Preparing to jet off to Rome for a semester under the roman sun is extensive. Meetings, paperwork, saving up and the list goes on. There is so much to do, so a few things fall through the cracks. A huge piece of information that was not passed along was the sheer insanity that is a European bathroom.
In the United States, there is a general standard that all public bathrooms adhere to. When I think of a public bathroom, there is only one kind of toilet that comes to mind, if a toilet even comes to mind. European infrastructure, as a whole, is a great deal older than in the States and modernization efforts with indoor plumbing have led to some bizarre “innovations.” The 2022 fromers have had their share of bathroom encounters of a strange kind.
Madi Meduna, a sophomore biochemistry major, had a particularly memorable encounter in western France. “I was at a nice public garden in Bordeaux and I went to use the bathroom,” recalled Meduna. “The lights barely worked and then I realized that the toilet was a hole in the ground, no toilet. I decided holding it was better.”
One might associate a hole-in-the-ground toilet with underdeveloped countries throughout the world, but it appears that the French did not have enough in the budget for that priceless porcelain throne. I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
In reminiscing on a class trip to southern Italy, sophomore philosophy major Erin O’Brien recounted a hilarious scenario. “Picture this”, O’Brien said, “You are at a four star hotel in Campania, you go to the bathroom and you try to flush the toilet — it doesn’t work. Then you think maybe it’s just Italy, you try to wash your hands but then realize you cannot wash your hands either. You have no water.”
Not only have the toilets been strange, but every other access point of water in the European bathroom has proven to be complicated too. As strange as the toilets can be, the showers can be an adventure in themselves.
Resident Coordinator Katrine Christensen, UD class of 2020, had an absurd experience in an Athenian restaurant. “As someone who worked in food service for several years and knows US cleanliness standards, it was disorienting, to say the least, ” Christensen recounted. “As you exited the bathroom, you could walk right into the kitchen, both of which seemed to have permanently open doors. As you walked up the stairs to go outside, there were other patrons’ feet hanging all around you and a platform with a bell that they could ring when food was ready to be taken by servers.” Athens is a high-flying town and real estate is expensive, so I am sure this layout decision was the most prudent use of space.
There are as many more stories as there are fromers, but to print all of them here would steal their thunder as they come home and tell their own stories to all of you back on the ranch. I could go on and list all the things the spromers and hopeful freshmen planning time under the Roman sun ought to know, but I will refrain. We had no idea of these things going in, and it really made everything even more of an adventure. One day you too will be numbered among those who can wax poetically about the Greek sewer system, or more accurately, the lack thereof.