All posts by amillerknaack

growing pains

For some home is a place of comfort and safety, where laziness rolls in and we can watch Netflix all day. But at the same time it can also be a place of earth shattering brokenness. It can be a place where we finally acknowledge our pain because the silence is so deafening. For some home is the place where we are reminded that we are broken – where we are beckoned to listen to our demons.

As a birthday approaches what’s the natural thing to do – reflect on the year. As I meet new people, I’ve been reflecting on the year, relationships, brokenness, and healing. If I looked at myself a year ago I was carefree, extroverted, and passionate. I didn’t struggle to meet new people, had just quit school to return home for some soul searching, and was returning to the church I grew up in. I’d had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something big was going to happen, but what I didn’t know was that a year later I’d be reflecting on the season from hell. Dealing with your demons is not fun. It makes you stare yourself in the face and look at all your insecurities and try to convince yourself that you are worthy of being loved.

A friend of mine once said, “Life sucks and it’s probably going to be difficult and painful more than it’s going to be easy and fun. As soon as we can accept that we can actually live more fully in our pain and enjoy life even more.” Isn’t it funny how let down expectations lead to more pain than actually being let down. Let me explain. If you don’t get into a certain college the pain that you feel isn’t solely from the rejection it’s from thinking that you’ll never live that life, never meet those people, never have that job, etc. What we lose is control and sight of the future. It seems a lot of times we put a stamp on our dreams and present them to God and say, “Hey, I like this plan. I think this is what’s supposed to happen. Please make it happen. Amen.” Sometimes we even say “we’ll do whatever it takes” or “I promise I’ll go wherever you call” (as long as it’s part of my plan too, right?).

The past year has encouraged me to look a little closer at my story and discover some of my demons. The funny thing is as I’ve sought out wisdom in various books and from close friends I realized I’m not alone. In fact, most of the thoughts and feelings I’ve been trying to hide for years are actually universal. We all face rejection, we all have times of not being included, we all face feelings of unworthiness and insecurity, and we all feel lonely. The shame we feel from these things is meant to isolate us and perpetuate our loneliness.

I was having a conversation the other night talking about these things and about how to fix it and what I’ve been trying to do to end the cycle. I started explaining how I’ve been trying to ask for help and be vulnerable with other people and not just recite a story like we have no emotional attachment to it and pretend it doesn’t affect us. Not just that, but being vulnerable in a way that invites other people to do the same. I’m saying these things and let me tell you – I am no good at any of them. I’ve had a lot of failures in this area. There’s been many times where I’m in the moment and feeling awesome. Then I walk away and realize I just tried to fix that person and make the problem go away instead of being with them in it. The reason I’m saying these things is because we are all a work in progress.

After I had dumped all these things on someone recently they asked me one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer. As you know we all have something to improve on and they had just acknowledged, “I could probably work on that too.” However, the next question was the stumper. “What’s given you the most success in being vulnerable? What are some tips that you could give?” Whoa. These days we talk about being vulnerable and how to do it all the time in our culture. But what actually works? What are the tangible things that we can say or do that provoke authenticity and true emotion? The answer for me. Knowing yourself. In order to relate to other people, you have to know your triggers. You have to know what in your story may get triggered when hearing someone else’s story – you have to know your “go to”. By this I mean what do you do to separate yourself. Mine is saying, “It’s ok though. I’m fine.” I get done telling a story about an extreme amount of pain in my life and undo everything by saying it’s ok. That doesn’t invite anyone to be with me in that story and it doesn’t invite healing. Sure, some people may know you better than that and push you, but why put yourself in a position to feel more unknown and more rejection if you don’t have to?

