Coping With Leaving

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Our time in Rome is rapidly, rapidly coming to a close. It’s honestly been a bit much to handle. There will be moments when it feels very real and scary, and then other moments when I completely forget that I won’t be staying here forever. I think my brain likes to choose the latter option, the one where I forget I won’t be here forever. At the moment, reality is too difficult to face, so I think my mind is forgetting about all the sad things that are coming soon. If you have ever studied abroad or spent a considerable amount of time in a foreign place, I’m sure you have felt exactly what I’m feeling now, and I think we can both agree that these feelings are not fun. But, I don’t think that our last moments in Rome should be spent in sadness. As complicated as it may sound, I do think there is a way to be in touch with the present, while reminiscing about the past, and looking ahead to the future. It’s a delicate balance, but I think I’m making it work! So, for this post, I thought I’d share some tips on how I’m coping with having to leave so soon.

As you may have read from my other blog post, this week is finals period, which means that students have been cooped up in the library, studying and finishing final research projects. In the midst of all this studying, I recommend that you build in breaks for yourself. Use these breaks to get out of the library, and go walk around! Go enjoy your favorite spots in Rome: go to your favorite pizza place, sit in your favorite piazza, whatever. Just make sure you get outside! Also, gelato. At least once a day. This suggestion might be a bit more superficial, but hey, we’ve only got a short time left, and when is ice cream ever going to taste this good again?!

Throughout your studying, take at least some time during the day for yourself. Take a step away from the books, and take time to reflect. Finals period is a crazy time where our bodies are in a sort-of robot state, glued to our books. Make sure you take time to reflect on your experiences in Rome, and look back at where you were at the beginning of the program compared to now. You don’t want to leave Rome in a rushed state of being, so take things slow.

Third, make sure to do the little things that you’ll miss. For me, an example of this is cooking meals in my apartment. I know that some of my fondest and most peaceful memories in Rome will be the times I spent cooking; it is my happy time, and it’s when I feel most content. I will miss cutting bell peppers and spinach while the noise of the streets filters through my balcony window, because it’s these sort of moments where I feel most connected to Rome, and where I feel like I am living an authentic life here. It might sound ridiculous, but it’s true- it’s the little things! Also, make a list and be sure to say goodbye to the Italians you have befriended. It’s sad to do, but at the same time cool to see how we’ve built a little world for ourselves.

Last but not least, start making plans for how you’re going to keep the spirit of Rome alive once you return to the States. Think about Italian cultural customs you want to bring back with you, and think about how you can blend Italian living in with your American lifestyle. Also, think about how you’re going to stay in touch with Temple Rome people! My professor Dr. Hersch is already making plans for “Philly Fridays,” which will be a monthly gathering for Temple Rome students. I’m glad I only go to school an hour away, so I’ll be able to join in easily! I know it will be weird not to be in Rome with everyone anymore, but I know for sure that I’ll be seeing a lot of people again soon. It is very very weird that I am leaving soon, but I’m trying to make the most of it. I know the real emotions will hit once I start packing—I guess that’s why I haven’t started yet! But for now, I’m embracing each moment as it comes, staying mindful of what’s ahead, but focused on enjoying the present.

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

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I just finished my fourth consecutive final. Needless to say, I am exhausted. Whenever finals period rolls around, I am convinced that I turn into an owl, perpetually in a nocturnal state: sleep all day, study all night. Probably not the healthiest habit, but I’ve been this way for all my academic career (ask my mom and she’ll verify). Since I am not taking any sort of arts-focused classes, all my finals are sit-down exams, so I have been re-reading notes, reviewing past Powerpoints, and mentally compiling a semester’s worth of lectures for all of my classes. It’s been a lot.

After I finished my final this morning, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that there is only one left. Granted, it’s in my toughest class, so that might not be fun, but I am excited to finish things up. When I felt that sigh of relief this morning, a little voice popped into my head: “there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” it said. A light at the end of the tunnel?! I couldn’t believe I thought that! How can there be a light at the end of the tunnel if this tunnel is leading us out of Rome? Finals means the semester is over, and with the completion of the semester comes the return to the U.S. The fact that we are leaving Rome so soon is a whole issue in itself, so check out my next blog post for that discussion!

I want to return back to this “light at the end of the tunnel” concept. I think there is a very legitimate reason that that thought popped into my head this morning. Being in Rome is of course a huge change from being at school at your home campus. Instead of walking around and seeing the usual campus buildings, your surroundings can change every day. As such, living in Rome has served as a distraction from the typical monotony of college life back home, so this morning I had to remember that I have in fact completed a full semester of courses. Plus, my school at home is on a different schedule than Temple Rome, so it feels weird that I’m finishing up finals while my friends are still in classes. Because of these things, I think I’ve been in a different headspace, and things haven’t really felt “real” yet.

