Deep mahogany wood glides under my feet; the floorboard creeks halfway between the closet and the TV. I walked into the hotel room. I threw my red cross-body bag onto the middle bed and claimed it as mine. I continued to make a beeline straight for the window. After a long day of travel I needed to see the city. I opened the shutters and inhaled. This was it. I was in Rome.
At the end of sixth grade I had to register for a foreign language for the seventh grade. Having taken one trimester of culture connections I could count to ten in five different languages but beyond that I had no concept of the languages. One afternoon when I was talking to all my friends about what classes they would take, and Kathryn brought up something about Latin class. Her brother, then a freshman in high school, knew several people who took Latin and got to go to Rome. Suddenly I knew what language I was going to take. The images in my head immediately placed me in The Lizzie McGuire movie. I pictured myself standing in line on cobblestone pavement waiting to enter a small stooped building housing an artisan shop. While I somehow knew I wouldn’t be discovered as a pop-star look alike in Rome, I had a hope that something amazing would happen there.
Almost immediately I started saving my money. I made a deal with my parents that if I could save one thousand dollars, they would pay for the rest of the trip. I got a “job” babysitting for my sister’s friend’s family once a week after school. In the entire span of my middle school years I don’t think I spent more than fifty dollars total on the things I wanted. Every single penny I had went towards Rome, this was what I wanted and I was going to make it happen.
After two years of working through Latin in middle school, I entered high school and advanced to Latin II. Highlights of that year included square dancing to a song about the endings of certain words and standing on my chair shouting, “Curse you, third declension!” with 20 other kids doing just the same. When I walked into my Latin III class sophomore year I had no idea how quickly my dream of Rome would become a reality. My teacher was a twenty something who had spent time studying in Italy when he was in college, so I knew he would show us all the best spots on the trip.. Again the year involved plenty of things that could only happen in Latin. Latin was simply the best part of my day, and it furthered my drive to go to Italy.
Finally the parent-student meetings began, and all the kids from the high schools met one another. We were able to see who else we would be spending a week with halfway across the world. I had set my goals. I knew I had wanted this. I was going to Italy and that was that. As I boarded the airplane and caught my first glimpse at the cabins made for trans-Atlantic flights I knew that if I put my mind to anything I could make it happen. I have gravel that got caught in my shoe from when I climbed to the top of Mount Vesuvius, I translated the inscription on the Arch of Septimius Severus, and followed in the footsteps of Emperors along the Sacra Via. Just knowing how hard I worked to get there, made everything that I did while I was there that much more impactful. I learned so many more things on that trip than I can ever mention in one essay, and I’ll take those things with me the rest of my life.