When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to sign up to do an Italian exchange through my school. I was never keen on doing it, but my parents thought it would be a great idea, so I signed up.
The day we were leaving I was an absolute mess. I was crying more than I do on visiting day at camp. My family was going to Cabo without me and that made me pissed. Everyone tried to hype up going to Italy and I wasn’t having it. In retrospect, not going to Cabo was okay and I had a blast in Italy. I also was leaving a dying dog at home. I don’t know what I would have done if Riley died while I was away.
When we got to the school to board the bus that was taking us to Philly (even thought there was a direct flight to Rome from EWR which is 30 minutes away) the parents took pictures of all of the happy, smiling kids who were ready to embark on an adventure. But when you look at the pictures, there is one kid who looks like that day is the worst day ever. Yep, that was me. I am crying and look absolutely miserable. So I loaded myself up with Dramamine, pepto and as I got on the plane a Xanax, and I was ready to go.
I had one of my really good friends on the trip, and that was good for me. Having Monica there was nice because we have been friends since elementary school, but it wasn’t so nice when we got into a huge fight at the mall and I threatened to be on the next flight back to America. Ciao Italia, it’s been real!
Despite my announcement that I wanted to go home, I stayed. I made up with Monica and I had gained a new friend. Mariana and I hated each other for something that happened in 8th grade, but we became so close on this trip. When we went back to school with inside jokes, everyone was shocked.
During my two-week stay in Latina, I went to Florence and Rome. In Florence, we took a walking tour, which no one actually paid attention too. We went to the Duomo and climbed all the way up to the top. After climbing 463 steps, the view was amazing. Florence from all the way up there was breathtaking. The 463 steps to go back to civilization were scary.
Rome was an easier destination for us to reach, and we went there many times. On one of our trips there, we went to the Spanish Steps and to the Trevi Fountain. I am not ashamed to say that while I was there Mariana and I played “What Dreams are Made of” and maybe I secretly pretended to be Lizzie McGuire too.
Towards the end of our trip, we went to the Vatican. I know I was supposed to be impressed by it, and we were there at such an important time in history, but I thought it was so boring. Call me crazy, but just like McKayla Maroney, I was not impressed. I understand that Italy is all about the churches and artwork, and the Vatican is supposed to be superb, but after seeing church, after church, after church, this Jewish girl was jaded and ready to go to temple. Despite my disappointment, I’ll admit that the artwork was spectacular and that it was amazing to be in the Sistine Chapel and secretly take pictures on my iPhone.
There were some activities that we did that I could live without. We went to a “chocolate factory” one day. This wasn’t a factory at all. It was practically a hut with no heat in the middle of February. They showed us a video that no one understood and then we bought chocolate. I’m all for buying chocolate, but the movie was so unnecessary. We also spent one lovely, cold, rainy day at an agricultural high school, I kid you not. We went into a room where they make cheese and ate lunch. What is the point of that?
In addition, we also had to go to school with the Italian students, but let me tell you; their school had me wishing I was sitting in a classroom in Livingston. The students are in school until around 1. They have a break for a snack, and we walked around during this. But the classrooms had metal bars covering the windows, so I knew there was no escaping from this fine institution. There was no heat, and you had to bring tissues to the bathroom because the school did not have toilet paper. While the Italians were learning, the Americans were playing games on their phones and napping.
The only way to describe this trip is life changing. This trip allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. I hung out with people I didn’t hang out with at home and I had a lot of fun with them, even that time that we all took at nap at Flaminia’s house. I tried new things in Italy and came back to New Jersey more independent that I was just two weeks prior.
Before I went on the trip, I was so upset to be going on it. I should have really appreciated that my parents were sending my on a great trip. As almost a year has gone by since this whole experience started, I have been thinking a lot about it. I am so grateful that I was able to go. I had so much fun on the trip, and I would do anything to go back again.
And yes, if you are wondering, the pasta, bread, wine, and gelato in Italy are amazing!