Rome, Italy… One of the places I’ve dreamed of going since the first time we learned about its epic history in elementary school. I remember looking at the pictures of the Colosseum and the Pantheon and wondering if I’d ever get a chance to walk the same terrain as the ancient Romans. After all those years of dreaming, I finally had the chance to experience it firsthand and it was unbelievable.
Rome’s ambience cannot be mistaken. It’s archaic buildings and huge city streets were just like I pictured them- only better. I was eager to explore the city and I wanted to understand why Rome seemed to be calling my name. I found out on the first night.
I arrived after sunset and the city lights provided the perfect introduction to set the stage for my adventure. I dropped off my bag and set off for a little exploration. Luckily, my friend from back home was studying abroad in Rome and she provided plenty of direction. We roamed (no pun intended) the streets and I had the chance to soak in the city’s feel. The scattered piazzas (plazas) and extravagant fontanas (fountains) around every corner had me gasping for breath but I had no idea what was up next. As we continued to zigzag down the narrow streets, I caught a small glimpse of the side of a building that looked different from the others. With my curiosity piqued, we finally made the turn into the Piazza della Rotonda- home of the 2000-year-old Pantheon.
Words do not describe the awe I felt. Accented by the night’s light, the enormous marble pillars of the Pantheon towered over me and had me mesmerized. The stone was smooth to the touch and as I pressed my hands to the column, I could feel the ancient building taking on my warmth. I began to think about just how many others stood where I stood, felt what I felt, and marveled in the same way I did that night over the past 2 millennia. I couldn’t speak for my mind was captivated. The building itself was impressive but what it stood for, in my eyes, was even more so. It is the connection between hundreds of generations, it is proof of how far mankind has come, and it is a symbol of how much further we have to go before we reach our true potential. This is why I had come to Rome- I had to experience this feeling.
Potential… Never in my lifetime did I think I would be able to see the things I have seen in the past few months, let alone the past few days. I think about what this means for me, my family, and my community and I am grateful for every moment. I am constantly reminded that one should never say, “never,” and that one day, with hard work and dedication, one can come closer to their dreams- no matter how far away or impossible they may seem.
If this was the first couple hours, you can only imagine how the rest of the weekend was. I thumbwrestled at the Colosseum, Lizzie McGuire’d it at the Trevi Fountain, and even saw the Pope in Vatican City. And of course, there were daily Gelato stops along the way accompanied by some of the best Pizza, Pastas, and Lasagna I have ever tasted in my entire life.
I have come a long way from canned Chef Boyardee and those hot-dog bun/ketchup/kraft singles “pizzas” my friends and I would make at Austin’s house back in the day. I cherish those memories with all of my heart and it reminds me of how important our past is when heading towards the future.
There was a time when I thought my past would hold me back. A time where I thought that my background and how much money my family made would prevent me from getting anywhere outside of San Diego County. As you can see, that wasn’t the case. If anything, my past has developed a character that has brought me to where I am today. I have learned the true meaning of hard work, perseverance, and optimism from my beautiful mother and I have also learned that every experience has something to teach you and every experience makes you stronger.
Although the pressure can be high for first-generation college students, know that the world is waiting for you to enter that arena of higher education. There are too many things to see so keep your head up and keep working hard. Pretty soon, you’ll be the one sharing the stories about the places you’ve visited and I can’t wait to hear the details!