27 April, 2013

The Beauty of My Youth

Have you ever looked at yourself and saw your potential?  Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought about how you're the youngest you will ever be again, and has that ever inspired you?  Do you realize that we, at the young age of twenty/twenty one, can do anything we want with our lives?  We truly can work to fulfill our dreams.  We have nothing holding us back, no jobs, no kids, no husbands or wives (okay, some of us).  If we want to drop everything and move to LA to become a dancer, movie producer, whatever, we can.  If we want to stay in school to get our PhD in order to become a professor, we can.  Yes, there are road blocks, but there is no better point in our lives to live for ourselves.  Not live selfishly, but to truly live life in order to reach our full potential.  We are in such a beautiful moment in our life where we have so much potential just in our age, and we should all take advantage of that.  There is no reason for you to not be following your dream.  Do what you love, so that one day you can love what you do.  We're so young, but that doesn't mean we necessarily have a lot of life ahead of us.  What gives us potential is our lack of stable responsibility, not the years ahead.  We are at the prime age to give living our life to the fullest the fullest of priorities, and those who do not do that will regret it someday.  Don't be that person who looks back on themselves twenty years in the future wishing they hadn't put their paycheck or something as their first priority rather than their happiness.  Being in Rome has taught me to be happy, no matter where it takes me and no matter how hard it is.  This is something I hope everyone can learn before it's too late.

26 April, 2013

The Characters of This Chapter of My Life

One of my best friends from back home, Ellen, is amazing because she would try so hard to learn the names of my friends she had never met.  She said, "They're the characters in your life, so they're important to me."  Besides that being absolutely adorable and touching, it's so true.  My semester here in Rome is a really short period in my life in the long run, but during these four months these people have had a huge impact on me.  My experience would have been completely different had these people not been a part of it.  So I just wanted to let them all know how much I love them, despite the fact that I may not see some of them ever again.

Allison.  A girl from California who goes to school in Wisconsin... and LOVES it.  Which definitely made my day because of my homesickness for the midwest.  She is probably one of the craziest girls I've met in that she is always up for anything!  This girl's spontaneity sometimes pushed my OCD anxious self, but its something I'm trying to overcome and was thus necessary.  I truly envy her ability to get up and make a fool of herself, such as by singing karaoke in a bar full of drunk Italians.  Her Californian "I don't really care what you think about me, I'm going to be who I want to be" is one I really wish I could adapt into my persona.  Inviting Allison always means you're going to have a good time, especially since 99% of the time it meant Marlo was coming, too!  ;)

This girl is who I talk to when I want to eat something other than Italian food, being as she chose to study abroad in the one culture whose food she does not like.  Though this was not her fault, its pretty dang funny.  This girl is strange in the best of ways, and she has no fear with being herself.  She is the first person I have been able to discuss issues such as gay marriage with who has an opposing view as me yet we can come to a consensus on how it should be done.  Anyone I can talk politics without wanting to strangle is a good friend in my mind.  I don't know if I've laughed as hard this semester as I have at some of the ways she tells stories, and I am definitely going to miss that.

I randomly met this kid one night at Scholars, the same night I was proposed to by a drunk Irishman.  It is because of Ben that I had to say no, for the Irishman thought that Ben and I were dating.  This is something I will never forgive Ben for.  Anyway, Ben and I began a very interesting friendship, one I was not expecting to make while here in Italy.  We spent many nights having deep conversations about life and death, religion, politics, etc. over hookah.  Ben is not the type of person I would initially tag as being someone I would get very close to, but I can say that I was proved very wrong.  He became one of my favorite people to talk to while in Italy, and I will really miss him.  If I make it to Philly while he's still there, I fully expect him to be my tour guide around the city; its my new life goal to go on his bus tour.  Thanks for listening to my crazy self talk about things most people don't want to hear about, and thank you for being there.  I also expect EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about Israel this summer, since you're going somewhere that I'm actually now allowed in until my passport expires!  You lucky bastard, you.