Things are in fact very real, and it’s all speeding up and becoming a lot to digest. I am a junior this year, so finishing this academic year is bittersweet. I am so excited to see what I pursue after college, but at the same time, I cannot believe I only have one year of college left. What’s more, I still can’t believe that I got to spend part of my junior year in Rome. I’ve said it before, but I have learned so much here, and Rome has given me the pause and perspective that I so desperately needed. After this semester, I feel renewed and energized heading into senior year, and after this semester abroad, I have new goals for making the most of my senior year. As sad as it is to go home, I really am so excited to apply what I’ve learned here.

My classes have been a blast. When I look back on it, I got to spend an entire semester studying exclusively Italian and Classics-related topics, which is something I really came to enjoy. I learned about Italy and the inner workings of ancient Rome, and through these classes, I learned more about myself. So maybe the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t have to be a sad concept—maybe the light is simply just a celebration and reminder of all the good that’s happened in the course of just one short semester. So here we go: one more final left, and then I will be dooonneee!!!

P.S. see below for proof of my weird sleep/study habits, yikes!!:)

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Living the Life: Two Different Perspectives

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Touring the Etruscan Museum

The opportunity to study abroad should not be taken lightly, overlooked or under considered. Traveling and living in a different country allows insight to a unique culture and viewpoint on life. I was fortunate enough to travel out of the country a few times when I was young and it really opened my perspective. That feeling of discovery was contagious for me. I realized that there is so much more that happens in one city, state, country; there is a whole world out there that differs completely from what we think we know.

 

Being in Rome these past few months has been magical. I have gotten a realistic glimpse into the Italian lifestyle and have even bettered my understanding of what it is like living in America. The distance away from the States enabled me to reflect on the American culture and what expectations are held for the youth there versus Italy. In an ethics class, the students attempted to differentiate the aspects of the societal American dream with the European dream. I decided to discuss some of the main differences because they helped me to really recognize how the two cultures vary in opinions of success.

Beginning with the American dream, there is more than just the idea of a house with a white picket fence. We tend to be goal orientated in the sense of material items; be it an expensive car, clothing and stuff, we equate success to buying nice things. The idea of more is better is prevalent. More hours and more money need to be made to attain these materials. Americans work hard, they are known for their commitment to their careers. The manta “work hard, play hard” describes Americans pretty well in my opinion.

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People playing in Aqueduct Park

On the other side of the spectrum, Italians tend to be very laid back. I learned the word “domani” fairly quickly–it means tomorrow. Many Italians like to put off work, and get it done another day. Although this may not be the most efficient outlook, it appears to save stress and late hours. What motivates Italians is not necessarily material items and gaining more objects. It is the ability to spend time with family and friends; leisure time is very important to them. Meals are a laborious effort that are eaten over the span of hours with loved ones. Picnicking with friends on nice days becomes a weekend routine. Time is spent relaxing more than working I have noticed during my time here.

 

One lifestyle is not better than the other. Both have positive and negative outcomes. One is fast and one is slow. Living abroad and traveling has bettered my understanding of the different ways of life. I am not quick to judge, but to compare and contrast what I see based on my own perceived lifestyle in the United States. An interesting example is that in the U.S., someone who lives in their parents’ home well after graduation is often labeled a “loser,” but most Italians stay at home until they get married. It may not be what Americans are used to, but seems like a great way to save money on rent.

Celebrating Milestones Abroad

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This past weekend I turned 21!!!! What a time to be alive!! As most American students know, turning 21 is a big deal. However, turning 21 in Europe is not nearly as big as a deal, since turning 18 is the big milestone. I’m certainly not afraid (nor ashamed) to admit that when choosing when I wanted to study abroad, I was a little apprehensive about spring study abroad, because I thought my birthday wouldn’t be as fun as it could be in the U.S. Turning 21 is a big deal, and it deserves to be celebrated! It’s a big milestone, and you only get to turn 21 once, so you want to do it right. And I know that more students than will admit it are apprehensive about an abroad-birthday. So, here I am to ease your fears.

First tip: be open to new things and a new type of plan. If I had been in the U.S., I know that my birthday would have been fun, but it would have followed a pretty stereotypical pattern. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I had to remember that celebrating in Italy could be even more special. With a birthday spent abroad, you get to conceptualize things as a fun weekend vacation that you wouldn’t have gotten to take in the States. For my birthday weekend, I travelled to Cinque Terre with my roommate, friend, and fellow blogger Isabella. Cinque Terre is a set of five towns on the coast of Italy. I highly suggest that you lookup pictures so you can see just how gorgeous this place is. Seriously amazing. There are honestly no words (or pictures) to do it justice.

