Money on my Mind

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One of the most intimidating topics when thinking about studying abroad is money. Money can be something that makes or breaks whether someone has the opportunity to study abroad, but it does not have to be! For me, it was definitely a concern when I was applying to come to Rome, but I soon realized that there are a bunch of ways to stretch each dollar while abroad, so I am able have the best experience possible:

1) Apply for Scholarships

Before leaving for Rome, I made sure to apply for as many scholarships as I had time to fill out. While you may think that the chances are slim of receiving one, you never know! Why not try to get the free money that people are so graciously giving away in return for a nicely written essay and possibly a small project after your return.

2) Create a Budget

Now the budget that I am talking about does not have to be crazy. I am not saying to keep an excel sheet with fancy equations and computer things that I can barely understand. For my budget, I keep a notebook of weekly expenditures. While I am out and about shopping, going to restaurants or visiting museums, I mark down how much I have spent in my phone that day and then I transfer it to my notebook when I get back to the residence. Every week I add up how much I have spent, and I try to keep it under a certain number to stay within my overall budget for the trip. Sometimes I am a little over what I want to spend, but I do not fret because there are also weeks where I am substantially under my desired number, so it all evens out in the end.

3) Make Your Own Meals

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I Made This Beauty Myself

I know, mom or dad isn’t here to pack our lunches for us anymore, but it is a great way to save money while abroad. In Rome, the average lunch of a sandwich, pizza or fries costs anywhere from 2.50 Euro to 3.50 Euro, so if I was eating out every weekday between my classes, I would be spending between 10 and 14 Euros per week! Also, eating dinner out every night can get really expensive. Because we have great kitchen facilities in the residence, it does not hurt to put your chef hat on with a couple of friends and try to make a delicious meal.

4) Stay in Hostels

While abroad, I knew I was going to be doing a little traveling throughout not only Italy, but Europe as a whole. One way to save money in these ventures is to stay in hostels instead of hotels. Hostels are an experience all in their own. They are not as fancy as hotels, but they offer showers, beds, Wi-Fi and many other amenities. Sometimes you will share rooms with strangers, but that is entirely your own choice. You will meet an abundance of new people from all over the world who can tell you some of the most interesting stories. For instance, last weekend when I was in Barcelona, I met a woman who I called Miss A, and she told me all about her life and her travels. She even pointed my friend and me to a couple great spots to eat or people watch.

5) Walk!

Walking is a great way to not only burn off all the pasta you will be eating, but is it also completely free! It may take a little extra time to walk somewhere rather than taking public transportation; however, by walking you are getting to see parts of the city that you would have missed otherwise! You might not have found out about that cute café on the corner, or you might never have seen the colors of the sky slowly change as the sun sets. So go ahead, bring out those walking shoes, grab an umbrella if necessary and get moving!

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Walking From Town to Town in Cinque Terre

Thinking about money can be difficult, but luckily, with a little effort and some creativity, there are ways to help curve the costs for studying abroad so more students are able to gain this amazing experience without breaking their wallets.

Semester at the Museum

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In my mind, I’m a cosmopolitan young lady who’s always out exploring the city of Rome. In reality, I take a lot of naps and watch more Netflix than I’d care to admit. Luckily, I signed up for “Museum History and Theory in Rome” this semester with Professor Laurie Kalb, which has pretty much been the perfect class for about a dozen different reasons: a) I don’t have anything like it at my home university, b) it gets me out and into the city, and c) I get walked around every week by someone way more knowledgeable than any tour guide I’ve ever encountered. Plus, when you’re getting a tour through a museum, you don’t have to feel guilty about skipping over most of the explanatory plaques (let’s be real, who actually has the attention span to read them all?), and I can say impressive things like “Sorry mom, I’m going to have to call you back, I’m about to walk into the Museum of the Imperial Fora and Market of Trajan.” Basically it’s been a total win/win.

The theory behind the class is fascinating; museums have undergone a huge transformation since their earliest incarnation as cabinets of curiosities, curated by early aristocrats, naturalists, and scholars. Museums are also implicated in larger discourses of nationalism, citizenship, patrimony, politics, and culture—museums have agendas, and they help craft narratives of state identity. The really exciting part, though, is seeing all of these abstract concepts actually being enacted in the places we visit.

On our site visits thus far we’ve dutifully covered our bases and been to some of the big-name spots, the most important probably being the Capitoline (arguably the first museum in Europe!), followed by the Palazzo Massimo (with an impressive collection of Roman statues) and the nearby Baths of Diocletian (originally built to accommodate literally thousands of people). What’s been a really lovely surprise, however, is all of the hidden gems that we’ve visited along the way. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Galleria Borghese, Wikimedia Commons, Antoine Taveneaux

Galleria Borghese, Wikimedia Commons, Antoine Taveneaux

Galleria Borghese

This museum is actually pretty well-known, but it’s one of my favorites. Located in the Borghese Gardens (a fantastic place to spend some time wandering through, I might add), the museum is housed in the former villa of the Borghese family. It features an impressive collection of Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures, but even if you’re not impressed by the art, the building itself is a masterpiece. The rooms are decorated wall-to-ceiling and are absolutely gorgeous.