Growing up is hard and as I become more of an adult I’m realizing that I can’t just shove things under the rug anymore. If I truly want to grow up I have to work on becoming the healthiest version of myself. I’m not saying I’ll ever actually get there, because the finish line never really exists in these things – but we can always work to get there. I know if I didn’t go through this year I’d be sitting pretty and looking at life with a fairy tale lens wondering why none of my reality was like that. I know if I don’t face my demons and get to know myself and my story I’ll end every friendship, romantic relationship, and unfulfilling job wondering what is wrong with everyone else. What I won’t acknowledge is my own brokenness and where “my stuff” got in the way. That’s what this year has shown me. Growth is hard and feelings are hard, but they make us better. After all it’s not really about what you do in this world, it’s about who you are and being who you were created to be.

lost & found.

Do you remember that elated feeling and sense of relief that you get when you find your missing phone? Or when you were a little younger and your absolute favorite stuffed animal had been misplaced, run over, or generally not where it needed to be – at your side at all times? Maybe even that friend you thought you’d ruined a relationship with and then they give you that smile and they walk up to you and it’s a mix of disbelief and sheer joy? What about the time you got lost in a grocery store and couldn’t find your parent – searching the aisles you began turning your head so quickly it was basically on a swivel and the tears started welling up in your eyes and a feeling of loss and a dying hope you’d be found began? I never really thought much about it until I felt lost again. I had lost a lot of joy and the constant panic had set in.

<<You are beautifully and wonderfully made.>>

Those are the words ringing in my ear. I am a masterpiece, a valued person and created to be perfect as I am. My Father in heaven had found me and he was overjoyed. What I didn’t know was in my disobedience, lack of love, selfishness, pride, and anger He had stayed with me. In reality I had just stepped back long enough from the mess I had created to realize the One who loved me was always by my side. My bobble head, searching for a sign of where He had gone or where I should go next was me being too stubborn to see Him all around me. I had been so determined to find Him in the cereal aisle when He was also in the pasta aisle and the flowers and the deli section.

Where had I missed Him? How had I missed Him?

I was too busy to see that His hand is in everything and works everything for good wherever and whatever I do. I was searching in all the wrong places when really He was searching for me. I was the one being found. As I was walking from aisle to aisle He was following, running after me. When you were a kid in the grocery store who wandered away first? Who didn’t follow the leader? I know I sure didn’t. I took my two feet, took charge, and walked away assuming I was leading this expedition.

But who is leading your life? Is it you? Is it your parents, significant other, school? I know I was making a royal mess of my life when I was trying to run it all myself. It was a lot of responsibility and a lot of focusing on repercussions, and forgetting what grace was.

<< And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. >>

I once was lost, but now I’m found.

When I realized who was really leading my expedition and how poorly it was working out for me I took a step back, opened the death grip I’d had, threw my hands up and said, “FINE.” It wasn’t graceful or fun or easy or any of the perfect stories anyone had told me about surrendering everything. It’s still not easy and I get to wake up every day choosing who is going to lead the charge for the next 24 hours (and sometimes it only lasts 24 seconds).

Do you remember what it was like to be found in the grocery store – knowing you weren’t abandoned or responsible for finding your way home again? Do you remember the deep breath you took in relief and the joy you felt when you set eyes on them or heard their voice calling your name? That’s what it feels like to me when I take a step back and speak the name Jesus under my breath. Then I’m not lost, I’m found – the relief washes over me and I can breath steadily again.

But, It’s not a one and done. I still get lost. But now I know what it’s like to let myself be found.

rewind.

I’ve been home almost two weeks. The buzz questions haven’t gotten overwhelming yet, but that may be because I’ve been hiding in my room trying to make up for lost down time this semester. I may be an extrovert, but I think I found my hidden introvert.

Anyway, my favorite (NOT) questions to be asked are:

1) Did you like Italy? (Isn’t that a loaded question)

2) What was your favorite part? – and when I can’t answer that…

3) Favorite place?

4) And last but certainly not least: What was your least favorite part?

Now that I’ve been home for a bit I’ve had time to think and I may actually be able to share a few things, so keep reading if you like answers to open-ended questions. (Sorry for going out of order, but it’s for literary purposes.)

What was your least favorite part?

