Making the World My Classroom

One of the greatest facets of studying abroad in Europe is the ease of traveling to new countries. When deciding to document the most memorable trip I have taken I would have to honor Italy with that title. Even in November when most of Europe was colder and darker I enjoyed an amazing five-day trip to Venice and Rome.

Originally this trip was planned to be a short weekend trip to Venice to visit friends I had made earlier on in the semester who were now in different cities, one of which was Rome. While on the phone with her one day she compared the difference between Rome and other cities by saying “Other cities have museums, Rome is a museum”. During that conversation, I knew I had to extend my trip to Rome, as I knew visiting only one Italian city would not be enough. For students planning to study abroad in subsequent semesters, I would highly advise visiting those must-see places while you have the opportunity and leave study abroad with no regrets about not seeing all you could.

Venice was one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever been and is equally or more beautiful than expected. Seeing gondoliers maneuver tourists through tight canals, eat authentic carbonara for the first time and wonder how Pittsburgh has more bridges than Venice were some of my first day impressions. However, on our second day in Venice after a few days of local rain, the entire main island was swamped in two-foot flood water that forced everyone to use elevated platforms to peruse the city. This setup reminded me that some of the most beautiful places in the world may not be accessible in 5,10, 25 years and how important it is to prioritize certain locations now.

The second, more spontaneous trip from Venice to Rome commenced with a 7-hour bus ride which is certainly bearable with water bottles and downloadable Netflix shows. Once in Rome, the most challenging aspect became deciding which of Rome’s numerous famous sites would command the most attention. My favorite sites included the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Alter of the Fatherland. Though they were incredibly touristy sites being able to wander down smaller streets and discover authentic food was a nice counterbalance. I have found that when traveling to new cities mixing visiting the popular tourist sites with the areas where locals live gives me more knowledge about the area.

This was one of the most formative trips for me, even more than switching countries as assigned because I took ownership of a once in a lifetime experience. While on the seven-hour bus ride from Venice to Rome I thought of how while I had planned for a trip to Venice, the two-foot floodwaters in Venice and surprise trip extension to Rome had been completely spontaneous. I do not anticipate a time in my life where I will be as spontaneous, minimally tied down or have fewer responsibilities than as a 21-year-old study abroad student and I want to live this life to the fullest. Developing friendships in your program or cities that you study and being able to have them show you the authentic city or have a place to stay is invaluable.