Second tip: take your birthday as a time to pause and be thankful. Being outside of Rome, Isabella and I had the opportunity to reflect on what this semester has been, and how we want to finish up our last couple weeks. If you study abroad in Rome, I recommend that you take at least one weekend (even if it’s not your birthday) to change your scenery. Cinque Terre is made up of mountains, harbors, beaches, and the sea— such a difference from Rome! Changing up our scenery gave us time to reconnect with our surroundings, and returning to Rome was awesome, because it felt like we were truly returning ‘home.’ All throughout the weekend, I got to exist in a space free of distractions, and I could reflect on this past year, on my time abroad, and on what I want this next year to be. Take the time you need to put work aside and focus on fully engaging in each moment. Enjoy wherever you are, even if it’s in Rome; you don’t need to leave Rome to celebrate your milestone birthday!

Third tip: treat yourself. Milestone birthdays are a big deal for a reason. They mark a huge celebration of where you have been, and where you are yet to go. Remember that a birthday abroad should be treated with just as much regard (if not more) as it would be in America. So live it up! Order an extra scoop of gelato, buy the fancy wine, or visit that cool place you’ve always wanted to. Enjoy every moment, reminding yourself that you’ve been afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should not be passed up.

So, what I’ve learned from this past weekend: birthdays abroad probably won’t turn out the way they would have in America, but the good thing is that they will turn out better.  Yes, I missed having all my college roommates and friends to celebrate with me, but I got to celebrate with all the great new friends I’ve made here. Instead of focusing on having one big nighttime celebration, I spread the party out over the course of a few days. We hiked, laid at the beach, ate amazing seafood, and visited an authentic Italian vineyard. And to end the weekend, my friends and I gathered for cake and card games on the rooftop garden at the Residence. All in all, a fantastic weekend. Milestones abroad can seem intimidating, but I promise you, if you let yourself be open to the new experience, it’ll be great. So happy to have turned 21 here in Italy.

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Small Classes

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As classes here at Temple Rome wind down, I have found myself getting a bit nostalgic for all the amazing moments that have happened in my classes this past semester. The classroom has always been a special place for me; it’s typically in a classroom where I feel most comfortable, and have an enormous amount of fun. Okay, so maybe I’m a bit nerdy and a little weird, but if that’s how I feel in a classroom, then I guess it makes sense that I want to be a teacher! One of my favorite things about Temple Rome has been the small class sizes, and it’s something I will come to miss.

The largest class I’m in has about 20 people, and the smallest has 6. This may seem like a big range, but I love it. In all of my classes, I have come to learn everyone’s name, which is different from a big lecture you may have back home, and we all have all learned a bit more about each other. My political science class, a special seminar called ‘Race, Immigration, and Identity in Italy’ has seven people, and we meet twice a week. Since we are a seminar class, each class is a discussion, rather than a lecture. In addition, for each class, we take turns rotating which student will lead the discussion. I have come to grow so fond of this practice, because it’s cool to see all the different types of learning/presenting styles, and I’ve enjoyed learning how to prepare myself for leading an effective discussion.

Last week, my ‘Race, Immigration, and Identity’ class went to Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele to have discussion outside. We study the immigrant experience in Rome, and Piazza Vittorio was a great place to meet because it correlated with the book we read for that week and located right by Termini train station, which is a popular hub and meeting place for immigrants. We sat outside and had class, and it was one of those “everything is great” moments. I looked around and loved hearing everyone contribute their ideas, and when we finished, our professor looked at us and said, “Okay, mangiare,” which means “to eat” in Italian. We all agreed in excitement and headed out.

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Luckily for us, one of our classmates had eaten at an Indian restaurant nearby, so we headed over there. It was such a treat to get to eat a a type of food I haven’t had in a while; don’t get me wrong, of course Italian food is great, but it’s good to mix things up every now and then!! After we all ordered and received our food, we dug in. For two of our classmates, it was their first time eating Indian food (ever), so we made sure to pass plenty of naan and mango lassi over to them. I loved sitting around the table with all my classmates and professor; the conversation went beyond academics, and instead, we all sat and took genuine interest in each other’s lives. And our professor even talked about how he’s sad that we will be leaving soon!

In just a few months, we have built a community, and I’m excited to stay friends with the people I’ve met here in Rome. Since I don’t go to Temple back home, staying in touch will obviously be a bit more difficult, but if we can make it in Rome, we can make it anywhere! I’m starting to get excited to see where everyone’s senior years will bring them, and I’ve already started planning for my reunion trips up to Temple Main Campus. Thank goodness for the small classes I’ve been a part of— I really will miss learning and living in Rome with these people!!