I was really really sick on and off for about eight weeks while I was in Rome.. I recently found out my “disease” was most likely mono, but during the time I just thought I was dying. It actually became a joke over our spring break trip as I hacked my lungs out of my body, woke everyone up in the middle of the night, and could no longer breath normally (not to mention the fire breathing dragon who had an amazing lung capacity that was lodged in my throat). Spring Break was no less magical, but it definitely helped me learn what perseverance was. Besides feeling like death (because that puts anyone in a damper) my least favorite part was the time change. Do you know how difficult it is to talk to your friends when they are on a 7-hour time difference? Well I’ll tell you, it’s really hard. I think I Skyped people a grand total of five times over the five months I was abroad.

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me while dying

What was your favorite part?

There are so many options and I don’t really think I can choose a single favorite, because that would be so unfair to all the other incredible things, so I’ll highlight a few.

1. The views – they were completely breathtaking – not just in Italy but every city I went to. It’s a whole lot different than the good ole’ US of A, but that’s probably why I loved it. It was more intricate; the buildings were stable, the designs mesmerizing, and always conveniently located by a river. I made a point of climbing a mountain everywhere I went, and it definitely paid off.

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Firenze (Duomo)
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Copenhagen (The Round Tower)
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(piazza del popolo)
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Budapest

2. The Food – If I were actually going to choose a favorite this would probably be it. Pizza and pasta are my life, so this was my food heaven. It was actually acceptable for me to eat one of those every day at multiple meals if I so chose. Also the food in Budapest and Greece. So good + cheap. If you ever find yourself in these regions try Goulash in Budapest and Souvlaki in Greece.

meal brought to you by friend and company
meal brought to you by friend and company

3. The Coffee – One of the best things by far was that you paid no more than a euro twenty (roughly $1.50) for a cappuccino. It’s also some of the best coffee you’ll ever have. (Also notice I said cappuccino and not coffee, because if you order coffee you are about to get a shot of the strongest espresso of your life. Not the most pleasant sensation, unless you’re into that sort of the thing then by all means.)

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a typical breakfast

4. Pastries – these may seem like they should go in the food category but that’s not true because in reality they actually fit in the category of “Piece of Heaven”. Sadly I found the best pastry shop only two weeks before the end of the semester. 30 cents for donuts, croissants, and either of the previous two stuffed with your choice of filling. Also, pastries are breakfast in Italy, so don’t be a hater when you see someone eating a cookie for breakfast because maybe they’re from Italy… or they just like cookies.

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fritelle (stuffed donuts – native to Venice)

5. Oh yeah and gelato gets its own category too. So….. Gelato.

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What was your favorite place?

Can I answer with a question? Can I refuse to answer that question? – kidding.

Everywhere I went was different, and asking me to choose a favorite is like asking me to evaluate every culture I went to and pick the best. I’ll give a few highlights ranging from places within Rome and some cool cities.

1. Top of the typewriter – no it’s not food. Its Il Vittoriano the place of the tomb of the unknown soldier, the eternal flame. It’s a building dedicated to the first kind of Rome and if you take the elevator to the top you’ll get the most magnificent 360 degree view.

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The Typewriter
just a sneak peek of the view
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

2. Barnum Café – it was a café in Camp Di Fiori and it reminded me of Nashville.

3. Sicily – the food is filled with more vegetables and meat, there are beaches everywhere, and the people I went with made the trip.

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Cefalu, Sicily

4. Copenhagen – everyone was SO nice. The city is beautiful and it’s a big city feel without the big city attitude.

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Nyhavn

Did I like Italy?

No, I hated it. That’s actually not true at all – I loved Italy, and almost everything about it. There were obviously its ups and downs, but going to Italy was the best decision I’ve made so far in my life (aside from my newly dyed purple and pink hair). But really, sometimes it got tough to be so far from home, feeling like I’d been forgotten by people at school or generally just missing out on their lives, wanting to explore but being so ill I could do nothing but lay in bed. Rome is a gem and lots of people know it. It’s a city full of history, mystery, and some interesting people. The good far outweighed the bad and despite the hard things I came across I always learned something from them (cheesy I know, but oh so true).

