One of my closest friends from home came to visit me in Rome this past weekend. Not only was it wonderful to re-experience a comforting piece of my life back home, but it was also incredible to show her what my life is like her, and to watch her experience Rome for the first time. It’s only been around four months since I arrived, by my initial impressions of the city seem so distant now. I remember my first impressions of the city center were distorted by the fact that it was summer, and I was sweating through my clothing, and now it’s cold enough to snow.
Watching my friend curiously ask about the history of Rome’s monuments was something that I needed. Walking by the Roman forum most days for school, I often become jaded to the fact that I am in one of the most historical areas of the world. In the rhythm of everyday life, it’s easy to lose sight of what is before your very eyes.
While taking my friend through the Eternal city, I realized how important my role was in her experience. Not only did I live here, but I was her connection to all of these historical sights: the way I presented them would greatly impact her perception of them forever.
Here are the tips I gleaned for hosting someone in your abroad city:
1. Try something new: It was an awesome experience to try things I had never tried before with my friend. For this reason, I held off going to certain sights, like the Spanish Steps and the Vatican, until she got there, so we could experience them together. I’m glad I did this, because it became a great memory for both of us, learning this new monument at the same time, and kept things lively despite the fact that I had seen most of these sights before.
2. Try a bite of everything: My friend and I now refer to our weekend the “Roman Food Tour.” It was a great experience incorporating food into our journeys together, trying small tastes of foods throughout the city. I showed her a lot of my favorite places, and we also gleaned a lot of recommendations from international friends for restaurants to try. It was great to combine my Roman experience and to also create a new one together.
3. Try to get out: One day, my friend and I left the city to venture to a small village, searching for relatives of my friend’s grandmother. Being in an isolated village where absolutely nobody spoke English, and the train travel was inconsistent, and the street signs may have well have been in hieroglyphics…it was all a very stressful experience, but it was completely worth it when we were embraced and kissed by distant relatives and treated to a meal. Getting out of the city and doing an excursion together is a great way to break up the trip, and I found that through all the stressors of our day, it made us closer.
4. Try to be a local: I’ve been here for four months and I’m still not too shy to ask for recommendations. What is your favorite restaurant, church, monument, museum, bar? My friend and I interviewed countless locals and in return, got a detailed map of the city and made it to many places we hadn’t gone to otherwise.
5. Try and try and try: I had to take a step back during the trip and realize it was a break from my everyday life. My friend is only in Rome once, and that experience is removed from my living and schoolwork here. I did my best to not worry about money, or assignments, and just let loose as if I were a vacationer in Rome and not a study abroad student. Once I let go of the day-to-day stress, our trip became much more free and like a vacation for both of us.
This week I will be experiencing my first holiday away from home. I will be humbly trying to recreate some of my favorite Thanksgiving favorites in my tiny Italian kitchen, but I might just have to hop down the street for a pizza instead.