Cultural Differences

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Living in a different country has been a huge learning experience. Initially, one of the first things I noticed about Italy is the cultural differences I encountered that had me doing double takes. Now that my time of studying abroad in Rome is a few weeks shy from completion, I may return acting more Italian than American.

The first thing to capture my attention is the speed and agility Romans apply to just driving around town. Vespas and small cars whipping past and cutting each other off, honking, hand gestures and more speed. The fact that I haven’t seen an accident is very surprising. The fact I haven’t been hit by one of these manic drivers is a miracle. In the beginning of the semester, crossing the street was as scary as crossing the ocean by flight, feeling like you are unsure of making the right decision. But it is all about commitment. Especially in the sense of a Roman pedestrian; always check both ways before crossing, make eye contact with the driver and commit to crossing the street. They may not slow down for you, but they’ll stop (hopefully). The driving is entertaining to watch, the running through red lights and random parking spots is what really raises an American eyebrow.

Ironically, while Italians are fast drivers, they love to take their time with everything else. Walking is slow, dining is slow, the wifi is unbelievably slow. Italians like to take their time, enjoy each the present moment and put off their worries until tomorrow. I am learning this is a lifestyle I can stand behind.

The people are kind, loud and interactive. They aren’t as keen to smile at strangers, but they like to stare. It is a more common practice here than in the states. It’s not odd; Italians are curious about what everyone is wearing. Especially because they get dressed up just for an evening stroll. They like to put their best foot forward, especially if it’s in a Ferragamo heel.

Crossing the street can be challenging, but just walking down the sidewalk is a game to see who can get away with not moving to the side. Personal space means a totally different thing to Italians and Americans–this was something I had difficulty understanding. I was frustrated that men wouldn’t step to the side when I was passing them in close quarters or people on the metro are seemingly closer than needed. Although I am used to this European sense of personal space now, I am looking forward to a little more room in the U.S.

Another interesting thing to note for students interested in dating an Italian: the men are believed to be more aggressive and the women initially more standoff-ish. Just keep that in mind when mingling with Italians after class. Overall, it’s a fun learning game distinguishing the cultural differences and adapting to them. Even if you’re used to more personal space or prefer your men less flirtatious, it is rewarding to be immersed in a foreign culture and learn the ropes. Rome has a great way of teaching you life outside the class room.

Weekends Well Done in Rome

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No matter where you are or what you are doing, almost anyone can agree that they are looking forward to the weekend. Especially students. It’s a time to either take a break from your studies or catch up on work, opportunities to socialize or do your own thing, sleep in or explore. With Rome as our oyster, the chances to have a good time are endless.

_DSC0229This weekend I took it upon myself to do new things in the Eternal City. I saw new places, ate new foods and spent time with different people. With the countdown to the end of semester in full effect, I feel the pressure to make the most of every moment abroad and balance my time working on classwork and summer applications. The art of balancing in study abroad is real, so plan your time efficiently.

Having Fridays off is a blessing, an extra free day to help you balance out your work and fun. I had the pleasure of spending the majority of my Friday with friends walking through piazzas and Villa Borghese, people watching in Campo di Fiori and dining at a pizzeria. Saturday, I restocked at Trionfale market, a big indoor market with lots of different types of food vendors. I am proud to say that the vendors I try to continuously go to are recognizing me and throwing in some extra produce. I feel like famiglia. A tip for budgeting: buy your produce, bread and wine at the market. So much cheaper, fresher and not to mention entertaining to meander your way through the Italian shopping process.

Another great way to experience cultural foods and people is through events and festivals. I attended a tiramisu festival outside of central Rome and had a good time exploring the area and sampling different versions of tiramisu. Finding these opportunities is a fun way to learn more about modern Roman culture. Luckily, Temple staff have a lot of insight on events and places to visit, so ask them ideas on how to spend free time.

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This weekend was also the Rome Marathon, which kept the city busy with blocked off traffic and extra pedestrians. I mistakenly forgot that public transportation would be affected and woke up early to wait 40 minutes for a bus that never showed up. I recommend using apps like Moovit to navigate public transportation more easily. It’s easy to make an alternate plan for things to do in Rome, so I rounded up my roommates and took advantage of the gorgeous spring day. We ventured to Aqueduct Park, about a 30 minute ride by *working* metro. Many Italians go there to relax in the sun with family and friends, they bring food and games and enjoy the day together. We walked around, laid out blankets and played cards. Days like this leave permanent memories of my time in Rome. This experience has been one fantastic blur of new and exciting moments, but when I can slow down and appreciate what all is in front of me I can fully understand what a great opportunity it is to study abroad.