So yes, in short (because that’s usually why people ask this question) I did indeed enjoy Italy.

today.

A day in the life. Here lies some daily occurrences and some spontaneous adventures, all taking place in one afternoon.

1. breakfast for lunch

2. vegan French Toast is real + good

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3. putting off homework to wander

4. trying a new gelato shop

5. gelato

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6. gelato covered in chocolate

7. i held a conversation in half Italian half English

8. working together and beyond language barriers

9. free wifi (for snapchat)

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10. only getting blurry pictures of our delectable gelato

11. blurry pictures being the best ones

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12. your friend sticking your phone in gelato while trying to take the perfect picture

13. gelato dripping everywhere

14. saving some for later

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15. walking around on a warm day

16. not getting hit by Italian drivers

17. getting weird looks while we sloppily eat gelato and not caring because the gelato and friendship are all that matter

18. two Italians walking past us and being sad with us because our gelato is dripping on the ground instead of into our mouths

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19. walking into Campo di Fiori specifically to get more dessert

20. finding a fountain in Campo di Fiori to wash our gelato covered hands in

21. jamming with street musicians

22. showing up late to class because we took a detour for brunch, gelato covered in chocolate, jamming with musicians, and food

10 days.

10 days + 7 flights + 6 students + 5 cities + 4 countries

This was by far one of the best weeks of my life. Maybe the travel bug has bitten me or maybe I’m a little more adventurous than the rest, but I hope this adventure never ends. It takes a certain type of person to study abroad and I think that’s why it was so easy to make friends here, we share so many similar qualities (minus the gender 7:1 girl to guy ratio). We have unsettled spirits, are curious, love new cultures, and we all got on the plane.

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One of the lessons I’ve learned that will stick with me for a long while is that it’s not really important where you are as long as you have good people sharing the memories with you.

Places are just places without people to experience them with.

Friendships abroad are unique, different than at school or wherever home is for you. They are fast to form, driven by adventure, non-judgmental, and well worth a decent goodbye at the end of the semester filled with what I assume will be many tears – friends for a lifetime.

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fam.

Over spring break I spent ten days with some pretty crazy but pretty wonderful people. I don’t know how but we ended up in the coldest places for the week. (And by I don’t know I mean I take full responsibility because I was the one of the people that planned the trip.) 1. Stockholm, Sweden. 2. Copenhagen, Denmark. 3. Budapest, Hungary. 4+5. Athens + Crete, Greece. We didn’t hit the cities at the right time, but when you are given a spring break, do what you have to in order to see as many new things as you can.

Surprise. None of the cities were what I was expecting. What I’ve learned is that having expectations is overrated, either way you’ll be disappointed. If it’s what you expected then it’s not new enough. If it’s not what you expected it can take you off guard. Go in with no expectations and you’ll never be disappointed – everything will just be new and different.

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ancient meets new.

Overstimulation. That’s probably the best word I can use to describe the experience. If I hadn’t brought my camera I don’t think I would remember anything. A week felt like a month and by the end of the trip I didn’t know what day it was or how long it had been since we left Rome.

The one thing I always knew was that I was not alone. When I was exhausted, hungry, irritated, lost, or ecstatic I knew I had people with me. I shared all those moments with people who understood me. We may have snapped at each other sometimes or shared moments of complete awe and admiration, but we arrived on the other side together. We may not have all had the same perspective, but to an extent we understand this experience like no one else will.

