LIFE/Exiting the airport, entering the unknown


Landing in Rome, I have never been so terrified to exit an aircraft. Questions were racing through my head, naturally slowed by the sleep deprivation. I was nearly finished with a journey from the middle of America to Viterbo. Fiumicino was the last lap and my biggest hurdle.

Never having been on an international flight, I did not know how simply enter a country. The concept was something I could not understand clearly. So, I decided to confidently pretend to know what I was doing.

I boldly left the plane to go into the unknown, trying to find a way to once again step on concrete and breathe fresh air. Exiting the airport was a complete “fake it until you make it” moment.

I still do not know if I left the airport correctly. I am worried officials will find me one day or customs agents will cock their heads and ask on my way out, “How did we let you in here?”

But I made it out, and my anxiety skyrocketed into new territory. Everything was unfamiliar. The people I was soon going to meet, and the people all around me, and the general environment were as far away from normal as I am from home.

Stepping out of the airport gates, I was sure that I was nowhere near “making it.”

So I paced the arrivals area of Fiumicino, looking desperately for anyone looking as desperate as I was. Don’t worry, there were plenty, none of which spoke English, and were not for whom I was looking. 

The boldness I had begun my long journey with was melting away with worries and sweat from wearing three coats and carrying three bags in a crowded airport.

Luckily, that worry was met with the same wide, American eyes of another student, equally as lost, and equally as sweaty. Soon, meeting the entire group immediately was met with demands for bottles of wine, incredible views, and scalding showers, in that order.

We were all looking for some sort of normal that day, and we did not find it, and will not for sometime. But for now, we will just have to settle for a familiar sunset in an unfamiliar place.

Hi! My name is Catherine Wheeler. I study English Writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. This semester I am studying Italian and journalism at Università degli Studi della Tuscia. In my free time, I love to read, cook, and travel.

Ciao! Mi chiamo Catherine Wheeler. Io studio di scrittura in inglese a Fort Lewis College di Durango, Colorado . Questo semestre Sto studiando italiano e giornalismo presso l’Università degli Studi della Tuscia. Nel mio tempo libero, mi piace leggere, cucinare, e viaggi.