Galleria Doria-Pamphilj

This one is pretty exciting because it’s half art gallery and half house museum. One of the most interesting parts of the experience is the audio guide, which is narrated by Prince Jonathan Doria-Pamphilj himself, who grew up in the palace. The gallery features a few Caravaggio and Raphael paintings, but the most famous piece in the collection is the Velazquez portrait of Pope Innocent X (as a point of reference, I assume that any piece of art that I’ve actually heard of is famous).

Casina delle Civette, Villa Torlonia

Casina delle Civette, Villa Torlonia

Villa Torlonia

This one really has something for everyone. The grounds of the villa are open to the public, and they’re a great place to go running or have a picnic. The main house of the villa has an eclectically designed interior, ranging from Gothic to neoclassical to Egpyt-themed, and it’s attached to airtight bunkers built by Mussolini during his residence there. The best part, though, is definitely the Casina delle Civette, or the House of the Owls. Largely designed by Giovanni Torlonia (the “odd duck” of the family), the house is absolutely whimsical and fabulous, featuring incredible stained glass windows and nocturnal animals embedded into the architecture of the building.

Romesick

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Maybe it’s a symptom of my inner New Yorker resisting any form of sentimentality, but for whatever reason, I haven’t been very homesick this semester (sorry mom, it’s nothing personal). If you’d had the good fortune of seeing me on the day I left for Rome, you’d know how ironic this is—I started crying the moment I said goodbye to my family and didn’t stop until I was halfway across the Atlantic. Apparently I looked so pathetic in the airport that one of the guys from security came and found me as I was walking toward my gate to tell me that he promised, I really was going to be okay. Suffice it to say, those weren’t my finest hours.

I dare you to dream up something more perfect than a one euro face-sized doughnut

I dare you to dream up something more perfect than a face-sized doughnut

Fast forward two months and I’m on another flight to Rome, now on my way back from Spring Break. This time I’m not eliciting the sympathy of random strangers, but am actually pretty excited—I missed Rome while I was gone way more than departure-day Jess would have ever believed possible. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in London/Edinburgh/Dublin, but they’re no Rome. Here’s why:

-The Romans are truly a wonderful people. Take, for example, the ladies who work at the residence and help us with our Italian homework. Or the cab driver that joined us in belting out “My Heart Will Go On,” when it came on the radio. Or the local alimentari (convenience shop) owner who asked about our Spring Break trip, and then politely suffered through my Italian as I attempted to tell him about it. You pretty much can’t go wrong when you’re hanging out with Italians.

-There’s always something cheap, delicious, and vegetarian-friendly to eat in Rome, which was something I’d completely taken for granted. And have I mentioned the doughnuts?

-I really missed the Italian language, although I’ll admit, it was nice to speak English at first (especially in the very beginning when I just thought I had magically become fluent in Italian every time I understood something). The feeling wore off pretty quickly for me, but I will say that my friends who were only just starting intro Italian this semester found the English to be a really welcome relief.

This is what real history looks

This is what real history looks like

-We’ve got real history here in Rome. I’m not saying that London’s1000 year old tower isn’t impressive, but as far as I’m concerned, if it’s not from before the common era, I’m not impressed.

-Remember that time I talked about how Rome was one giant traffic hazard? I didn’t know the meaning of near-death experience until I got to the UK. First of all, the opposite side of the street thing is really disconcerting. Secondly, Roman drivers will at least stop instead of hitting you, as long as you’re glaring ferociously enough at them. This is just not true in the British Isles.

Finally, it seems worth mentioning that my life is basically a fairytale and I had a great time travelling. All I’m saying is, it’s good to be home.

International Women’s Day in Italy

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On March 8th, it was practically impossible to walk through Rome without realizing that something special was happening around me. What it turned out to be was the celebrations of International Women’s Day. As a young woman, I am embarrassed to say that I have not learned about International Women’s Day before my time studying abroad in Rome. It seems to me that it is not as widely celebrated in the United States as it is in other parts of the world.

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The lovely mimosa flower!

For anybody out there who is like me and does not know much about International Women’s Day, I will give a little bit of an overview. This celebration has multiple facets. For instance, this day is the rejoicing in how far women have come in regards to gaining equality in political, economic and social spheres. The holiday was actually created within the same year that Italian women were granted the right to vote (1946)! While this day represents how far women have come, it also serves as a reminder for how far we have yet to go to reach true equality.

Another aspect of International Women’s Day is to celebrate not only feminism as a movement, but being strong women. Both men and women alike show their appreciation to the women who have made a positive impact on their lives by being extra sweet and taking them out to dinner or buying them a bouquet of mimosa flowers, the flower chosen as the symbol of International Women’s day by Italian Feminists in 1946. In a way, it can be compared to Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.