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sunny snow capped mountains

We are about to split ways in roughly two weeks. I don’t even want to count the days because I know they are too few. When we go home everyone will ask us the same questions: how was it? favorite place? favorite food? least favorite place? I know I will spend hours explaining the same thing and I’m ok with that because it’ll give me a moment to reflect and live in the nostalgia for a bit, but I also know that they won’t be able to fully understand what I’ve seen and experienced. It’s something I want to share, but don’t know if I can. I am the same person as when I left, but I’ve also changed – I’ve become more of who I am, more comfortable in my own skin. Sure I’ve done some dumb things, but I also think I’ve made some great steps forward in being a human being. I’m living in imperfection and recognizing where my identity comes from – and it’s not anything of this world.

You don’t have to go to a different country to learn these things. Like I said, it’s not really about the places. Sure it’s cool to go to Sweden and Greece, but without meeting people and making new connections what’s the point. People will always make the places otherwise you’re gonna walk through life looking at a lot of pretty buildings and that’s about it.

Go somewhere new.

It may be in your town or city of 1000 or 100 thousand people, but go somewhere you’ve never been. Do something that scares you and do something you’ve never done before. It could be baking a cake! Or it could be going skydiving or going to Europe, but do something. Live a little – or a lot. You will always have regrets in life, but don’t let it be never doing.

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“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

 

prep time.

I don’t think I gave myself a proper amount of time to mentally prepare because of how fast everything happened. The entire process was complete in less than three weeks from the time I did research to when I registered for my classes. I showed up in Rome, and my routine started again. Orientation. Make friends. Class. Eat gelato. Find a good coffee shop. Study. Procrastinate. Find better food. The tasks piled up as they always did. The lists began to overflow with items of goals – future and already completed.

or a class on how to make gelato
but who said you can’t break routine every so often with a gelato workshop.
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or maybe a picnic on the tiber river with homemade apple pie, mimosas, and some good people.

This past Sunday I stopped. My roommate and I took a walk to a lookout point and stood there for over an hour. That may not seem like a lot, but when you feel like each minute you are getting closer to the end of the best experience of your life you try to make everything count – to a point where things become calculating and more about mathematical equations figuring out what will lead to the most fulfillment than actually enjoying where you are. This thought process has led me to some regrets, missed sleep, and overly critical attitude. (Can you say serious case of fear of missing out – and I will openly admit that)? This weekend I realized that plans will change and as adaptable and independent as I am I can’t rely on other people to make me happy.

I am a relationship-oriented person, so typically those things make me the happiest. In Nashville I would rather sit down and have coffee with someone for 40 min than go to a party for three hours surrounded by 90 of my closest friends. Genuine. That’s what I crave, so why should that change in Italy? As fun as it’s been to go out with big groups of people and spend my days and evenings joking around and living wild and young and free that’s not where I’ve found the most joy. Some of my favorite memories to date are walks and talks just me and a friend. It’s where I’ve not only seen the most but I’ve also learned the most about my surroundings and whomever I’m with. They are special moments and I leave knowing my friendship with that person has changed for the better.

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it may be a hike to get here, but the experience shared in this place is pretty incredible.

This past week I got back in my routine. Living is not something you just decide to do and not hit any ruts in the road or without falling back into old habits. I didn’t completely fail though. Along the battle between school and adventure this week I managed to meet a whole lot of people in the most random of circumstances. The saddest part about the whole thing is that we’ve officially reached ‘hump day’. We’ve hit the mid point. From here on out there are fewer days left in the semester than the number of days we’ve been here. Now instead of counting up we are counting down. Instead of figuring out how to adapt to the culture here we are trying to figure out how we are going to go back home. It’s no longer about what we will miss the most in the states – knowing the hour we will return. Now, we are talking about what we won’t get in our respective cities of the US that are so readily available here, that includes everything from 1 euro cappuccinos to ancient ruins to the incredible people who we’ve become friends with.

You always hear about studying abroad and how incredible they are, but honestly the best thing anyone can do for you is tell you to have no expectations. Yes, read people’s blogs and do the research, but if you come in thinking you know what you will find you will more than likely always be disappointed. I will confirm the rumors and say that so far this has been one of the best experiences of my life, but it’s not a walk in the park either. A friend of mine recently told me that being uncomfortable is when you learn the most. So here’s to getting dirty, being uncomfortable and becoming better for it.

