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First Day in Rome

I left New York City the day after my 22nd birthday, on a redeye flight that departed JFK at 8pm. The airport felt as crowded as Union Square during fresh markets, except hip New Yorkers with tote bags and sunglasses were swapped for travelers in hoodies and sweatpants. As I stood in the never-ending line for Jamba Juice, Nathaniel called. He always reaches out at the perfect times, and we caught up on our winter vacations. We lamented that we won’t be able to plow through computer science courses together this semester, and excitedly planned to hike parts of the Pacific Crest Trail in the summer.


By the time we finished discussing current courses and promised to stay in touch, I was halfway through my smoothie and my bag of popcorn had long vanished. I headed to my boarding gate, took a seat, and self-consciously practiced Duolingo surrounded by Italians.


I soon found myself aboard the plane, next to a stout Sicilian man. I initiated small talk (excitedly texting Allen that I can actually converse) and asked him what he came to the US for (his son lives in San Diego and just had a baby). He then asked me where I was studying abroad and what for (Rome, architecture), and I tried to ask about wildfires in CA but realized I didn’t know the word (incendio) and had to look it up on google translate. He said it was in the north, and by then I could sense his waning interest, so I started browsing for movies.


C’mon C’mon was my final choice. Sherrye recommended it to me last fall but I missed it in theaters. Starkly in black and white, lucid scenes of Lower Manhattan were weaved with those of Detroit and St. Louis. As Johnny and Jesse walked under the Manhattan Bridge, by the skateboard park, and along the Chinatown streets, I was both experiencing these places’ beauty portrayed by the cinematography and their mundanity captured by my memory. Goodbye NYC!


At 10:30 am on 1/18, I landed in Rome. Passing border control was a literal walkthrough as opposed to the “interrogations” I’ve experienced when traveling between China and the US. Austin, who arrived 2 hours prior, met me by the luggage carousels. I found my checked-in suitcase. It was cracked at one corner, but prompted by the urge to experience Rome, I muttered “Oh well” and hopped on a white official taxi with Austin.


Austin and I in front of Palazzo Santacroce.
Arrived at Palazzo Santacroce!

The driver was as crazy as the Italian stereotype, but we arrived safely in Palazzo Santacroce, where Cornell in Rome is based. It was surreal passing through the grand entrance arch and climbing marble stairs to find classrooms with modern Vitra furniture and fluorescent lights. We were greeted by Annalisa, Isotta and Eleanora, three warm Italian ladies who work in the administrative office. They walked us through orientations and appointments in the upcoming week, and handed our respective apartment keys.


Thus commences my exploration of the eternal city! I joined friends for lunch in Campo di Fiori, sitting at outdoor wooden tables and eating fresh penne alfredo with a view of vendors in the open market. Afterwards, I wandered my neighborhood on foot, dipping into shops here and there, eventually into a Carrefour Express. I love browsing the different types of cheeses, deli meats, snacks, pastas and sauces. I recognized the protected product denominations I studied in Italian class years ago, and it was also exhilarating to be able to pick up fragments of conversations overheard.

Austin and I have pesto gnocchi, white wine and oranges.
Buon appetito!

Austin and I made dinner at his apartment. As we savored the pesto gnocchi with brie, we discussed this and that. Apologies were exchanged for past misunderstandings, and I expressed how much I missed him during his gap semester in Berlin. How silly are human emotions, so intangible yet powerful, capable of turning blue skies gray and also drawing a rainbow at the end of a storm.


Afterwards, we migrated to my apartment and waited for my roommate Thuan to arrive. During that time, bored and excited, Austin and I decided to start a podcast. For now it’s named “Nothing in General, Everything in Particular,” and we want each episode to be a deep dive on a selected topic.


A pretty good first day!

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5 Comments


ABCDE Feix
ABCDE Feix
Jan 23, 2023

Rome is so pretty, food is so good, I will live vicariously through this blog. Cant wait for the next episode!

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Sherrye Ye
Sherrye Ye
Jan 22, 2023

Ahhhh j’adore ton blog 💓 tu me manquessss New York me manques aussii ☺️ me rendre visite à Paris

-SY

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Thuan La
Thuan La
Jan 22, 2023

Aw! Really like your sweet comments about the reunion with Austin! Would love to hear more about your opinions/random thoughts throughout the days hehe. Can't wait for more :)

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asha.bulusu9
Jan 22, 2023

So excited for this blog! I want gelato pics! Let us know when the first episode of the podcast drops.

~Asha

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Desai Wang
Desai Wang
Jan 22, 2023

Leave a comment for me friends! Tell me if you want more food/walking/photos! <3

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Desai Wang

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