By Rachel Caruso
I have one semester left of college and I knew that studying abroad this summer was my last chance to fulfill a college dream of mine. Coming into this program I had no idea what I was getting into. And because of that, I decided to not think about the trip to ensure I had zero expectations. In the past, I have been disappointed because I had high expectations. I wanted to come into this trip without expectations and be able to soak up every experience I could possibly have. Looking back on my experience in Rome I have gone through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs starting with physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and finally to self-actualization to become the person I am today.
While expecting very little on this trip I was able to learn so much about myself. In the first week, I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was. I did not have my parents to tell me where to make my airplane transfer or how to get to the apartment in Rome. I also found the streets of Rome to be quite safe no matter where I was or the time of day. Maybe it is because Italians stay out later and walking is their norm. But I did figure it out. I tackled each problem one step at a time and I kept telling myself, “I can do this.” With the security of a place to live and the ability to walk the streets safely, I gained the confidence for the next steps of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Being in Rome has allowed me to take my independence to a new level. Since I was by myself most of the time on this trip I had a lot of time to think about who I was and who I wanted to be. For the past year, I have been struggling with these questions and I finally had an idea of who I want to be. This trip to Rome made me realize that I am in the prime of my life and recalled my cousin preaching how great and fun your 20’s should be. Before Rome, I had put myself into a box where I felt like I was missing out on life. My excuse was that it if I left my box it was not me. I am still very much who I am but with a new sense of hope for who I am in the present and in the future.
Realizing my self-actualization gave me the confidence to make the psychological changes needed to truly reach self-actualization. In this, I made a big change in my personal life. Without the growth I have made in Rome I would have never found the strength to do it. The change was sad but much needed in order to become who I want to be. I was supported in my decision by confiding in my close friends and family, who assured me that I was making the right decision. Through this process, I also realized I have such great people in my life no matter how far they are or how little I have known them for. Even though I have lost a love, I gained even more love in my relationships and in my relationship with my self.