Originally written December 3, 2016

There are people that you know for years and years that you never make as great of a connection with as you do with people who just stumbled up out of nowhere. There is something exhilarating about jumping on a plane and meeting a group of strangers that you know nothing about, that come from all around the country and that share the same love for adventure as you do. You can only pray and hope that you’ll meet even one person in your life like that. Well for me, I met six. In Rome, Italy. How lucky am I? I didn’t plan on writing specifically about my friends I grew to love so dearly in just a month…but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be the perfect ending to the story of my adventures this summer. After all, its not always where you are, but who you’re with.

I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people from different cultures, different upbringings, different beliefs and people that appreciate the value of diversity and the value of traveling the world to experience it. So I met this group of people on my trip to Italy and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have wanted that group to be any different. Yes, we were all completely, and I mean COMPLETELY different, but somehow me meshed together so well and so quickly, now that I think about it. It was truly a blessing. I want to tell you a little bit about each of these people and why I appreciate them so much.

Of course I was the type that wanted to see what I was getting myself into with these people, so as soon as the list of people that were attending the trip was sent to us, I used a little tool called social media to track down these people that were lucky enough to embark on this journey like I was. Oh before I go there, I just want to admit that I filled out my roommates request sheet like a crazy person. I basically put that I wanted roommates who were super loud, funny and outgoing, stayed out until 4 AM every night, and loved to be spontaneous. So honestly, I had no idea who in the world I was about to live with for a month. Anyways, I messaged my roommates and we maybe said a few words to each other about how we were excited…and that was about it. I have found out many times also that you surely cannot judge someone off of their Facebook page and their Insta pictures because you will either be disappointed when they’re super boring but seemed cool, or you’ll feel bad that you thought they might be a little strange when they become your best friend. After stalking everyone, the trip was coming to life…I realized it would be such a sort time before I hopped on that plane and met these complete strangers.

But thats what happened. I showed up at the Atlanta airport, where I met the first two people I would call two of the best friends I made on that trip. First, I met Trennie, who I had no idea would be basically everyone’s favorite by day three. Let me tell you about Trennie. He is from Tennessee and plays in the marching band at UT and turns out, he’s everyone’s favorite at his school too…who would’ve known?! Trennie and I got in our fair share of arguments (HAHA), but I can honestly say this kid is one of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met. Oh and he’s not too shabby of a dancer either. And even though I am probably the worst dancer ever and it may not mean a lot coming from me, that kid was always dancing to something or singing some girly throwback song that he knew every word to. He made me dance too even though every time I danced I only got made fun of. He always wanted everyone to feel included and could talk to just about anyone about anything. Like I said, always a favorite anywhere we went.

The next adventure buddy I met in the Atlanta airport was Sydnee. This gal is now one of my favorite people in the world. She likes to say that I forced her to step out of her comfort zone while abroad, and for that I am forever grateful because we had an absolute blast together. We endured long three-hour photography class together every day, wondering if our professor was on some sort of hallucinogen the whole time. He literally would see things in pictures that were definitely not there. We would show him a picture of a leaf and somehow, in his deep crazy imagination, he would see an astronaut or a dinosaur! What?! Yeah, so Sydnee and I enjoyed this crazy, but entertaining, man every day. We honestly learned so much about photography from him though, and we had so much fun going out and finding photographs to create with our class. Definitely never a dull moment. When I first met Sydnee, I had no idea we would grow so close over the trip and end up bawling our eyes out every time we looked at each other the last day we were in Italy. I literally could not even be near her because we just kept crying. And yeah, she lives just a few hours away in Alabama, but we would never be prancing around Rome together, taking pictures of strange things, exploring the city, eating heaps of Italian gelato, or eating lunch at the different cafes between classes together again. At least not in that situation. We swore up and down we would go back to Italy together one day, and Sydnee, if you’re reading this, I’m holding you to that!

