Last week at dinner, I told my Dad something that I thought would surprise him– and it did. I told him that even after talking about it for so many years, I never really believed that we would actually go live in Rome. Even while we were getting on the airplane in Chicago, I still didn’t believe that we would actually be living in Rome. I thought probably the plane would crash land and we’d have to come back to Madison. So even though my parents talked about this for so long, I actually felt surprised when we arrived here.

I thought that I would never really be living here because when my parents first started talking about it, it seemed so long away. It felt unrealistic. I never started thinking that we were really going to live here until we actually arrived at our apartment on via del Babuino.

When I brought my suitcase into my bedroom, then I thought “well, this is my room.” I felt nervous. It felt kind of like a whole new life. I was worried that I wouldn’t understand things here and what school would be like. It was so strange that I didn’t even really think to myself about whether I would actually like it here or not. But I did think the year was going to be a fun experience even though I had no idea what it would be like.

At first I missed my friends and Michael’s Frozen Custard. In Madison, you just go see people by walking down the block to their house. But here, everyone was in apartments instead of houses and I couldn’t walk anywhere alone. It was okay though, just different. One of the first things I remember noticing was that a lot of adults here smoked cigarettes and that really bothered me to smell it everywhere. The two things that I was most excited about were pizza and soccer.

Now I can’t believe the year is over. I am really sad to leave Rome and wish we could stay here, but I hope that saying that is no offense to the Madison people.

I am sad because I have met so many very nice people here. Waiters, gelato tenders, and the kids at my school were very nice. I have made a lot of friends here this year and it is really hard to have to say goodbye to friends. It was my hardest day all year when I had to say goodbye to all of my friends here on the last day of school.

Rome is now my favorite city in the whole world and I want to come back here every year to visit. And I want to stay a week at the least each time, but maybe longer.

My happiest things have been: meeting all my friends here and trying all kinds of new foods that I love. I have loved traveling and having new adventures in new parts of the world. I also loved getting even more into soccer here and learning about all of the Italian and other countries’ soccer teams.

Learning Italian was really fun, too. When I learn new things in math, I like to look for patterns. And this year I learned you can do the same thing with Italian. As an example, in Italian there are three kinds of verbs. So once I know if the third letter from the end of the verb, then I know the pattern of how to use it. The verbs all end in -are, -ire, or -ere. But once you know the word and the rule, it is very easy to figure out what form it has to be (like in English we just say eat and use the same word for I eat, you eat, we eat. But in Italian the verb mangiare changes depending on who is eating). But some verbs are just weird and don’t follow the pattern and you have to remember them, like essere or avere. And the endings tell me whether something already happened or will happen, so that is easy, too. It is hard when I don’t know the word for something, but if someone tells me I can usually remember it. I really like learning new languages.

I feel that I have more knowledge about other places in the world. And when I hear about different places, I will remember seeing them or know people who live there or have families there. I have liked lots of different languages, and I have tried to learn at least a few words in each place we visited. We have had lots of problems traveling and now I feel like a confident traveller and I think I will always like to travel a lot when I grow up. But not for business, just for vacation.

I am super glad that my parents took us on sabbatical. It has been really, really fun being in Europe. Honest. I liked speaking in Italian, playing soccer almost every day at school, how outgoing and friendly Italian kids and grownups are, how late dinner is here, that the food was not “fancy” but really good. I liked EVERYTHING and will miss everything except the cigarettes and one kid from school.

It is ironic because now that we are leaving Rome, I feel like I spent most of my life here. Like I did when I was leaving Madison.  I don’t remember what my room looks like in Madison, and my bedroom here feels like my room. And my friends here, I feel like I have known them my whole life. I still want to go back to Madison, but I wish sabbatical could last another year or two or maybe three. It is hard for me to believe that I won’t stay living in Rome.

— Eli