After a full week of classes, I invited a few friends over to my apartment last Thursday evening. We sat around my kitchen table, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. A particular topic of conversation was our limited time left in Rome. After all, this was going to be my second-to-last weekend in my “home” city, since the rest are composed of trips abroad. Upon our return from Fall Break at the end of October, IES distributed a “Roma Bucket List” to all students, which listed activities that we should be sure to do before we leave on December 14. One of these items instructed us to “check out districts you’ve never been to, like Testaccio.” Feeling particularly adventurous, a couple of us decided to do just that.
I’d heard about Testaccio before from many friends in my program. It’s known for being one of the great nightlife centers in Rome, and I was eager to experience it for the first time. We took a cab to Testaccio, since we had no idea how to get there on our own, and managed to meet up with a few of our friends at a well-known discotech. It was really crowded, but pretty fun. After a while, however, I got tired and wanted to go home. Everyone else seemed to be pretty caught up in dancing and having fun, so, not wanting to bother them, I decided to leave the disco alone. I would just hop in a cab and be back at my apartment in no time.
As with most things, this idea didn’t quite go as planned. I wasn’t able to find a cab right outside of the club, so I was forced to walk down the street in search of one. During this walk, I ran into two Italian guys, who seemed to be just a few years older than me. They approached me speaking Italian, so I tried my best to ask them where I could catch a taxi. As I was trying to comprehend the quickly spoken response, one of the guys reached over and snatched my iPhone out of my pocket! I was shocked, since that was about the last thing I’d expected to happen during this seemingly friendly interaction. Grabbing at my phone in a desperate attempt to retrieve it, I didn’t even notice the second guy sneak behind me and grab the cash out of my wallet! I was angry now, but resisted the urge to lash out. After all, there were two of them, and I didn’t want to get hurt. My moment of hesitation gave the thieves enough time to turn and run. I dashed after them, but was outrun before too long.
Awestruck at my misfortune, I looked for some help. During the chase, I had run far away from the disco and my friends with it, so, not knowing how to get back, my only option was to find a way to get home. Luckily, I spotted a passing cab. Frustratedly wondering where it had been before the robbery, I flagged it down. The driver got me home safely, and even stopped at an ATM so I could withdraw the money to pay him, since, thankfully, the thieves had left the cards in my wallet.
I woke up on Friday thinking that the previous night was just a bad dream. Small, helpless girls are the ones that get robbed, right? Not big, tall guys like me. But reality hit me soon enough, and before I knew it, I was Skyping with my parents and my girlfriend, telling my story and dispelling their worries. Then, I was on the phone with IES, working through my options. Then, I was at the police station, reporting the incident with my ISC. Then, I was talking with my friends, receiving their sympathies and good wishes. It was a lot to handle, but I did my best.
Now, after everything is said and done, it’s all okay. I am okay. A replacement phone is on the way, none of my credit or debit cards got stolen, I wasn’t carrying a particularly substantial amount of cash, and, most importantly, I wasn’t hurt in any way.
It goes without saying that I learned a great deal from this experience. First of all, I now know that it’s not a good idea to explore an unfamiliar and faraway place, especially at night. It’s easy to get lost in a big city like Rome, and it’s even easier to do so without the light of day. In addition, it’s generally less safe at night due to unsavory characters like thieves. My Grandpa Novak used to say that “the only things that come out at night are the roaches.” Next, I learned that, even if you are doing a little nighttime exploration, it’s important to have others with you. There’s always strength in numbers, even if the situation isn’t an optimal one. Surely, I wouldn’t have been targeted if I was in a big group of people, or even just one other person.
Perhaps most of all, I learned that I have great people on my side, even in the toughest of times. I was pretty shaken up after Thursday night’s incident, but everyone rallied behind me and helped me cope with it. Although I’m now down an iPhone and $80 cash, it’s definitely reassuring to know that I’ll always have people supporting me. Thank you, everyone.
Now that I’ve gotten that sad and dramatic story out of the way, I can get back on track! All of my positive experiences this semester have more than compensated for this single negative one, and my opinion of Rome remains untarnished. It’s still an amazing city, and I can’t believe that I only have a month left in it. More exciting and happy adventures coming soon!