Blog post

How new friends helped my Vatican panic melt away

Marketing, PR and Advertising student Tamzin Burch recently went to Italy as part of the International Travel Awards scheme, which is organised by our Student Experience team. Here, Tamzin tells us how the trip affected her.

By Tamzin Burch - 27 June 2019

Sense of belonging

Since I got back from Italy, I have not stopped thinking about what an incredible experience I had, for a wealth of different reasons.

However, prior to the trip, I didn’t know anyone in the group who was going. I was familiar with a few faces. One girl lived in my halls and another person I had seen around Uni. Apart from that, everyone was brand new to me. This was, of course, daunting, and I did not know what to expect when I arrived at the airport.

I can be a very extroverted person. I love chatting and meeting new people. However, I am also an incredibly anxious person and I worry all the time about what people think of me. But, as soon as we all met up at Stansted Airport, it felt like I was a part of something. We were all given our “Rome 2019” caps, which I ended up wearing a lot! I instantly felt like I was very welcome and wanted within the group. I also understood that everyone was in a similar boat, so my anxieties began to fade away.

Overcoming difficulties

There were moments in the trip that I found challenging. Our trip to the Vatican was an overwhelming experience. I am claustrophobic, particularly in crowds. I hate feeling like there is no way I can escape from something like this so, as soon as I saw how busy it was, I began to panic. However, I was with the best bunch of people. I think we could all tell we were getting a bit hot and bothered so we stepped outside for a while before heading back inside to explore the beautiful art.

I was reassured. I felt like I could turn to anyone and they would do their best to help if I needed it. I think being so tired removed some of the anxious thoughts. The series of early mornings were getting to me and everyone else, plus the abundance of walking we were doing caught up with us.

On that last Friday, I had walked over 35,000 steps, on three hours of sleep. I didn’t have the focus to both take in the sights and overthink. I ended up dragging myself round for hours and, I have to say, it was a relief when we finally got out of the other end. I felt proud for not leaving early. I felt as if I really had pushed myself and overcome something major. I was proud of myself. I really wanted to see all of the Vatican, hence why I stayed for so long. I would have regretted it otherwise. It is such a stunning place.

I knew a few of my friends felt the same, exhausted and overloaded, but I think, because of my anxiety, this was just heightened. The days were very full on, we were with people we’d never met, running on adrenaline and excitement, tired, worn out and slightly (very) delirious. This was challenging but it allowed us to form such strong bonds. Because of this, I didn’t feel alone in the experience at all. It was nice to know I had people by my side, to help through any problems that I may have faced.

Making friends

“It’s the friends we meet along the road that help us appreciate the journey.” This quote certainly rang true for the friends I made while we were on the trip. Getting to know some pretty cool individuals, while soaking up Italian culture (eating pizza) and walking around some breath-taking areas, was indescribable. It really made the trip.

We laughed until we cried (literally) and connected over carbs, sleep deprivation and more carbs. We ate a lot of pasta. I have come away from the trip having met some solid friends. I cannot wait to see them all soon and make more memories. It is crazy to think that, if we had not grabbed this crazy opportunity by the horns, we might have not met each other.

Creating memories

I went to Italy for the sights and came home with even better memories. This was 100% down to the people I spent the trip with, including the friends I made. We got to see and do so much. We did pretty much everything you would think to do when going to Rome, including seeing the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Naples, Pompeii, the Vatican and more.

We managed to fit so much into the three days that, yes, we were beyond tired but we had so much fun and we were really able to make the most out of the experience. The staff leads were full of knowledge and they really made the trip surpass expectations. A group of us even went to an ice bar one night, where we danced to Come on Eileen, of all songs!

Breaking down barriers

It was also great to spend time with the staff leads outside of the university environment and get to speak to them about our time as students in a completely different way. It felt like we were breaking down a barrier that can often be there between staff and students, and we were connecting as part of the greater community. We all really enjoyed chatting to the staff throughout the day and into the evening too. We actually went out for drinks with them a few times and had interesting conversations about university and beyond.

Overall, my trip to Rome was inspiring, insightful and iconic. In retrospect, I would not have changed anything about it. We all had an absolute ball. I learned so much. Not just about Rome itself and its history but about my peers, the amazing university I attend and myself.

I am so thankful that I was chosen to be a part of #DerbyUniPassport, and I urge you all to apply for next year’s trips. If you want to see more of what we got up to, check out the hashtag #DerbyUniPassport on Instagram, or feel free to follow me @tamzinlena where you can see my stories!

About the author

Tamzin standing next to a river, smiling.

Tamzin Burch
Marketing, PR and Advertising student

I am a current student, studying Marketing, PR and Advertising, whilst also working part-time in marketing. I am passionate about writing, marketing, travelling, feminism, higher education, student employability, mental health, plant-based food, animals, and 70's music!