Back to the States

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by Julia Whatley | Emory Art History Program, Summer 2016

Originally written on August 5, 2016

When I returned to the US, I was truly surprised by how my lifestyle had changed in a mere three weeks. Before I started my expedition in Rome, I thought I was accustomed to walking long distances. This concept quickly changed as my feet initially throbbed from the 8 -12 miles we walked every day.

That’s when it really hit me that most Americans rely on their cars, taxis, Uber or public transportation.  The  public transportation in Rome was challenging at times (particularly the Metro), and it was not offered in many areas due to existing ruin sites. So my original adjustment was to rely on my own two feet for transportation.  I gradually felt comfortable traveling from site to site on foot and by the end of my program, I was able to navigate the city fairly well. Coming back to Seattle, Washington, it felt strange and almost foreign to drive a car everywhere again. I realized that I actually enjoyed walking and exploring at the same time – it provided exercise while stimulating my other senses at the same time.  I was surprised by how challenging it is to be active when the common route to get to and from various locations involve an automobile.

Another part of the readjustment involved the food options in the Seattle area. I never thought I had a favorite cuisine until I studied abroad in Italy. The pasta, pizza, and gelato are absolutely exceptional – with more variety than I could even imagine. When I came back home, I missed how easy and inexpensive it was to purchase fresh food.  In Rome, you can purchase pizza by the inch or by the slice.  They offer the simple marinara but they also have several vegetarian and meat options.  Often, I found that there was so many choices that it was difficult to decide.  It was challenging coming back to the states and not having the option for a daily pizza or gelato on nearly every street. 

Lastly, coming back to the US made me realize the significance of history.  The Italian art, history, and culture that evolved over the last several centuries.  In contrast, the United States is only 240 years old and the west coast was settled about 100 years later. The result of our short history is there are very few cities that have offer the preserved sites, ruins, and fountains that are as ancient and magnificent as those in Italy. After my program, I felt I was able to finally appreciate the significance and history of the various sites in Rome.  This new found appreciation has led me to see the people, places and cultures of the world in a new and more open-minded light and has also motivated me to want to continue to explore and travel other parts of the world!