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With heavy arms perched high above my head, I savored the precious flow of cold water streaming down my sweaty back. At my grandmother’s house, as in most Roman households in the summer, the shower is a welcome sanctuary from the unrelenting Italian sun, and it can become competitive territory to stake out in a busy home. The bittersweet smell of coffee wafted into the bathroom and invited me to join my grandmother for my favorite meal.
Today was my first morning in Italy, and I knew that breakfast would mean catching my grandmother up on an entire year’s worth of material. After a sip of coffee, I hooked my laptop up, and stood next to my presentation, just as I had done a few Saturdays ago in my International Fashion Marketing class at FIT. When I saw my title slide, all of the butterflies that I thought I had left in New York suddenly came fluttering into my stomach. Speaking in Italian helped to ease my nerves, and in a beautiful synergism between Italian and English, I shared my vision with my grandmother. I wanted to bring a hip active wear brand, coveted in the U.S. by yoga enthusiasts and marathon runners alike, to Italy. The sporty style of so many Italian women inspired fashion forward athletic wear, and I was excited by the prospect of bringing a new brand to a local shop in downtown Rome. After outlining my business plan and real estate forecasts, my grandmother asked me “What about Paris?”
I knew this was her gentle nudge for me to practice my French. After completing a brief synopsis of my presentation in French, I surrendered to the second best armchair in our lounge and dug into my bag to share my next adventure. At the end of Junior year, I decided to pursue my passion for beauty products from a new perspective. So, I traded in my summer bikini in favor of a lab coat and goggles for 40 hours a week during the first month of summer. As I unpacked a new sleeping mask that I had spent the summer experimenting with, I shared my experiences working in a Cosmetology Lab. We admired the new color I had developed, a creamy hue of golden yellow, infused with a subtle shimmer. I loved pouring the different shades of eye shadow and watching different formulations come together to yield innovative products.
After breakfast, we took our first walk into the city, down the narrow cobblestone streets to our favorite grocery store. The sweet salami, paper thin slices of prosciutto, pitted olives, and smoked salmon reminded me of my favorite appetizer at Giuseppe’s, my family’s restaurant in New Jersey. My miniature apron that I wore as a child, its pockets stained from the juice of olive pits, still hangs on the coat rack in the kitchen.
I reach into my pocket and pull out a few euros, telling my grandmother that the groceries are my treat today. As we pass a vacant shop on our way home, my reflection in the dark window gives me an idea for the window display to my shop in Rome: golden tanned mannequins, with a shimmer like the one in my eye cream, clad in geometric printed ankle pants and a bright hoodie with gold accents. All this exotic art around me, the texture of the chipping bricks around the stained glass windows. My mind wanders to the history in the cities I have yet to discover.
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