Today I saw the POPE!!! I will admit I cried when I saw him because I was just overcome by so much happiness and excitement. I began my day with the sound of my alarm clock at 5 am. I had to keep telling myself I was going to see the Pope while I got up and ready in the dark while my roommates were still sleeping. A group of 13 of us bared the early wakeup call to experience the best moment of the trip. We got to the Vatican around 6 am and I was surprised to find that we were one of the first people in line. We waited around for about an hour and a half when finally the gates opened for us to go inside. People were sprinting after passing through security to get the best spot to see the Pope. As we ran to the front, we remembered Kirk telling us the Pope always stops for babies so decided to position ourselves next to the nuns who were holding a baby. This was the perfect recipe for the Pope to stop and he did! After waiting for three hours the Pope finally came out and greeted the crowd. When I first saw Pope Francis my body froze. I could not believe that I was standing in the presence of the Pope. We were so close I could see the wrinkles on his face. He stopped his Pope mobile right in front of us to kiss the baby next to us. We were all screaming and crying to be so close. I realized at that moment I reached my peak as a Catholic. The Pope came out and read scripture and gave a homily, which was then translated into nine different languages. I will be honest and admit listening to the scripture and homily said in different languages can be a little tiring especially when you’re hot, tired, and hungry. I had to put those feelings aside and be eternally grateful that I was in the presence of the Pope. I was so glad that I decided to not hit snooze on my alarm and got to see the Pope with my own two eyes.
We met up with the rest of the group (who got to sleep in till 10) and joined them for lunch in a local market. After our quick bite to eat we headed out for a day of typical Rome site seeing. Our first stop was the Pantheon. The Pantheon is very deceiving because on the outside it looks like a square building, but as you make your way into the space there is a dome. It was cool to be standing in a place where so much history occurred. After the Pantheon, we walked through the Jewish ghetto, the past by ancient ruins and finally walked towards the Colosseum. I was so excited to be going to the Colosseum because it is such an iconic structure. It was fun to be standing in a place that was built so long ago where men fought men and other beasts. By the time we hit the Colosseum I was losing steam from my early wakeup call and so was the rest of the group. I think Kirk could tell because we all started moving slower and talking less. Kirk was kind enough to make our trip to the Forum a quick one so we had time to rest before our farewell dinner.
Our farewell dinner was very bittersweet. I could not imagine my life anymore without the amazing people I became so close to during this trip. It was such a fun time reflecting on our memories of the trip and sharing how we have grown from the trip. I definitely grew as a person over the past couple week of being abroad. I have loved every moment and so grateful that I was chosen to represent PCS abroad. The professors, advisors, and student leaders all helped me grow as a person and showed such great compassion for every student. I have become a huge advocate for study abroad and I believe that every student should be given the chance to study abroad and see the world.