Have your own semester” is a seemingly innocuous piece of advice that was uttered by a well-meaning professor during our first week of classes here in Rome. Unfortunately, this phrase has become corrupted to become little more than a justification for shirking ones duties. However, this phrase is not only valid advice, but is one worth extending to one’s life beyond the Rome semester.
“Have your own semester,” while meant to exhort students to make the most of their time abroad, reflecting on how to make each moment the most fulfilling, is often corrupted by classmates who want to go to Scholars’ Lounge the night before a test or convince you to not give up gelato for Lent.
In Rome and elsewhere it is important to have an active interest in your own life and do things that interest you, not just whatever your friends may be doing. One of my favorite parts of 10-day with my group was a day in London when we all decided to split up and do whatever we wanted to do by ourselves.
Having spent at least twenty pounds on the London Eye the day before (and then spending the twenty minute ride wondering if I was squeezing a pound’s worth of enjoyment out of each minute) to spend time doing what my travel mates wanted to do, this suggestion could not have been more welcome. I was happier walking along the Thames by myself, seeing what I wanted to see of London, than I had been with a group.
Having different experiences only brought our friendships closer together anyway. When we had dinner that evening, we had a lot to discuss, mostly because we had all done different things earlier that day.
One ought to make an active choice to enjoy himself, and find something worthwhile to do with the short time that one has, in Rome, during college and throughout life. Do not depend on other people to define your semester or your life. Trust in God and take the opportunities of freedom that you are given to do what interests you because these opportunities are limited.
Although during the Rome semester one is very aware that this could be their only chance to ever see art in the Louvre or to go to St. Peter’s for Easter Vigil Mass, the mindset of “having your own semester” would not be out of place in Irving either.
It is not just time during the Rome semester that is too short. Throughout one’s life we are given opportunities, but it is the individual’s choice whether or not these opportunities are taken. While in Rome, one is acutely aware that time is short, but all time is limited, and one should always live with a healthy awareness of this. Instead of assuming that there will always be another time, one should be thankful for the moment he has and enjoy it while he is able to do so.
As my semester in Rome comes to a close, just as many University of Dallas students before me, I am reminded that time is never as long as it seems it will be.