Well, the Christmas lights are up in Roma - white lights in Trastevere and lights the color of the Italian flag down Via del Corso, one of the biggest roads in the whole city.

We've been playing Christmas music in our apartment, and we're even having a Christmas party this week. It is so odd to think that Christmas is less than three weeks away, as I have been so busy with final studies.

As of this week, two of my four classes are done and my last two finals are next week. This past weekend, I studied and studied and I am so excited for the lightening of the coursework load so I can fully take in the city during my last week and a half.

Speaking of Christmas, one thing I've noticed is that national holidays here are very different from those in the States. We went to school as a normal day on Thanksgiving, which for us was so odd, but we have other national holidays that we get off. The first day we had off of school was for All Saints Day, and then today, Dec. 8, we're off because of Immaculate Conception.

It is interesting to see the difference in national holidays between the two countries, and it certainly allows for a better understanding of the country's foundation.

I had some wonderful experiences lately. My cousin from Cuggiono called and we had a conversation in Italian. We talked about how we were, my final exams and even chatted about Rome. Come to find out, she and her husband were married at a church we visited for my Renaissance and Baroque art class. We reminisced about how beautiful it was and how we should venture to Rome together some day.

Then, later, I went out to dinner with some of my good friends and had such an excellent time. As the semester is coming to an end, you realize more and more how precious those moments are, and we all laughed and had a wonderful time at an adorable Italian restaurant with magnificent food and great house wine.

Going out to eat is definitely something I want to do more of in this last week and a half. I've become much more skilled at cooking this semester because I cook dinner for myself every night and it has been so fun. I really have developed a new love for cooking and I cannot wait to get even more creative when I get back home.

For this last bit of time, however, I want to soak up all I can of the Italian cuisine because I am completely positive I will be missing it as soon as the next week after I leave.

It is so interesting - when we first arrived in Italy, it was such an adjustment to get used to eating so many carbs, and less meat. Pasta, Italian rice and pizza have been daily staples in my diet this whole semester and at first I longed for meat, yet now I am so used to it that I find myself voluntarily making pasta or Italian rice almost every night. (Surprisingly, I am still at the same weight, just for curiosity's sake.) Of course, I still eat meat, but I have gotten so used to not having it as much and I truly am going to feel a pasta-void after I leave.

One piece of good news about that issue, though, is that Barilla pasta is extremely common here in Italy, so I can easily make some of the same recipes back home. Buon appetito! A dopo!

LACIE GOFF is the daughter of Janice Gualdoni and the granddaughter of Louie and Beauella Gualdoni, all of Herrin. Lacie is a junior at California Lutheran University in Los Angeles, majoring in communication and journalism. She is spending this semester in Rome, studying Italian, history and art history.

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