When in Rome….

SURPRISE!!!!! I’m back after like 7 months! Turns out, having a blog gets to be pretty difficult when you’re taking the max amount of credits in college and trying to prepare for a study abroad trip. Who knew right? Anyways, I have officially landed in Rome, Italy and will be spending the next 15 weeks here, so I thought I would hope to post some updates from my experience about once a week. With that being said, I have decided to make a post dedicated to my first day because, I’m not lying when I say it was a disaster. Check it out!

Day 1ish (time change screws with ya)

I start out the day finishing my packing, loading up the family minivan with a suitcase and a backpack, and head to Minneapolis to drop me off at a family diner to meet some friends from college before my flight. I spend the morning with them, bursting with excitement, but also feeling like a nervous wreck. They take me to the airport and we have to say our goodbyes. It’s difficult to say goodbye to some of the best friends I have made, knowing I will be missing good times with them while I’m away, even though I know I will be having fun too. I start crying (wow so surprising, I know) and wave them off while I head through those glass doors to an entirely new adventure, alone. I start at the baggage checkpoint and right away can’t get my passport to scan. An employee chirps at me to rotate it or something and I started crying. Seriously. Too many emotions for me at this point. After checking my bag and eventually getting my passport to work, I head to security and find my flight. The first flight was great to Newark, NJ besides the fact that I didn’t recognize the New York City skyline and told the passenger next to me that the Minneapolis skyline was better (facepalm right here). I guess I really am a Minnesotan at heart. Continuing on from there I get on my longest flight to Lisbon Portugal. I was doing fine (and by fine I mean only short and tiny bursts of tears) until the first announcement comes on and I realized everything they are saying is in Portuguese. I realized at this point that this is what it feels like to be a minority…talk about some culture shock! I was very impressed by the airline staff as they so fluently switched between English and Portuguese when talking to passengers. After a three hour layover in Portugal, I jumped on my last flight to Rome. I immediately realized that I was the only blonde on this plane, and I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was quite amusing as I was repeatedly asked where I was from. We had a nice flight to FCO airport. The next part is where I truly get a run for my money.

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Alright, buckle up ladies and gents, this is where it gets a little rocky for little Holly, the pasty blonde. I do not have an international phone plan and so I will be without phone service or data until about Wednesday when we meet with some people on how to get a sim card. Knowing that, I land in Rome and I try to locate my itinerary that I had printed out (this is literally my bible on how to get to my hotel). I find it and then comes the issue of trying to navigate to baggage claim when few signs are in English. I somehow found it and then tried to follow signs to the train station. I exit through the doors and am immediately met with a mass of people looking for taxis, shuttles, private cars, but I couldn’t find the train station. I tried to ask some security looking people and they were just very adamant about getting a taxi instead. After searching a bit more, I found what looked like a ticket station. I reached the front of the line to this machine and was trying to figure out how to buy a ticket when I realized everything was in army time. I had to google it, because I’m nervous and a bit overwhelmed, as other passengers wait behind me impatiently. I bought my ticket and then came the part of actually finding the train station. For those of you who don’t know, Rome can be quite confusing and there are not always signs for where you need to go. After 15 minutes of walking random stairs with my 40 lb suitcase and 20 lb backpack, I find the station and board. Getting off the train roughly a half hour later, I was thinking that it can’ t be that hard to find the next tram. I had the directions in front of me printed out and I had successfully navigated up until this point. I get off the train to look for this newspaper stand to buy a ticket. I quickly came to the conclusion that there was nothing in this train station besides a ticket station for trains and a few buses outside. Uh oh. I’m exhausted by this point (emotionally and physically) and am about to have a breakdown because it was getting more and more difficult to find people that spoke English to help me. Side note: the key to having someone that understands English but doesn’t know how to speak it, is to just nod and look like you’re understanding what they are telling you in Italian, but just find another person to talk to once they’re done because I couldn’t follow their directions worth squat. Ok, so continuing on told myself I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I was crying so I just focused myself on getting there before dark. Again, I am without phone service or a map of any kind. I AM VERY DIRECTIONALLY CHALLENGED ANYWAYS SO THIS IS NOT MY FORTE. I wandered the area for an hour trying to find any type of sign indicating the tram I needed to get on and where to buy a ticket. I ended up walking into a bar and tried to ask (in Italian), where to buy a ticket. She blatantly said in English, “What?”. Thoroughly embarrassed because my pronunciation was so wrong, I then again asked in English. She just pointed in a direction and left. Ok, real smooth Holly. After walking next door, I realized it was a tobacco shop. I asked this guy in English to buy a ticket. I had finally found the place!! There was no sign indicating this at all. Weird. I asked him where to go to board and he just said straight. So, following orders I walked straight… and kept walking for a half mile because there was no sign indicating what I was looking for. I eventually had to ask a young lady (who spoke english God bless) and she said I was at the right one. WRONG. I boarded and took the tram for the three stops as it said in my directions and…… nope. This is not the place. Frustrated, I got off and then really started to panic. It was growing dark and I had no idea where I was. Come to find out, street signs are on the sides of buildings, not even on the street so I was really lost. So, here I am, little blondie dragging her large suitcase and carrying a backpack like an American trying to find anyone who wasn’t too scary looking to help me. Mind you, I talked to roughly 8 people on the main road before I could find one that spoke english enough to direct me the right way. It was dusk as a gentleman pointed to the hotel that I was looking for. I had ended up walking a mile in the opposite  direction that the train took me. I do have to say, I think the cherry on top was when I immediately blew a fuse the moment I walked in my room and tried to plug in my phone. Ahhh, the sweet smell of burnt plastic and failure was definitely in the air.

Long story short, I am very proud of what I accomplished. Even though I was lost for over two hours in a foreign country, I still managed to keep it together and was able to successfully navigate two foreign airports by myself. I reached my destination safely and that’s all that matters. Times like this are what I will remember and laugh at for years to come.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the weeks to come!!


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One Reply to “When in Rome….”

  1. Oh, Holly—so scary–but so proud of you. Keep telling yourself that you are Holly Milejczak and that you can do this! Remember to ask for God’s guidance too.

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