Finisco Finals

One of the least popular things you can say, as a college student in May, is “I’m done!”

I apologize in advance. With some finals scattered through the end of April, presentations instead of exams and a movie viewing, you could say this was one of my more enjoyable exam seasons.

Instead, I tested my emotional stability as I had many “lasts” with my wonderful abroad group of friends and prepared to say goodbye to my favorite city. I brainstormed which stories I’ll tell first, and recalled historical facts while showing my family the city. Exams are meant to see what you’ve learned throughout the semester; since Italy skipped most of those, here’s what I’m walking away with-

1. There’s always more to see: In my neighborhood, in Rome, in Italy, in Europe, in the world, this rings true. You won’t ever be able to visit or do all of it, but what would be the appeal if you could? Traveling should be a life long hobby and value, not something you do for one semester in college. There’s always something to go back for, and wherever you are, there’s always something to be discovered.

2. “Bar” refers to coffee: Classic mixup. However, my discovered love for cappuccinos made the abundance of “bars” exciting in it’s own way.

family trevi3. I’m no stranger to being wrong: I originally thought I shouldn’t go to Rome since I had been there (for two days). That was funny. I couldn’t be more pleased with my last minute decision to study abroad, or coming back to Italy. Although it wasn’t the first time I threw a coin in the Trevi, walked through the colosseum, or tasted gelato; I’m no longer the soon to be senior in high school who did all those things. I’ve retained more knowledge, appreciated more beauty and laughed with purer happiness than I could have ever imagined, especially in two days.

4. Or to being right: Noticing that I can correctly remember directions, silently say the correct answer or accurately predict friendship potential; I found how to trust my instincts and myself. Welcoming independence and confidence, this semester has continued the process of coming into my own, one I had forgot should always be in progress. Experiences like being the most trusted translator at my internship, learning the Italian language, and showing my family around this wonderful city have only magnified this.

5. Blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol: Even giving up sweets for lent can’t save you from the calories of red wine. Who knew? But  at 3 euro a bottle, I don’t think anyone is surprised.

6. How to dive deep: Whether it’s taking the time to learn about what I am seeing rather than just snapping a picture, or taking the time to correct first impressions, this semester taught me to look beneath the surface. This applies to people as well, baccina famas many of my favorite memories took place with my roommates, that started as strangers and became family.

7I’m such a mom: That wasn’t just a cliche comparison, our apartment’s family dynamics consisted of a grandma, aunt,
mom (yours truly), angsty teen and baby. From approving outfits as we left for class to internship searching for everyone, my mother goose nickname surfaced once again. Although it’s not surprising, this strong characteristic allowed me to see that regardless of the city I’m in, the friends I make or the routines I fall into, my personality will always be distinctly me.

8. Ti amo, Roma: More than anything, all of these things have made me realize that Rome will always be home. This city went from being the short term back drop of my first trip to Europe as a 17 year old to the city that celebrated my 21st birthday with me, showed me the value of history, and gave me a greater appreciation for perspectives different than my own. Although I could skip minor details like political corruption and a lack of feminism, I will always adore Rome and Italy as a whole.

Although my time is nearing an undeniable end, my experiences, appreciation for cultures and languages, along with my adoration for traveling, have made Rome a part of who I am. This semester has taught me more than any stack of notecards, bubble sheet or strict professor ever could. For this reason, I am unable to be a college student boasting that “I’m done!” because this semester, this growth, will always be with me.

Inspirare, Espirare

As my obsession with yoga continues to grow, I am always looking to try new branches of yoga and expand my horizons.

Dancer Pose in the ruins
Dancer Pose in the ruins

After practicing for five years, I tend to encounter more mental challenges in yoga than physical ones.

That’s why branches of yoga that I don’t particularly like, are my favorite classes to take.

Yoga has been receiving more attention recently, thanks to the fearless Bold & Naked Yoga in New York City that encourages students to leave inhibitions and insecurities at the door, with their clothes.

I think I would have to check with the roomies before branching out to this, so for now I am exploring ashtanga yoga.

A few days ago I took my first class at a studio, Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, conveniently located near the Colosseum.

I don’t have much experience with Ashtanga, or Italian, so why not combine the two together?

Even though I wasn’t sure what the instructor was saying for the first five minutes of meditation, I was able to fill the dialogue for myself, making the practice more personalized.

Eventually, I began figuring some words out. She kept repeating “Inspirare, espirare” which I soon realized was cues for the breath, “inhale, exhale.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 1.11.14 AMThe beautiful thing about an Ashtanga practice is that it is always the same. The sequence never changes, but your body does. This practice naturally shows one’s progression.

Throughout the class, I became more comfortable trusting my instincts and little memory of Ashtanga, rather than relying on cues. Om symbols were displayed throughout the room, matching the tattoo between my shoulders, which made me feel like I might be in the right place.

I am accustomed to practicing vinyasa flow yoga, which threads different poses together fluidly and is often faster paced. In Ashtanga, one holds each pose for five breaths. Like Italy, Ashtanga makes me slow down and appreciate each pose for what it is, rather than thinking of it as a transition to the next.

Everything about this semester is a work in progress, so it seems quite fitting. Hopefully by the end of the semester I will know the Ashtanga sequence well, understand the Italian cues, and most importantly, enjoy it.

The Waiting Game

True to the lax Roman lifestyle, I have yet to be placed in my internship for the semester.

One of the courses I am enrolled in this semester sets students up with employers in their field of study, in order to receive class credit for a 10 hr/week internship. The internship interviews began shortly after we arrived, but are inconsistent throughout employers. Some employers are taking their time to set up meetings, which is why some students have yet to be placed.

Turns out, this limbo period is giving me a true Italian experience.

ImageAs a result of a lack of opportunities, corrupt labor laws and cultural norms, Italians are often taking as long as eight years to find full time employment after graduating from college. Italy’s current education system creates little room for internships or for students to gain any work experience before graduation.

Employers lacking the economic flexibility to create many internships or take risks with unexperienced workers lead to a never ending cycle of employment. Long-term opportunities are also very difficult to come by, making more and more grads hold numerous short-term, dead end jobs that are rarely related to their degree.

In the States, college grads are beginning to relate a bit more to this fate. Yet, the stage of post-graduation unemployment in the US still doesn’t compare to Italy’s, which explains the difference of incomes over lifetimes. We retire at the same age, but Americans have almost a decade more of work experience.

Cultural differences vary the causes and degree of desperation, yet high unemployment of young people is detrimental to any economy.

Work ethic in Italy seems to be stunted by the lack of urgency to leave the nest and overall social acceptance of avoiding independence. It is also not fiscally possible for most 20-something Italians to afford their own place when work is so difficult to find. This doesn’t have the same American stigma usually associated with moving back home.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for that 20-something Italian graduate to become a 40-something raising a family in their parent’s home.

Ultimately, my impatience towards receiving my internship placement is just my type-A tendencies coming out, rather than actual job instability- a tragic truth of Italy I have no intent to belittle. While I hope to soon begin my academic internship, I am far more anxious to see what strides Italy is able to make for the 40.1% youth unemployment rate.

One can only hope the young Italians’ patience pays off.