120 days ago I stepped off a plane into Rome—jetlagged, overwhelmed, alone. Today I retraced my path in reverse. The taxi wound its way through the same streets, past the same pizza shops and cafés, churches and monuments. In January the windows of the taxi were streaked with rain, today they flashed white in the late May sunshine. It seemed yesterday I had arrived. My checklist was incomplete. My time felt abbreviated. Rome was slipping past the window and I sat inside trying to catch every detail in my mind.
This semester was the most fleeting I’ve experienced in my last three years at Cornell. January was a whirlwind of settling in, adjusting to new roommates, new classes, and a new pacing of life. February brought the first fieldtrip of the semester, more cold days, and a beginning awareness of the intricacies and eccentricities of the neighborhood surrounding the AAP studios at Palazzo Lazaroni. February was a time for celebrating the first, rare warm days when the sun dripped through the library windows like lemon tea. February was a time for peering through icy café windows in snowy Bologna, sipping down piping hot cappuccinos on a coffee break.
But February was gone in a flash and March arrived promptly bringing a sudden rush of activity with it. The semester was fully underway by then and movie nights, cooking lessons, and guest lectures crowded a schedule already full of class work, deadlines, and internship responsibilities. It wasn’t until Spring Break arrived that I fully realized how much time had already passed. Despite midterms awaiting our return, the opportunity to travel stole us far from the library as the promise of a week of adventure in Europe breathed fire into a collective wanderlust. For Spring Break, Cornell in Rome students fanned out across Europe traveling to such diverse locales as Greece, Spain, France, Switzerland, Portugal, The Netherlands, Morocco, Turkey, and more. Sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, any free weekend was a fresh opportunity but the longer breaks were treasured for their potential to wander, to roam, to go forth and see the world.
If the first half of the semester moved quickly, the second flew by at an even more accelerated pace. April came with sunny days, the first floods of tourists in the streets, and an abrupt increase in Cornell’s collective gelato consumption. The Plane Trees along the Tiber began to fill out, sprinkling the ground first with their fine yellow seeds and then the leafy embrace of an electric green canopy. Then along came May. Unbelievably, the countdown to departure began. Final exams, final critiques, and a final exhibition forced us out of the glittering streets and back behind the suddenly crushing palazzo walls. The strains of an accordion beckoned from the street below, but seemingly endless lists of names, dates, and key concepts called us back to our open books. And then the last exam was handed in and my bags were packed and I was stepping into a taxi and that was it. It was over. My third year at Cornell has come to a close. Five months in Rome are behind me. It is time for summer, time for the next adventure, time to realize that while my semester in Rome has drawn to a close, the end of this era is simply a continuation of the next, another chapter in the winding narrative of life and time.