After spending four hours on a train, it is safe to say I was quite thrilled to get off and stretch my legs.
As I made my way off the train and through Roma Termini Station, I had an uneasy feeling. The first sight I saw coming out of the station was Rome police surrounding a dead body.
A person who appeared to be homeless was already put in a body bag, and was about to be removed from the sidewalk. My roommates and I were shocked that we were really witnessing this. I can easily say that was not how I pictured my first sight of Rome, Italy.
The week of Feb. 22, a terrible accident occurred in Rome. A 21-year-old Bates University student from Rye, N.H., John Durkin, went missing. The search only lasted a few days. According to The Boston Globe, Durkin was reported missing after he stayed behind at a bar and never returned home.
After his father flew out to Rome to help with the investigation, Durkin’s body had already been found and identified, the article stated. Durkin was hit and killed by a passing train while walking under one of Rome’s many tunnels. It is so sad that Durkin’s trip and life was cut so short.
This recent news hit me really hard for several reasons. The most eerie of them all was the fact that I knew exactly where he was in his final hours, and was able to vividly picture it.
I too visited the Campo de’ Fiori square where Durkin reportedly went. This is a square full of pubs and bars, and I remember it being very busy and well lit.
The Boston Globe article stated the specific bar Durkin was at was Sloppy Sam’s. This was the exact bar I went to. I remember when my friend brought my roommates and I there I said, “We’re really going to a bar called Sloppy?” As soon as I read that was where he was last seen, I got the chills.
I can remember walking around Rome and having to walk under these tunnels, and they really creeped me out. They were dark and unsafe.
It was like walking under the underpass of a highway. Cars were flying by. I cannot imagine trying to walk under one of those alone, in the dark and intoxicated.
This story not only brought back vivid memories of my trip to Rome, but memories of my semester abroad altogether.
I cannot believe how lucky and fortunate I was to not have anything happen to me while I was abroad. I spent four indescribable months the spring of 2013 studying away in Florence, Italy. And there, I felt completely safe.
I felt so safe in Florence, because it became a home to me. I never once felt uncomfortable walking around during the day or at night.
However, I never walked around alone. I always made sure my roommates or friends were right there with me. The only times I ever walked by myself in the city was to and from class, all of which were during the day.
I think this is extremely important, not only being abroad in a foreign country, but in any unfamiliar setting. No one should ever be wandering around alone, male or female.
I think many will agree with me that this was Durkin’s downfall. Even though he had been living there for a month, and he may have been a linebacker for the Bates football team, he should not have been left alone, especially at night and not being in his right mind-set.
I do not think studying away is dangerous by any means. These places are just as dangerous as anywhere in the United States—a city is a city. I do think that you need to be very smart to come home untouched, though, and not book smart, but street smart.
I think Americans are big targets in foreign places, especially for pickpockets. Italy is known for its gypsies.
These people have completely mastered their art of distraction and robbery, so when they see someone remotely acting unaware of their surroundings, they will see them as their next victim. Half the time these people will not even know they were robbed until much later.
Rome had some of my favorite sights, but it was definitely the sketchiest place I visited. I was lucky enough to have had a friend living there who was able to show my roommates and I around.
My time abroad was the best experience of my life. I would not change it for anything. I made it home safely and untouched because I was smart.
I never walked around alone, I was aware of my surroundings at all times, and that is what I would suggest to all those who are interested in going to a foreign country.
Shannon Flynn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org