I met this kid only once at Gustavus, but it was only to say, "Hi, I'm going to Rome, too!"  We have basically no friends in common, and have never even heard of each other's roommates.  This kid unknowingly piqued my interest in Roman history, for in our first on-site class together he was talking about a famous statue of a famous emperor, neither of which I had ever heard/seen before.  It made me feel really stupid, not on purpose, but it really got me wanting to learn about these people and these events.  I feed off of other people's passions, and this kid is very secretively passionate about a lot of wonderful things.  I almost took Latin next semester because I could tell how much he enjoyed it.  Brad doesn't fit any one stereotype; he'll go out partying in Rome one night and stay up reading Lord of the Rings another.  I'm really glad I met him, and I'm really glad I get to run into him on campus next year!

What to say about this girl?!  I first knew her as the "Indian Princess", which was not my nickname for her, but... hers.  She's unlike anyone I've ever met, and I love it!  She's so much fun; we randomly met for coffee once and went to get piercings.  The piercer was busy so it never happened, but I love the spontaneity that comes with her!  She's a bundle of fun, but I can still sit down with her to have a heart to heart, something I find really important in a friendship.  I love her so much, we literally ran into each other's arms on the Italian beach. It was romantic and it was wonderful.  Be jealous.  I see a lot of myself in this girl, which made it easier for me to talk to her when I wanted to cry or when she did.  I love her and am going to miss her so much!

Lucas, my Buda buddy!  Luke is probably the most fun you will ever find in one person, nor will you ever know what to expect with this kid.  I'm lucky enough to have been able to see both sides of him, the serious and the fun, and I can't wait to see how crazy we get in Budapest!  He's up for anything, and really is just up for having fun with great people.  I am definitely going to miss Lucas and his chain smoking ("I'm not addicted!"), as well as his willingness to be Conservative.  As a conservative college student myself, I know how much hatred we get, but he's willing to just come out and say it! And I love it!  I'm so lucky this kid is in WI, so I can see him when I go out to Milwaukee for Summerfest.  And yes, I will make sure I stay late enough to see you, Luke.

Maheen one of my two friends who is not American, and I love it!  I came thinking I was going to be spending my semester surrounded by Italians, but instead I got hundreds of American and this girl from Pakistan.  She's so much fun, and I'm so glad I was able to meet her by chance!  She's a published author, something I strive to be, and her book is fantastic.  She makes saying goodbye so much harder because she's a degree seeker, and she gets to do what I only wish I could do and stay at John Cabot (but more importantly, Rome) for another few years!  I hope I can someday meet up with her again, whether it be when she's visiting the States, when I come back to Rome, or someday in Pakistan!

In Marlo we trust!  I'm an extreme planner, but for some reason when I travel I like to just wing it.  Thank God for this girl, of I would have gotten off the plane in Prague, Barcelona, Ibiza, and Madrid with no idea how to get to my hostel.  Nor would I know where to go to eat.  She is going to be an amazing travel writer someday if thats what she choses to do, for she notes everything she does and all of the places she goes.  She always knows where has the best food and the best deals.  How she does this, I have no idea.  However, I am good for making sure this girl is awake for her 6am flight!  I just hope her and Allison make it on their flight home since I'll be in Budapest... but I'm sure she wouldn't have any issues with having to stay in Rome longer!

I was sitting at the gate, waiting to get on my plane to Amsterdam, when I see a kid wearing a St. Norbert sweatshirt.  If my creeping of the SAI Rome page did me any good, it taught me that a lot of kids from St. Norbert were coming to Rome.  So, the minute he got off the phone with his mom, I turned around and asked, "Are you going to Rome?!"  And thus the bickering friendship begins.  Mitch was the first friend I made on my trip, a relief to my worried self about having to make it all the way to the Hilton in Rome all by myself, and it's crazy that we remained friends.  He just happened to be roommates with Brad, who had asked us to go out the first night in, so we ended up being in the same group of people for awhile.  Our friendship is one of making fun of each other, but it's all in good fun!

