When I registered for classes this semester, I arranged my schedule so that I don’t have classes on Thursdays. John Cabot doesn’t offer any classes on Fridays, so I have three-day school weeks here. Taxing, I know. The grand plan behind the three-day week was, of course, the four-day weekend.
I had imagined that I would be jetting off to exotic places like Cairo on Wednesday nights and returning, satisfied with my adventures, on Sunday evenings. Cairo is off the list for more reasons than one, but so are the four-day trips. Four days and four nights of traveling every week is simply too expensive. Even a three-day trip is significantly more expensive than a two day, two-night excursion. Most of my travel this semester is going to occur between Friday and Sunday.
Although my Thursdays are no longer travel days, they are quickly becoming fun days to wander and explore. Since most of my friends are still in classes, I do most of my wandering and exploring on my own.
Yesterday afternoon, I was walking near Piazza Navona. I didn’t have any plans for the day, so I decided to check out Sant’Agnese in Agone, the large church that anchors the piazza. Holy baroque! From the outside, the church appears to be as long down the nave as it is wide across the piazza. From the inside, visitors can marvel at Rainaldi’s skillful optical illusion – the church is only as deep as its dome is wide. After I had recovered from the in-your-face Baroque style (angels and scrolls and flowers and gold all over the place), I did a double take. “Where’s the rest of the church?” I thought. I took my time meandering through the basilica. Because I was alone, I took a roundabout, winding way home without worrying about making a companion late or annoyed.
The weather was lovely yesterday – I didn’t even wear a coat. When I got back to the apartment, I plopped down on the couch and started reading a book for my senior thesis. I didn’t leave the apartment again yesterday, partially because I was enjoying my book so much and partially because I just didn’t feel like it.
I’ve reached a point here where I have finally realized that I don’t need to do everything that people tell me I “should” do. I think there is a certain pressure that comes with studying abroad, a pressure to maximize the time we have here. There’s this idea that since we’re only abroad for four months, we have to do something special or eat something amazing or see something incredible every single day. That kind of odd anxiety to be “on” and to have these sort of monumental, life-changing experiences on a daily basis can be exhausting if it isn’t handled properly. I’m not going to apologize for taking a break every once in awhile.
For the first few weeks of my time here, I had this weird, creeping sense of guilt that I hadn’t seen the Coliseum. I finally saw it from a distance when my on-site Art History class met at the Roman Forum on Tuesday. I’m not in any rush to see it. It’s been around for two thousand years, and I’d bet money that it’ll there in a few weeks when I finally get around to going inside. Study abroad is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m trying to pace myself. I don’t need to see all of the major monuments in a few days. I have plenty of time.
This weekend, most of my friends are skiing and skydiving in the Swiss Alps. At a minimum, they are each spending EUR 600 on the three-day trip. I’ve skied exactly once in my life. Over Christmas break, I was convinced that I was going to end up going on this trip to Switzerland just because everyone else was going to go. I had even packed spandex and a warm hat, just in case. But deep down, I really didn’t want to go. Not even a little. I didn’t want to spend that much money, I didn’t want to be in the cold and I didn’t want to tear my ACL and spend the next three months hobbling around Europe on crutches. When the time came to make the decision to ski or not to ski, I took a pass. (Not a ski pass, a real pass.) They’ll have a great time, but I couldn’t be happier that I’m staying in Rome this weekend.
I dealt with the same peer pressure-loaded situation in regards to Carnevale, the gigantic Mardi Gras-style street party in Venice at the end of February and beginning of March. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big Venice person. At Carnevale time, prices in Venice skyrocket. I gave Venice another shot last weekend and I still didn’t like it, so I cancelled my plans to go to back for Carnevale. I know most of my friends will go and rave about it, and I know that everyone says Carnevale is a “must” for spring study abroad, but I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilty about my decision to spend my money and time elsewhere.
Yesterday was a beautiful day. I chose to stay in and read, and I’m ok with that decision. Maybe I should have gone outside and enjoyed the weather some more, but I’m learning that I don’t always have to should.