What It Means to be a Gladiator

Sitting next to the Ponte Vecchio!

Fresh from my trip to Italy, I would have to say Rome and Florence are shortly behind Barcelona on the list of my favorite cities visited during study abroad. Florence was just jaw-dropping. It was that type of antique beauty that you imagine when you think about Italy. From the Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio, it seemed like there was something beautiful on every corner. Not to mention, it was so great being able to see the Statue of David in person, which, by the way, all of the Italians love to make fun of (if you don’t know what I am talking about, you should Google it and get a laugh). One of my favorite parts of study abroad has been seeing artwork that I have learned about in school for so many years.

In contrast, Rome was totally and completely what you think about when you think of a metropolitan city. It’s fast-paced, has tons of people, not-so-clean streets, public transportation, and of course a lot more “city” dangers. Unfortunately, when I was there the Trevi Fountain was closed for cleaning and restoration, but I guess what made up for that was the historical part of Rome, which features the one and only Colosseum. I walked inside of it and it was like I became a part of the history that happened there.

And obviously the best part of Italy was the food. Pasta, pizza, garlic bread, whatever your perception of Italian food is, it is not valid unless you have been to Italy. I will never feel the same about any Italian food served outside of Italy again.

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The truest gladiator inside the Colosseum

Speaking of the Colosseum, I have definitely felt like a gladiator during this semester of study abroad in Spain. I have not been physically fighting, but mentally and emotionally it has been a feat to be conquered. I never thought I would be able to take five classes in Spanish and be academically passing, but I have done it. I never thought I would be able to do simple things in Spanish like have conversations, order at restaurants, or buy clothing from stores, but I have done it. I never thought I would be able to be almost 5,000 miles away from the support system of my family and friends, but I have done it and continue to do it. Study abroad brings out the true you, the you who in times of difficulty who will either fall or rise to the challenge.

Now that it is December, and I have only two more weeks left of my study abroad experience, the countdown to going home is definitely getting bittersweet. On one hand, I am entirely so ready to see my family and friends, especially since I did not get to see them for Thanksgiving, but on the other hand, study abroad is such a surreal experience. I never imagined I would be able to travel to so many different countries at one time or meet so many fascinating people. And although it has been an emotional roller coaster, I can’t quite fathom myself being back in the States yet. I am sure reverse culture shock is a thing and that it will be very weird to go back to my same habits from before I went abroad. I’ve heard time and time again that study abroad changes you, and why wouldn’t it? I have struggled plenty of times while abroad, especially as an African American, low-income student, but overall it has helped me learn so much more about myself. There is this quote that says you can never be the same after seeing the moon shine in a different place, and that is completely true. I will never regret my experience studying abroad and I am so grateful that I have gotten the opportunity. Hopefully I can go back to the States with a new perspective and a gladiator spirit.