The GoGlobal Blog

Overwhelmed (and that’s OK)

Overwhelmed (and that’s OK)

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I applied to study abroad for a whole year. And no, Roma hasn’t lost its magic and wonder in my eyes (I don’t think it ever could), but I think the realization is finally beginning to hit me that I’d be gone for a whole year from home. It’s also hit me that I’d be gone, but I’d still have to continue to study and work. I think homesickness and culture shock rolled into the mix, which contributed to some real self-doubt.

My friends back home were all telling me how excited and jealous they were of me, commenting on the fact that I could travel to so many places and see so many amazing things. While I do think that a great opportunity that study abroad here in Roma presents is the ability to travel to other places around Europe, over these almost four weeks (HAS IT ALREADY BEEN A MONTH?!– that is literally INSANE) I’m beginning to realize that that’s physically and fiscally impossible for me.

And that’s OK. Stai tranquilla, Ola. Breathe.

This past week in particular has been enlightening to me for a number of reasons, but the most significant happened this last Friday. I was part of a group of students that went down to Saint Peter’s Square with our SLA, Pedro, to help distribute food to the homeless. Juxtaposed with the magnificence of the Vatican, I have to admit, it was a very sobering experience. Here I am, complaining about not being able to go to as many places as I want and feeling overall overwhelmed about all of my “problems” (all while I’m already studying abroad and living in one of the most amazing cities in the world), while others are legitimately lining up to get what might be their only real meal in the next couple of days.

I was also surprised to have met two young Polish men who were in line for food. My language skills came in handy and it seemed to make them genuinely happy to hear a familiar language being spoken to them. They seemed so grateful, that I almost felt embarrassed by all of the whining I was doing about not being able to travel as much outside of Roma.

Moving on to a sweeter ending- after a short reflection on the square, Pedro led us to the “secret” bakery. Lemme tell you, it is delicious, cheap, open 24/7 a.k.a. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT IN LIFE?!. They also have cookies with Papa Francesco’s face on them… I don’t know how I feel about that, but there you go.


I also have found a cheap but really good pizza place near the Pantheon, where my friends and I spent a wonderful evening telling stories, eating pizza and drinking the house wine. Although things like this seem small in comparison to the old and overwhelming historic monuments, it’s the little things that make me realize I’m slowly making Rome into another home for me.


It’s important to remember that it’s okay to be overwhelmed and a little freaked out. That can happen when you’re not abroad and in the comfort of your own city. An adjustment period is necessary and it comes in different stages for everyone. Some people feel the culture shock within the first couple of days, while some, like me, experience it a month in.

I wrote about this in my other blog that I run, but I remember my mom saying to me at the airport: “Pierwsze sto lat to najtrudniejsze.” In Polish, it means “the first hundred years are the hardest.” The first hundred years of life ARE the hardest. Life’s easy after that, because (most likely) you’re dead. It’s a super Polish-type of saying and it really made me think while on the flight here to Roma. Life isn’t meant to be easy. You could get sick, you could miss people, you get hurt physically or emotionally, you can work hard with menial results, people leave you, whether you want them to or not and in various ways; basically, life seems like it was meant to suck.

But then I get a wake up call when meeting people who have next to nothing. Or when seeing someone’s face in awe when they walk into the Saint Peter’s Basilica for the first time. Or when seeing a rainbow at Cascata delle Marmore. Or holding an adorably cute puppy on a farm in Umbria. Or have my roommates and friends surprise me with a little cake for my 21st birthday.

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Breathe. Go for a walk. See the sunset from the top of Piazza di Spagna with gelato in hand. Enjoy the little things.


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