Surreality.

Definition: Marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream;
very strange or unusual : having the quality of a dream (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Truth: The past seven weeks I have been living in Rome. During my days I go to school, wander through what feels like the same alleyways – since they all look the same, eat much good food, and attempt to speak Italian.

Although this has been my reality it feels like a dream. Normal people don’t do this. If you had asked me four months ago if I thought I’d be studying in Rome next semester I would have laughed and said I wish. I am literally living the dream.

When I broke the news to my friends and told them about my impending sudden leave of absence from the university they stood in front of me speechless. How could I talk so casually about studying abroad in Rome, Italy?! One of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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how about that for a view on a study break?

This is what happened:

After a particular series of events last semester I decided to pick up and leave. Not only would I leave the school and state – I was going to leave the country. I picked up my computer and did a mad dash for about 72 hours. I had an overwhelming sense of peace about my spontaneous decision to go to Rome. For whatever reason the Lord put it in my head and said “Go.” so I ran. All the deadlines were past and I hit wall after wall, but I had a sense this was my path so I took my sledgehammer and steel-toed boots smashed down every wall and stomped my way through. Three months later and here we are.

Maybe it’s culture shock and maybe it’s not, but consistently the past week I’ve walked around and stopped with a dumbfounded smile on my face. I look like an absolute goof. My friends look at me knowing something is coming next, and typically this is how it goes. I grab their shoulders and look them in the eyes with my stupid grin and say, “We. Are in. ROME. Do you KNOW how crazy that is?? We live here. I mean we are actually living here for the next 3 months. We get to take casual walks around ancient ruins and see the Pope whenever he decides to make an appearance. WHAT?! That’s. Not. Real. It’s a beautiful day and we get to do whatever we feel like in one of the most enchanting places. People vacation here for a week because they want to see it and we are living here. No. I just can’t believe it.” And that concludes my rant.

The thing is when I have those moments I am so grateful for them. They mean: HELLO. Wake up call. Live your life and enjoy where you are because it’s temporary – just like every other moment in time. I may be in unbelief about my physical location and others I may be so disenchanted that I don’t even care that they are filming the new James Bond movie in front of my university.

The lesson remains the same. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Cherish every moment – no matter where you are. The people will make the places whether it’s a life long friend or someone you met while waiting for the tram whom you shared a laugh with. The thing is people may come and go, but you will always have the memories. What my reality looks like will always be different than the person next to me and sometimes you get to live in Rome for 5 months, but mostly you just get to live. Nothing has to be ordinary. It may be another day in the same old neighborhood, but think about how many people walked those same streets before you. How many stories would they have been able to tell?

every road may look the same, but they each lead to a different journey
every road may look the same, but they each lead to a different journey

Live consciously, not critically – there is a difference you know.

Awaken the inner curiosity in you. Live your life, not everyone has the same privilege. Take a walk and get lost (physically, in conversation, in thought) – it happens to be one of my favorite pastimes.

coffee.

It’s a scary thing when I admit that I am drinking more coffee and actually enjoying the taste of it. They say that breakfast is the most important meal, but here in Italy breakfast doesn’t exist. It saddens me to say it, because I am a huge fan of omelets, hash browns, pancakes, and BACON. That’s not what breakfast looks like across the ocean.

It’s not a bad thing really – It means I get to eat croissants filled with nutella every morning and not be judged because that’s actually normal. (Italians love their nutella let me tell you – nutella waffles, nutella crepes, nutella gelato. You name it they probably have it.) Coffee here is also really REALLY cheap. I’m talking 1 euro for a cappuccino, which is roughly $1.20. Even better the pastries are on average 1 euro as well, so you can spend a whopping total of 2 euro on breakfast. It’s not a bad life.

Your typical Italian breakfast.
Your typical Italian breakfast.

