by Francesca Yazbek
This picture of the Vatican is from my first day in Rome–one of the very first pictures I took– and more than three weeks into my semester here in the Eternal City, I am still brought back to my first Italian sunset in St. Peter’s Square. After what felt like days of traveling, it seemed like I stepped right off a plane from America into one of the most important and defining places in the world; my jet lag hadn’t even had the chance to set in. From the outside Vatican City looks like a fort with its high walls and guarded entrances. Directly inside the city walls, I found myself amidst a sea of giant columns that suddenly took on more life than myself, and the meekness of my humanity became clear. Outside those walls I was one of 43 other students who had made the journey from the United States with me. Inside those walls I was humbled to be alone with the columns and the fountain, and the Vatican, while all the other students and tourists in the Square became distant voices blurred into the background. I was overcome with an undeniable feeling of peace in this place, the kind of peace that settles deep in your soul and cleanses your being, leaving you with the refreshed feeling of the deepest spiritual encounter. To say that this place is powerful does not do it justice, for it is something that has to be experienced to be understood.