The next two girls that I met were my party animal friends on the trip, the ones who were always down to do something, even though class at 8 AM was actually a real life thing. I  think I met Carlee and Alyssa at the same time if I remember correctly, but I’ll tell you about Carlee first. Carlee was the free spirit I hoped so badly to find on this trip. She was the one that I had the most in common with as far as style, music and that sort of thing. She is from Maine and is seriously the biggest party animal I have ever met. The girl is just a ‘fun girl’. If my roommates are reading this, I hoped you laughed at that part! Carlee was my friend that got her purse stolen, could drink an unreal (and I mean UNREAL) amount of wine and the one that made me feel like I was somewhat clean because she was so, so messy. By the end of the third night, Carlee had told us all about the extremely hard time that she went through years back and after that, I gained so much respect for her. Not that I didn’t have respect before, but I realized how strong and brave she is. And I thought it was pretty cool that after just a few nights, she felt like she could share everything with us. I think thats when we all knew we would become such close friends. I miss living with this girl, having crazy deep talks with her, not doing the dishes together, thinking we heard ghosts, getting made fun of by her and just overall being around someone like her. If you’re reading this, I MISS YOU!

Now for Alyssa. I don’t even know where to start honestly. First off, she’s the one who came up with the term ‘fun girl’ because she said that when she looked us all up on social media she looked at our pictures and thought, “she looks like a fun girl.” So thats where that came from. And it never stopped…we probably said that fifty times a day. Me and Alyssa were probably closer to sisters than anything, mainly because we fought all the time. But we’d fight and then be over it in a couple of hours or so. Alyssa is definitely a true sorority girl from Jersey. She spoke Italian and hot dang, all the Italian boys loved them some Alyssa!!! But seriously, this girl was someone that the trip would not have been the same without. Yes, we got in our fair share of arguments but in the end, she became someone I could call a best friend. We talked about life together, cried together and honestly almost got in a fight one time. Alyssa loved to make fun of my dancing too, just like Trennie. Well, just like everyone. At first I thought Alyssa was really quiet but sweet, but then she actually turned out to be hilarious and so much fun to be around. She always made fun of me for saying “y’all”, but when we were leaving for Ireland on the last day, she said “I’m gonna miss y’all” and broke into tears. I knew the word y’all would grow on those people, even though she swore it never would! Needless to say, I miss our fights, our tears and our laughs the most, but I know that Alyssa will continue to be  fun girl no matter where she is!

Now for someone that I just happened to have so much in common with, even though you’d never guess it by looking at us. I met Mike I think the first night, and we instantly bonded over Sigma Nu talk because he is a brother of Sigma Nu at Utah and I was a Sigma Nu White Rose. It was so funny how his chapter was so similar to the group of guys that I was so close to at my school. Somehow, me and Mike got into really deep discussions every time we talked but I sincerely appreciated those talks, just knowing that someone thinks the same way as me and can relate to the crazy things that go on in my head. Mike was like the dad figure of our group– he always walked us home and made sure we were safe after being out all night; he would literally do anything for us and he just made for a great friend to be on the trip with. He was a best friend to us all, even though we had our fair share of arguments with him too. Needless to say, Italia wouldn’t have been the same without ole Mike.

I saved my true adventure buddy for last. This is another one  that I had no idea I would grow to be such great friends with. Me and Sarah were always friends during the trip, but we didn’t really become close until towards the end of the trip. This girl is one of a kind though. Sarah was the mom of the group for sure, always taking care of us, but she definitely had her wild nights! And when she did, man she was so much fun!!! Sarah was the one in the group that always bought the cheesy souvenirs like the mini Colosseum, and she always laughed until she cried about absolutely everything. We had so much fun roaming around, trying to figure out where to go and how to translate what we wanted to say into Italian. She was the one who showed me how to cook my own cheese sauce for pasta and the one who cleaned up the kitchen most of the time. Like I said…the mom of the group! But she is so much more than that. She is the girl from California who isn’t tan and has a Vermont accent and enjoys wine a lot but can only be limited to a couple glasses. When I booked my flight to Italy, I made the return date about a week after our program had ended, hoping that someone else in the group did the same thing so we could explore more of Europe together after leaving Rome. Well, Sarah didn’t book her return flight so she and I took off for Ireland when our time in Rome had ended. And boy, I wouldn’t have wanted to go on an adventure with anyone else. Like I said, we were complete polar opposites but it totally worked for our friendship. Sarah appreciated the beauty of the land in Ireland, and the Guinness too. What more could you ask for? I will tell you more about Ireland soon, but just know that if you ever decide to go to Ireland, take someone that you get along with, like Sarah and I did, with you cause it’ll be a trip to remember.