The biggest difference that I’ve had to adjust to is the culture around coffee. Coming from Nashville and even my suburb in Chicago coffee was the go-to hang out. If you want to catch up with someone then the typical thing is to ask to grab lunch or coffee – at least that’s what I do. Coffee is code for “I want to hang out with you and have a real conversation, so I can get to know you better or so I can check in and see how you are really doing.” It doesn’t matter if you drink coffee or not, because the idea is that you want to be friends and do something with them. If you ask someone to get coffee in Italy it means “I haven’t eaten anything all day because my breakfast is a cappuccino and croissant, so I need a shot of espresso.” Coffee means energy, not socializing. Most bars (coffee shops) aren’t even open on Sundays, which in America is the typical “I procrastinated all weekend and need to do homework, but I’d rather hang out with you and talk about life and how stressed I am with all the work we both have to do” day. When bars are closed you can’t hang out or work on homework in a location other than your apartment or the library. No one wants to be in either of those places on Sunday because the first means sleep, and the second also means sleep. Basically, the lack of open bars leads to further procrastination, lack of socialization, and no cheap coffee to stay awake.

coffee for one.
coffee for one. the only way to stay awake on sunday.

But in all seriousness, it’s definitely an adjustment. Instead of a casual coffee date on Sunday with a friend the next best option is a sit down meal. In a way that’s a little more nerve wracking because a meal seems like a bigger deal, especially dinner. In reality it’s all the same. I think we need to start looking at interactions with people with a different perspective. Instead of thinking about the time you will be losing or what you are trying to avoid (homework) or how uncomfortable it could be we need to think about how cool the other person is and how there is a reason we want to hang out with them and how they are worth the time.

[You actually can sit down in the afternoon and have coffee. It seems to be a cultural thing among college students around the world. Instead of naps, the young adults in Italy down the caffeine drinks amongst good company.]

One of the things I’m learning about Europe is that you don’t just ask, “How are you?” in passing. Those three words mean you care. It could lead to a half an hour venting session, an outburst of joy, or a five-minute rundown of the events of the past few hours. It means you care. Every time you ask to get lunch or coffee it’s not just something to say, it’s a plan. It doesn’t mean that you never text them about grabbing that dinner or going on that walk to catch up and grab gelato. Words aren’t just fillers here, they mean something. People are not overly polite – they don’t ask how you are out of courtesy, they ask because they actually want to know. “Good” is not a good enough response.

My friends here have taken to saying “FINE” stands for freaked out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. Questions require a real response here and although that is slightly intimidating for someone who doesn’t like to talk about emotions (aka me) it’s a good challenge. Instead of superficial relationships it’s helped to form incredibly strong friendships with people that I have known for six weeks. Whether it’s because we knew we needed friends here or because we were more inclined to put ourselves on the line because we knew we’d only be here for 4 months we have been real. I know when my friends ask if I’m ok I can tell them the truth and if I don’t feel like answering them then they send someone over who they think I will talk to.

I may not be able to have my normal coffee dates here, but I have plenty of 2am texting rants, late night conversations while wandering the streets of Rome, and life chats while searching for artisan gelato. I may have only been with these new friends for six weeks, but they’ve kept me laughing. This experience wouldn’t be the same without them and we’re not even halfway through the journey.

All I have to say is I’m so grateful for the people here, but I’m also looking forward to my Sunday coffee dates again.

Pimms Good with friends.
Pimms Good with friends.

Mese Uno

Calcio

The slow murmurs and buzz in the air had me entranced. It was methodic and spontaneous all at once. The turf was a vibrant green, freshly manicured and painted. In one collective voice the fans shouted each players last name. You could hear the excitement and dedication in each declaration. The vibrant red jerseys popped off the field so you could see every intricate move the players made. As the anthem started every scarf was raised in adoration. Roma! Roma! Roma! Each voice melded with the next. I couldn’t have imagined anything more beautiful in that moment than this group of people united by love of the game.

-a.marlo