Nikki is one of my best friends in the entire world.  Despite that fact, I was very unsure of how I felt about her coming to Rome 'with' me.  Our plans were never made together, we made the same decision separately.  We didn't see each other that often, surprisingly, but she was definitely the piece of home I needed at times.  I love this girl with all of my heart, and if you had told me in high school when we became friends that we would be biking down the beach of Barcelona together one day, I probably wouldn't have believed you.  But we did, and it was amazing!  We have so many memories that I never thought we would, like getting hit by lightning on a flight home from Venice, and they are memories I will always cherish.  I love her so much, and I look up to her in so many ways.  I am so lucky that I get to go back to White Bear and still have this girl only be a twenty minute drive away from me.

This kid.  Not only does this kid go to my school back at home, but he lives in the neighboring town as me in MN.  So, how did it take me going to Rome to meet him?!  I don't understand the universe sometimes.  Anyway, like Brad, we have basically no friends in common.  We're also very different people.  The majority of family dinners toward the beginning ended with a spat between Reed and I, because we have very different opinions on a lot of issues.  However, what causes these debates is the fact that we have very similar passions.  We both really just enjoy learning, and we both just want to explore the world.  We may have different ways of expressing these passions, but I feel like I've learned a lot about myself and what I want by hearing him talk about his side and his points of view.  Basically, I find myself very lucky to have been able to spend this semester arguing with Reed.  And I mean that in the best of ways!

Sarah, what is there to say about this girl?!  Most people who know Sarah know that she is so full of energy and life and she is always the life of the party.  However, I feel that I am truly blessed to know the real Sarah.  She was a girl friend to me the minute I needed one; our friendship instantly went to that deeper level, something I really needed.  Sarah is crazy in the best of ways, but she is what kept me sane while I was here.  She was always willing to listen, to emphathize, and, especially, tell me when I needed to buck up and deal with something.  She didn't baby me, and she taught me a lot that way.  She has taught me so much about what it means to accept yourself for who you are, about how to be myself and love myself and do my best to not compare myself to others.  She has taught me how to understand others.  She has helped me learn to trust God and to accept things for as they are; things will work out in the end.  She is truly a blessing in my life.  I love her so much, and I can't imagine how I'm going to get through next year without her there!


What can I possibly say to give this girl justice for the impact she's had on me?!  I've already committed an entire post to her, because she means that much to me.  Victoria is, as my friend Brad once said, "a genuinely nice person, through and through, to the core", and I could not say it better myself.  She has such a beautiful heart and I cannot imagine a better roommate for the most emotionally stressful and physically draining semester of my life.  She has taught me to see the good in people, something I thought I was already good at, but was proved otherwise when I realized that I had a lot more hurtful things to say about people than she did.  I really look up to her, and I hope someday I can be even half as loving and giving and wonderful as she is!  She was my rock while I was here, and I can't thank God enough for putting her in my life!
Also, we're both really big Papa Francesco fangirls, hence the picture with the matching shirts!

The Family
I've talked about the majority of these people, plus this picture is missing a few people, but I just wanted to let my Roman family know how much they've meant to me this past semester.  I truly feel that we turned into a family, that we were a part of the family, no matter what.  People got sick of each other and frustrated, but we were still a family, and that meant enough to keep family dinner going.  Yes, we got busy during the semester and it didn't happen for awhile, but we made it happen in the end.  Having this group was what kept me sane at my most homesick times, because I knew that I had this entire group of people there for me if I needed them to be.  No, I didn't get on a deep level with all of them, but if I needed a laugh, or to just get my mind off of being home, then I had them.  This group started by accident, and I am so happy that Victoria and I were too nice to uninvite people to a dinner we didn't think we could handle.  It ended up beautifully! 

