Morcheeba – Rome Wasn’ t Built in a Day (2000) (Official Video) (Lyrics)
(Written March 6, 2023)
I wish I could convey to today’s teenagers and young adults how much freedom we had in the late 1990s/pre-September 11th, 2001. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up just enough to enjoy all that that time period had to offer. Those years, roughly 1996-2001, still loom large in my life. What a soundtrack I could create for that time! Morcheba’s Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day would feature front and center. It is upbeat, optimistic, and fun in a way that is sorely missing today. The video is infectious and fits the song perfectly.
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the song, but it will always remind me of my summer in London. My freshman year at Michigan State, I had no doubt that I’d study abroad. The only questions that remained were: when, where, how, and why. I settled into life at Michigan State with my mom’s experience studying abroad in the United Kingdom in the ‘70s firmly in the back of my mind, oblivious to the profound impact it would all have on my life.
From all the stories I grew up with, I could tell that studying abroad loomed large in my mom’s college experience. It’s clear that she loved every minute of it. Interestingly, I’m not sure if it would’ve happened without my dad. When my mom wanted to marry my dad before graduating from Central Michigan University, my grandparents handled it brilliantly. They suggested that she study abroad before she married. I don’t know if she would have taken that step otherwise. I’m just glad that she did and shared those stories with me. I doubt she knows the extent to which they inspired me.
Spring semester 2000, the professor in my freshman literature class passed out a flier for a short term study abroad program in the United Kingdom that summer. Even though I would be taking another literature course I didn’t necessarily need, I’d be able to finish up my required humanities credits. A summer in London sounded perfect. I couldn’t sign up fast enough. In the end, I would spend five weeks in the heart of London (Bloomsbury) and one week in Glasgow, Scotland. For the first time, I would be away from my family and the canoe livery for an extended period of time during the summer.
It’s funny what I’ve taken away from the entire experience. First, I became an addict. I became addicted to studying abroad. As soon as I returned to Michigan, I knew that I wanted to spend at least one full semester studying abroad. I hadn’t given up Spanish just yet and spending a semester (minimum) in a Spanish-speaking country seemed a foregone conclusion. The width and breadth of Michigan State University’s Office of Study Abroad did not make it easy – or maybe a little too convenient. The choices seemed endless. I couldn’t make up my mind between a semester in Caceres, Spain or Quito, Ecuador. Ultimately, I didn’t have to choose. With my parents’ blessing and plenty of scholarship opportunities, I did both. In the end, I participated in five separate study abroad programs through Michigan State and three alternative spring break programs in Mexico (two in Merida and one in Puebla). The two study abroad programs not mentioned above were short term programs studying business in Mexico (one in Monterrey and one in Merida). I could not have asked for a better education. I like to think that it all started with that summer in London.
When I finally returned to campus, I landed a position as a peer advisor in what was then called the Office of Study Abroad on campus. I spent my time working in the Office of Study Abroad helping students plan their own study abroad experiences. To this day, it is the best job I’ve ever held (Russell Canoe Livery exempted, of course).
In addition to becoming an addict, my experiences in London and Glasgow left me with the sense that I could take on just about anything. I grew up in Michigan’s smallest city, Omer, Michigan. Attending one of the largest universities in the United States, Michigan State University definitely resulted in culture shock, and yet, it was nothing compared to what I experienced living in London during that time period.
In essence, London and Glasgow represented an awful lot of firsts in my life. For the first time in my life, I had easy access to world class museums and theatres. In fact, the program I completed focused extensively on the Arts and Crafts movement. Not only did I have the opportunity to visit the Victoria and Albert (the V&A), we often visited various exhibits as part of class. One free weekend, I explored the Louvre with friends, traveling to Paris via the Chunnel shortly after it opened. I also experienced all the pomp and circumstance of the British monarchy as the Queen Mum turned 100 years old that summer. A closeup I’d taken of a Bobby while witnessing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace didn’t win the Office of Study Aboad’s photography contest, but it did end up in their catalog for the following year. I still have the catalog and countless memories.
Every time I hear Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, I am instantly transported back to that time in London, to the 19 year old I once was, so many opportunities unfolding before me for the first time. I can imagine myself rushing to catch the tube to class or the V&A each morning from Russell Square Station. I envision myself catching the train to Bath after a failed attempt to spend a weekend of adventure in Wales or heading to the airport to spend the weekend in Dublin. I can’t think of anything more powerful than the ability of music to transport you back to a time and place.