This was unquestionably the most frustrating chapter ending I have ever experienced.
Only when I felt I had truly found my stride at work, when I felt really at home with my Italian family, when I had secured best friends for life in the other interns, was it time to go. I felt as though I’d been building a nest for the last three months and now was the time to really live in the nest. Only it was time to go home to an ailing economy and an even more bleak journalism industry, with little hope of stepping into the next phase of my professional life.
This is usually the time when one might expound upon all the expectations that were disproven or exceeded in an experience like this one. But to be honest, AP Rome was exactly what I expected and wanted.
I expected to have little to no nurturing from the staff, and I was not disappointed. I say this with affection and not bitterness. Feelings of discomfort are my indication that I’m indeed growing up, and so I prize them highly.
I expected to feel pressure on the job the likes of which I had never experienced, and I did. The fast deadlines, the scope of the news, the language barrier and cultural differences were all added degrees of temperature in the pressure cooker.
I did not expect sympathy or understanding for my mistakes. The mistakes on this job had very real consequences for the journalists, consequences that would naturally evoke frustration and criticism. It was extremely real in that way.
I had expected, or hoped rather, that I’d form life-long friendships with the other interns, and this perhaps above all, was the sweetest met expectation.
I expected to do my best to be part of the family with whom I lived, and the acceptance and familial love that was shown to me in my home moves me to tears.
I knew from experience that the quarks and inefficiencies of urban Italian society would frustrate me, while forcing me to grow my patience. Such was the case on both fronts.
I expected to fall in love with Rome all over again, even if it was my sixth stay in the eternal city. I’m happy to report that the beauty continues to take my breath away.
I was determined that no matter how brilliant or lackluster my performance was in this internship, I would exude positivity, a hunger to learn, and persistence. Such were the elements that colored the staff’s parting words and feedback.
I expected my Italian to improve, and it did. Though I’m proud to say I was told that I speak Italian with a Spanish accent. Thank you Texas, I carry you with me everywhere.
You can call them expectations, determination, suspicions, missions. What Rome did was to fill all these academic ideas of what was to come with robust flavor and experience. It’s the difference between a recipe and the finished dish.
I had a highly intellectualized idea of what this experience would mean to me, but now that it has become real, the emotional elements are what resonate the most.
How lucky am I to be pursuing something that is so all-consuming, and thus all-gratifying, that my life’s work immensely impacts my formation as a human being?
Even as I imagine that news wires may not be my final resting place in journalism, I knew in Rome that this is the work I love and will do forever, no matter what the medium.