Planning My Next Adventure

So, you're all probably thinking, "Madison, will you STOP please with the traveling?!"  And I know, you're right.  I've been doing it A LOT lately, and I honestly don't know if I can handle much more for awhile.  However, if you have been a follower of my blog since before I left for Roma, you know that it's my dream to do mission work. Yes, I specified in Africa, but in all honesty, I'll go anywhere.  I really just want to put my passion to do something selfless, such as help children.  I truly feel like God has given me this passion for traveling and seeing the world in order to do good to those who need it outside of the United States.  I'm so extremely blessed, and I want to use that to good use.  I want to put my money, my time, and my abilities toward God and His work, and I am finally going to do that.  About five minutes ago I read an e-mail saying that I am approved by Eagle Brook to go to Nicaragua with them this August to work in an orphanage.  I am honestly so overjoyed at the thought of going this summer!  This has been my dream for so long and I am finally going!  I honestly feel like it never worked out because I was not ready to go.  I finally feel like I'm in a spiritual place where I can confidently talk about my faith and my love of God and not be embarrassed  and I just feel so strongly about going to work in the name of God!  I cannot contain my excitement right now!
Not only am I so blessed that I get to go to Nicaragua this summer, but I get to go with my sister!!!  After my father died, Anissa felt like she was a little ostracized from the family.  She was always daddy's little girl, and thus it was especially hard for her to find her place in the family once it consisted of just the four of us.  I took the role as second parent for the year or two after my dad's death, as we tried to figure out how to be a family without a father figure.  In the end, I was a little (or a lot) too overbearing, and it really did damage on my relationship with Anissa.  I don't want to make my issues with her public, but I am willing to admit that we aren't as close as I'd like to be because I didn't know how to react to the situation, and thus I reacted poorly.  But, I really want our relationship to improve.  It has improved a lot over the past few years, the past year especially, but I'm really excited to spend this week with her.  I'm always at school, and when I'm home she is continuing her normal life, so this spending a week together straight thing is going to be interesting.  She also is going to school about 20 minutes away from mine next year, and I really hope this means we see each other more!  I really see this as a blessing.  God knows my heart more than anyone else, and I really believe that He sees this as the perfect opportunity to achieve two of my goals.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

24 April, 2013

One Last Italian Annoyance

It's finals, meaning I have to do work for approximately the first time in the semester.  I had two papers to write today, and I have to meet for class at 8am, so I didn't have time to print them before class.  Thus, at approximately midnight I left my apartment to go to the library to print off my papers.  Because this is the 21st century and my professors don't believe in electronic copies.
I'd been writing papers since about 13:00.  Thus,  have been in yoga pants and a sweatshirt all day, with my contacts in since my 18:00 attempt at a nap and my hair in a messy pony tail since it fell out of its messy bun.  So, to sum it up, I looked pretty dang fly.  And it just so happens that I have to walk through Piazza di Santa Maria, the place where a lot of Italians hang out with their drinks before they go out.  Now, I'm used to being stared at.  I'm used to being cat called (not just because I'm super attractive, but it's an Italian thing too.  Surprise, I know).  But this was probably the first time that I actually got angry.  First off, this was also the first time I had left my apartment in my glasses.  The first time I wore yoga pants as pants and not just pajamas.  I was wearing an outfit that I would wear in the library at least once a week at Gustavus, and I was embarassed.  I felt so underdressed.  And I got catcalled in it.  How, you ask?  Not because my butt looks fantastic in yoga pants, but because my lack of caring about my looks made me so obviously American.  I hate that I can live here for four months and one outfit change ruins any of the assimilation I've done.  I hate that Americans are the first people foreigners associate with dressing like a slob, and I hate that I can't dress comfy in Italy without being stared at.
Well, I will be home in 21 days almost exactly, and I can't start complaining now.  I still love it here, I just want to wear yoga pants every once in a while.

