Discover the Old World – Discover Myself in a New World


March 24, 2020

written by Catherine gardiner, A Saint Mary's College of maryland STUDENT WHO STUDIED ON THE ARCADIA Rome PROGRAM IN THE SPRING OF 2020

My experience with Arcadia's Study Abroad Program in Rome Spring 2020, didn't go as expected. Despite the world-altering pandemic that was taking hold, and unleashing its massive grip on all Italy and unfortunately had to be sent home early. During my short time in Italy, I had a unique opportunity to explore some fantastic parts of the country. Although I could have chosen Paris, London, or many other destinations to study abroad, I was drawn to Rome, Italy, in middle school and high school I learned about ancient Mediterranean civilizations, and I found the subject fascinating. Since then, I've always wanted to visit places like Italy.

I encountered several obstacles during my brief time in Rome. One hurdle was the language barrier. Since I didn't have any formal Italian language skills, I struggled right from the start. However, I was excited to immerse myself in a new culture while embracing the challenge of a new language. I also experienced a great deal of homesickness. I didn't realize how much I would miss my friends, family, and everything familiar from home. By the second week I found myself in a runt, had a hard time connecting with people and I began to isolate myself. During this awkward moment, I wanted to go home, but instead, I decided to make the best of the situation. I've always wanted to go to Italy, and I didn't want to waste this opportunity. So I used the resources available to me to help me make adjustments and get acclimated to my new surroundings. I spoke with the helpful Arcadia staff and got suggestions on what to do and where to visit in Italy. I also got connected to students from my home school studying in Perugia. Through it all, I learned a great deal about myself, become more confident and independent than I could have imagined. I even went on a weekend trip to Florence, Venice, and Verona on my own, I never would've imagined myself doing something like that, but I'm so glad I did. During the few weeks we were in Rome, I enjoyed meeting with my Italian host family once a week as they opened their home to me. I also enjoyed my classes like Modern Life and Sketching in Rome as we explored the city.

My semester was cut short, just six weeks into the semester, we were all sent home to finish our semester on-line. I quickly realized the world I came back to was forever changed. New experiences from quarantines, social distancing, and on-line classes rapidly become the new normal. Although disappointed in what could have been, I am grateful for the opportunity to discover myself like never before. I am more confident in myself that I can face any challenge. I hope to return to Rome one day soon to finish what I started, and I do so with the confidence and passion for learning more about who I am and who I will become.