the place that we now consider home, even if it is in a dorm room. Only this time, I won’t be returning.

On August 28, instead of heading back to the Jersey Shore, I’ll be getting on a plane to Italy with a bunch of people I don’t know, only a few of which I have ever spoken with, and I will be living with them for the next four months. I will be on another continent with not one person I really know, and I can count the ones on one hand that can speak English. I will not see my best friends, my mother, my father, my cat. Even a simple phone call will be a project.

From this perspective, I couldn’t be more nervous. It makes me so scared sometimes that I have trouble making the preparations, trouble talking about it, trouble leaving my house.

On another hand, it makes me kind of sad. I know that I planned this. I know that I made the arrangements. I have high hopes for what I will find, and hope that it is what I am looking for. But even still, I am jealous of those who will be returning to my home the first week of September, who will jump in the ocean in their clothes late at night, who will stumble into class the next morning, who will drink cheap beers at happy hour at Jack’s and will sit in their rented king beds and do homework with their own best friends. It saddens me that even upon my return, I will only share a short four months more of this life before college will throw me out of its nest and shove me into the real world (because, as God knows, I won’t go willingly).

However, there is one more perspective that exists here. When I get really bored (as I am most days here) I think of what I could be doing in Florence right now, at this moment. I think of how newfound friends will invite me for a walk alongside the river, how we will order beautiful meals in Italian, how we will explore the Tuscan countryside on a whim. I think of the cheap planes we will take, of the dreamlike Amalfi Coast, of Oktoberfest, Sicily, Naples, Rome, of my already planned trip to visit my family in Bergen, Norway. I like to consider the prospect of feeling alive again and feeling like I am doing something important, instead of rotting away in the same room I slept in when I was fourteen years old and had braces.

When I signed up for this, I was scared then, too. But when I get an idea in my head, it doesn’t just fade away. I have to finish what I started. I have to do it all.

All it takes is twenty seconds of courage, and good will come. 


Soon, there will be pictures of me on these pages, instead of photos of Italy I find on the Internet.