10. At any time of day I can walk with Annie through the courtyard, library, hallways, or coffee bar in the basement; I can basically go anywhere and – almost without fail – there are anywhere from 10 to 50 20-somethings lining up to give my baby their undying attention. She interacts with at least 30 individuals other than her parents on a daily basis. I could not get this in many (if any) other places.
9. An abundance of qualified babysitters. And the best part is they are usually so eager to get their hands on Annie that they babysit for FREE!
8. All the faculty and staff know Annie; they love and squeeze her on a regular basis. She has “conversations” daily with Art historians, classics scholars, Italian language professors, librarians, and administrators. She attends readings, plays, concerts, visits the students’ art studio, and regularly makes appearances at university extracurricular events, like intramural soccer. She gets to start her college experience a little earlier than usual.
7. Not only is our home a university campus, it is a study abroad program. The students that come to study here are usually the farthest they have ever been from home. They have the experience of a lifetime, and Annie and I get to be a part of that. We witness so many “ah-ha” moments. We watch students as their views of the world change right before their eyes in just a matter of a few months. But I love, too, that we are here for them. So many of our students at one point or another become pretty home sick. That’s where a snuggle from a cute baby can do some good. Annie gives them a little bit of comfort when they’re missing home.
6. Dad’s office is located mere steps away from our front door. We can see him at virtually any time of day. We have lunch with him everyday. He has baby equipment in his office and Annie can hang with him while I make a quick trip to the market or the farmacia.
5. Living among so many 19-21 year olds really keeps you young at heart. Here I can’t avoid it. Their love for life, enthusiasm, insane energy, and desire to experience the Italian culture is entirely contagious.
4. When we brought Annie home from the hospital a week after she was born, the students had decorated the entrance to the university and the door of our home with welcome posters signed by all the students. They include her in almost all of their events (e.g., she has a section called “Annie’s Picks” in the weekly newsletter about the intramural soccer league where she predicts the winning teams). When Annie goes to the States for a visit, her absence never goes unnoticed, and there is always a “We missed you and are glad you are back” sign hanging somewhere around campus to greet her upon her return home. For Thanksgiving, the student life assistants asked the students what they were thankful for this year and displayed their thanks on a power point that played for the week in the reception area of our school. One of the slides was a student saying that s/he was thankful for Annie. A few nights ago the students held their talent show. A student portrayed Annie as the lead of one of their skits about their time at the Rome Center. Annie is just as big a part of their experience as they are of her first years.
3. The students here are at a very impressionable age. They are inquisitive and are very open and honest with questions. Most of them know nothing about Down Syndrome and some have never even met an individual with DS. More often than not, Annie and I are constantly bringing awareness to so many of these impressionable students. Every semester Annie and I change so many perspectives and we clarify myths. We teach and expose, and I know the students are grateful to know Annie.
2. We live in a gated community and anyone who enters must be buzzed in by security through a loud and heavy iron gate, at all times. Our bedroom is closer to this gate than any other room on campus. On top of our close proximity to this gate, my husband is the Director of Student Life here on campus. As such, he is the chief conduct officer and any students breaking any code of conduct must talk to him about their actions (a less-than-enviable position). As any of you former and present college students are surely aware, many students of this age return home anywhere from 2-4 in the morning. Since Annie has been born, I am constantly amused in the wee hours of the morning by the drunken “whispers” of students stumbling home. The gate slams and then at decibels I didn’t know whispers could reach, “SHHHH, BABY ANNIE’S SLEEEEEEEPING!!! SHHHH!!” I am always glad they have made it safely home and though these “whispers” often disrupt my sweet dreams, I always have to laugh at their nightly “consideration” for our little Annie.
1. I love that my family is part of bigger community of learners. A common trait that my husband and I share, that we want to instill in all of our children, is the desire to be bettering ourselves constantly, to be learning something new everyday. Here we see this and live this everyday. We visit new places, we learn about art and culture, and we try new things all the time. Most importantly, we are part of a family: An American university in a foreign country. A majority of my husband’s colleagues,too, are far away from home and their loved ones. We have become a family here. We take care of each other. I know without them I would not love it here.