17 April, 2013

The Boston Bombings

Monday night was a really rough night.  As most of you know, there were two explosions at the Boston Marathon.  Surprisingly enough, I found out about it before most of the people I'd talked to in the States.  My roommate is from New Jersey and has a lot of friends in Boston, so she found out from their tweets and whatnot.  I have a lot of friends here who go to school in Boston.  It's a very college centered city, and the day of the Boston Marathon is apparently "Marathon Monday", and people basically party a lot and go watch the marathon, meaning that my friend's friends were all there.  My friend's brother was at the finish line approximately ten minutes before the bomb went off.  My friends were attempting to call their family members and friends from across the world to make sure they were okay.  It was really a surreal moment for me.  My friends from New Jersey experienced a completely different 9/11 from me; my roommate could see the smoke from her window.  My friends knew people in those towers.  They were taken out of school.  Talking to them about this and witnessing their reactions to the Boston bombings really put things into a new perspective for me.  These are terrible events, and of course they hurt my heart regardless of whether or not I knew people injured or killed.  However, they didn't always feel like real people, if that makes sense.  Hearing my friends talk about 9/11 or Boston made me realize how real these situations are, and made them stand out more than they had before.
What's sad, though, is that something awful like this happens in the United States and I hear about it from all the way in Italy.  It's on the BBC and whatnot.  However, when terrible things happen elsewhere, I don't hear about it when I'm in the States.  Now, it could be because I'm not the most news-centered person, but it really hurts my heart that the rest of the world is so generous with their prayers and I haven't been.  The tragedies in Boston did not make me love America more, it made me love people more.  So many people did so much good in the wake of the bombings, and people from across the world were feeling pain for these people.  My faith in humanity was restored, because even in the face of so much hatred, all that bloomed was so much more love.  It made me happy to be a part of the good in this world, and I hope that some day I can do something a fourth as good as some of those at the marathon on Monday.  My prayers and thoughts go out to Boston, as well as the rest of the world, from Italia.

28 Days Left of Roma.

I go home in 28 days.  That is exactly 4 weeks.  I have so little time left, it's unreal.
This is probably the most surreal feeling in the entire world, that this amazing experience is winding down.  My friend Kirsten came to visit me here in Rome two weeks ago, and I took her all around Rome.  It was exhausting, but it was really great to be a tourist again in Rome.  We went to the Colosseum at night, which was honestly amazing.  They were projecting the Italian flag on it, something that I, nor anyone else I know in Rome, has ever seen, either before or after (for example, I was there tonight and there was no such thing).  As I stood there with Kirsten, who two nights earlier had teared up at her first sight of Rome, I started tearing up as I thought of my last.  Yes, I have a lot of time left, but no, it's not enough.  I have fallen so deeply in love with this city, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else.  The only cities I have been 100% sad to leave were Prague, which I honestly would never actually live in for more than a year, and Beirut, which I only loved because my cousin was there.  Rome is the only city that I have truly fallen in love with.  Everything that bothers me about Rome is something I can deal with.  Yeah, Romans really know how to take up the entire sidewalk and walk as slow as possible.  I'll just take the road.  I showed my friend John and his friends from Copenhagen around today, and they were so shocked by the drastic differences between the city of Rome and the neighborhoods of Trastevere, and I honestly was so touched by this.  I don't know if touched is the right word, but I guess I just got this giddy feeling of happiness since they were appreciating what I had already fallen head over heels for.  Though this sounds cheesy, Rome is my home, and I don't want that to change.  Yes, I want to see my friends and family again.  I miss them so dearly.  But St. Peter won't be the same.  Minnesota won't be the same.  Nothing will be the same as Rome.  My heart has been so touched by this city, and I never want to leave.  This weekend marks my first of my last two weekends in Rome before I go off to travel to Budapest, Cardiff, and Edinburgh before coming "home", and excitement does not begin to describe it.  I'm warning you now guys. I'm not sure how long it will take, but a post-Roma depression will come.  It's a fact.