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Getting Lost Abroad: This is What Dreams are Made Of?

by AIFS Study Abroad

Alumni Ambassador Megan studied abroad in Florence and took a trip to Rome as part of her program. She shared her story with us about getting lost abroad and what she learned from it. Was she confused for an Italian pop star? Not quite, but she have an adventure. Read on:

If you’re a “90s kid,” then you are well aware of the masterpiece that is The Lizzie McGuire Movie—the classic Disney film in which our heroine breaks away from her school group to gallivant around Rome. Long story short, she must feign that she is indeed the famous Italian pop singer that the entire European population mistakes her to be. Now, as soon as I made the official announcement that I would be studying abroad in Florence, Italy in the spring of 2014, my friends and family members immediately saddled me with the tongue-in-cheek expectation that I experience the typical ‘Lizzie McGuire moment” should I make it to Rome. I was bombarded with enthusiastic encouragements like, “I fully expect you to ditch your tour group in Rome, find an Italian pop-star twin, and switch lives with her in the pursuit of a fleeting romance with an attractive Italian man.” Or, something along those lines. Little did I know, however, that when I finally did make it to Rome, I’d be well on my way to achieving such a lofty goal. Well, at the least the first part, that is.

On our first day in Rome, my friends and I took a tour that AIFS had set up for us, and when we reached the Pantheon, our guide made it clear that we would meet outside of the structure after exactly five minutes of free exploration. Now, what are the odds that my friend group of six people who dispersed to explore the Pantheon individually, would manage to reconvene after our allotted five minutes? Not one of us could locate our guide or a single other person from our large tour group. We frantically searched the Pantheon inside and out for a solid fifteen minutes—we looked on benches inside, we scoured the perimeter, we called out names to the amusement of other tourists and locals—before coming to the conclusion that we, in fact, had lost our tour group. Purposefully or not, we were on our own in Rome. Lizzie McGuire moment, part one? Check.

We panicked for a solid ten minutes. We had just arrived in Rome a few hours prior and there we were, left to our own devices and armed with nothing but the broken Italian skills we learned in the month we had been abroad and the worst paper map known to humankind Who, may I ask, makes a map without street names? Suffice it to say, we were completely and utterly lost in a foreign city, a large, intimidating foreign city. Naturally, our first instinct was to find our way to the next stop on our tour and meet up with our group. That idea was immediately dismissed, however, when we realized we didn’t quite remember where they were headed after the Pantheon. So the next logical solution was to retrace our steps back to the subway station, where we could use the Rome “cheat sheet” AIFS had given us to navigate back to our hotel. And what do you know, we ended up doing just that with absolutely zero hitches!

So did we get the full Lizzie McGuire experience? Well unfortunately, no Italian pop-star look-alikes crossed our paths while we were navigating to the subway station. But the fact that we had completed part one of the process certainly kept our spirits up as we found our way back to our hotel. And hey, we got closer to the oh-so-typical  “90’s kid” dream of impersonating Lizzie McGuire than most people do, so that was a definite plus. In all seriousness, however, this adventure was completely crazy, but nevertheless eye opening. My friends and I each discovered that in the month we had been abroad, we had already picked up valuable skills in getting around foreign countries. In fact, we were (pleasantly!) surprised that we were even able to recognize certain monuments and buildings, allowing us to trace our way from the Pantheon to the subway station (it wasn’t exactly a straight shot). So when you get lost abroad (because in 4 months, chances are you will), be sure to take some deep breaths, devise a plan, and give yourself some credit—navigating foreign cities isn’t as daunting of a task as we all make it out to be. And on the bright side, you could end up becoming the next Italian pop star.

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