It was August of 2013 that I first laid eyes upon my now-boyfriend.
When I applied for my study abroad program Italy, my last intention was to get a boyfriend, let alone find love. It was actually quite the opposite. I wanted to have a typical college experience and be irresponsible for a semester.
For four months, I wanted my only worry to be where I was going to fly to next weekend and where the cute boys hung out. It was the first time since I was 14 that I wasn’t working, and it was the first time I felt okay just acting my age.
The town was small, like really small. There wasn’t any English, and I didn’t know more than a word of Italian. Even though I wasn’t looking for a relationship, life had other plans for me, and soon I was hopelessly in love with the man of my dreams.
The night that I arrived, the study abroad school hosted a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
As I headed up to the school where the students would meet before heading to the restaurant, I noticed a dangerously handsome, obviously Italian man puffing on a cigarette waiting for all the students to arrive. His hair was dark and his skinned toned. I didn’t really know what his position was at the school since he obviously wasn’t a student, but I later found out he assisted the school for a few days at the beginning of each semester to help settle all the students. As luck would have it, he sat across from me at dinner.
During the dinner, I was busy getting to know all the people I would soon call close friends, so I didn’t pay much attention to him. There was a bit of chatter here and there between us, but not much more. After all the dinner and drinks with the all the students, I headed home to my new host family and when I got in my bed and closed my eyes to go to sleep, he suddenly popped into my head. It was from that moment I knew I was in trouble.
The next morning was orientation, and Rofildo was running it. He handed us bags with the school logo, pens, our schedules, and a “Rules” handbook. He explained the rules, but I could tell he was uncomfortable.
He was nervous, and I thought it was adorable.
Days went on, and we continually ran into each other on the street. He’d be with his best friend and me with my roommate. He was attractive, to say the least, but I didn’t really think about it a lot; I was busy having fun. A month after I had arrived, I was invited to a party by the program director’s son. He told me to bring my friends and anyone else I’d like. I immediately thought of Rofildo.
There were five of us in total that went to this party, and we’d all had a good amount to drink. As we were all sitting at a table outside, enjoying each other’s company, Rofildo announced that he was going to head inside to get another drink. I knew this was my opportunity to be alone with him, so I took it and went with him.
When we got inside, it was packed. There was no way we were going to get a drink in a timely manner, but I wasn’t about to let this opportunity for alone time go. So I did what would end up shaping our future; I headed in front of Rofildo and reached my hand behind me so “he wouldn’t get lost”. We reached a blockage of people and couldn’t go any further, but our hands remained intertwined.
We both realized we weren’t going to be moving anytime soon, so I turned around and pressed myself against him in a hug. We stayed like that for about five minutes, just embracing each other. Eventually, I looked up to be met by his glaze. We both went in for a kiss and didn’t stop until we reached the front of the bar.
After this night, we continued our affair.
My feelings grew for him substantially. As I was falling in love, he had other things on his mind. One month after we first kissed, he confessed he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend, and couldn’t continue seeing me. I was heartbroken, but I picked myself and decided to go to England for a couple of weeks and do what I came to Europe to do; enjoy myself.
While I was in England, I thought a lot about what I wanted to come of my relationship with him, and I decided that was nothing. After my four months of being abroad, I would be heading home. I was going to go back to my life and Rofildo was going to stay in Italy.
I was okay with that and I knew that everything would eventually pan out as it was supposed to. When I got back from England, Rofildo and I continued seeing each other with the understanding that once mid-December came around, I would go home and that would be the end of it.
Eight days before my scheduled departure from Italy, I dreading leaving. Not because of Rofildo, but because I had met wonderful people and experienced wonderful things. I didn’t want it to end. So I casually looked into what funding I had available and how much it would cost me. I worked it all out and found a way to stay for another semester- I was ecstatic. I was going to live in this beautiful place for another four months and bond with the locals that I had grown to love so much.
I was nervous to tell Rofildo that I had decided to stay; I didn’t want him to feel trapped. To my surprise, when I told him he grabbed my hand and was smiling from ear to ear. It was the first time he’d held my hand in a romantic way instead of just two people hooking up kind of way. I was happy, and with that, I went home for a month over the holidays before I was set to begin my new semester.
I texted him as soon as I landed, and he immediately responded. After texting for a couple days, he suggested we FaceTime, so we did. And then we did every day after that until I arrived back in Italy.
During the month that I was home for the holidays, we decided to become a monogamous couple.
We were a typical new couple, and it became apparent to me that it was actually this that I wanted all along. I wanted to wake up in the morning with cheesy messages waiting for me, and I wanted to be connected with this man in an intimate way.
We counted down the days until I got to the train station where he would be picking me up; it was like a fairytale! With thousands of miles between us, and after four months of getting to know each other, we became the couple we are today.
We lived together during my second semester abroad, and then went on to doing a year and a half of a long distance relationship before I made the move to Italy. It’s not always easy (and holy guacamole I’m glad I’m not the only one who moved abroad for love and has struggled here and there!) but it is worth it beyond words could ever describe. There have been language barriers, and there have been cultural differences, but in the end, I get to fall asleep with the one I love night after night, and that has made it all worth it.
(Psssst- If you want to hear about my experience as an expat since I moved to Italy check out this post!)
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