Italy was the one country outside of the United States that I had always dreamt of visiting. St. Ambrose University provided me with the opportunity and I quickly snatched it. Before I knew it, my plane ticket was punched, my dollars exchanged for euros and my passport stamped. My dream had become a reality.
I was drawn to Italy because of the historic city of Rome. I have always admired the intricacies of the Roman architecture and I was finally able to experience it without the help of textbook or Internet. I still can’t fathom how the Roman people built structures such as the Pantheon and Coliseum during the second century BCE. I have a profound appreciation for the ancient Roman society because their art and engineering were so advanced for their time.
The pinnacle of my study abroad experience was the peaceful town of Assisi. It was so quiet and relaxing that you could hear yourself think. It is vastly different than the hustle and noise of the United States. I was able to hold lengthy conversations and form relationships with fellow students without the distractions of music or television. This allowed for our community of Ambrosians to bond.
Building strong friendships with other students is what I never expected, but will always remember. Studying abroad would not have been as exciting or enjoyable without the opportunity to share experiences with others. Whether it was climbing to the top of a bell tower, walking to a hermitage in the mountains, exploring the baths of Diocletian or eating gelato under the night sky, we were surrounded by each other, by friends, by Ambrosians.
Italy is one of the boulders of Christian history and the reason why I had my ticket punched, dollars exchanged and passport stamped. It was an opportunity to grow as a Catholic and I can never be thankful enough for it. Observing and learning the history of the Christian religion strengthened my understanding of the beliefs and theological virtues I strive to live by. I found my faith in the catacombs of Rome, the hills of Assisi and the streets of Milan. I found hope that I can act as a true Ambrosian when I prayed in front of the body of our patron saint. I found love in the Eucharist at St. Peter’s Basilica. In Iowa I may not be as surrounded by Christian art and architecture as I was in Rome, but at this moment Christ is as present as ever in my life.