While having a special day solely for celebrating women, it is important to celebrate our femininity each and every day. So men, don’t forget to remind the important women in your life how much you appreciate them, and ladies, celebrate yourselves and all of the past women who have formed the path that you are able to walk on.

I asked a couple students at Temple Rome to describe to me what International Women’s Day means to them and they said:

What does women’s day mean to me? Well my passion and my heart is for women’s ministry. International Women’s day to me means women on all races, ages, and professions coming together to celebrate the thing that ties us together-our femininity-even though we express that in a multitude of different ways.  This year for International Women’s day, I attended and volunteered at a Women’s conference. I cut and tied bows on mimosa flowers to hand out to the women that attend my local church. At the conference, I was able to hear a handful of women speak about their passions- whether that be education, hair dressing, or being a mom. Every women is different. But every woman is strong and beautiful. Everyday, but especially on International women’s day, we should encourage and celebrate all the diversity that entails what it means to be a woman with each other.  – Ella Ward

“International Women’s Day is a day that I get to feel more connected to the women around me and I’m reminded to take a moment and reflect on the ways I can relate to women all over the world. I celebrated International women’s day by applying to be an officer for the Women’s/feminism club at my home campus.” -Grace Best

“International Women’s day made an impact all over the world. There were women who were mentioning people they were inspired by, people like their mothers, their sisters, their best friend, famous women in history. My International Women’s day inspiration was my mother. She is a strong women who has encouraged me to be the best that I can be.” – Erin Patterson

“This is the first time I have ever heard of International Women’s Day. Although I was unaware of this holiday, I am greatly appreciative of the things the women of my life have done for me. Grazie Donne!” – Paul Sandhu

So to all the strong women in the world, this blog post is dedicated to you!

Food for Thought

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Food. We all need it. We all love it. We all eat it. Growing up, I always said that I loved Italian food. Italian food meaning spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken parmesan, and anything and everything at the Olive Garden. When deciding to study abroad in Italy, I just knew that I would be in food heaven, eating more pasta than I ever dreamed of eating.

It was not until I came to Italy that I realized almost everything I thought I knew about Italian food was a lie! For starters, my all-time favorite food, chicken parmesan, is not Italian… at all. In Italy, they do not mix meats, especially chicken, with their pasta dishes. There are sauces made with meats, such as bolognese, but they do not place large pieces of meat on top. To be honest, my heart broke a little bit knowing that there was no authentic chicken parmesan for me to try in Italy. No meat on their pasta also means another favorite dish does not exist in the world of Italians, spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, you read that correctly. Italians do not put random spheres of meat in their pastas dishes.

Do not even get me started on Olive Garden. Authentic Italian Cuisine? Not quite. If you ever have been to Olive Garden, I am sure your favorite part is when they bring out those delicious breadsticks, but little did you know that those are one of the last things you will see in Italy. Garlic bread does not exist in Italy; however, at the beginning of their meals, they do serve freshly made bread – that, of course, is delicious. Another great thing at Olive Garden is the shrimp alfredo (and all of the cheese that the waitress puts on top of it for you). There are two mistakes with this dish. The first mistake is that alfredo, though invented in Rome, is not a popular dish in Italy, and the second is that Italians would NEVER put cheese on their seafood. It is just not done.tara

I know that all of this information might be overwhelming, and finding out that America has lied to you about your thought-to-be-favorite cuisine is saddening, but there is a silver lining to this seemingly dark cloud: while in Italy, I had the best lasagna of my life. This adorable little restaurant called Gourmet Café served me the tastiest food that I have had thus far in Rome.

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While the lack of the American Italian food may be disappointing, there are so many other great food options to eat in Italy. For instance, there are a variety of pastries to try in the coffee shops. Every place has different sweets that will surely satisfy your sweet tooth, and there is always a nutella option for the chocolate lovers of the world. If you happen to enjoy a good sandwich, Italy is the place. All of the ingredients in their sandwiches are fresh and they have a lot less chemicals than the stuff that we eat in the United States. You can taste the freshness in each and every sandwich. Another great option is the pizza. Again, using fresh ingredients, they manage to create a delectable lunch option. Unlike American pizza, good Italian pizzerias do not serve their pizza in triangular form, but in a rectangle that is folded over to create a pizza sandwich!

I could go on and on about all of the amazing food options that can be found in Italy, but you will just have to give up your idea of what Italian food is, and come and give real Italian food a try.

Viva il Vino!

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Don’t get me wrong, I chose to study abroad in Rome for all the right reasons: I wanted to ride a vespa, eat my weight in gelato, and become Lizzie McGuire. Having said that, there have definitely been some perks that I didn’t initially factor into my location choice. I’ve fallen in love with the language, the people are overwhelmingly friendly, and the city is really just gorgeous. (Fun and completely true aside: On more than one occasion someone has said to me, “You’re a Religion major studying in Rome? You know the Pope lives like right there, right?!” For the record, that one wasn’t a coincidence.) Anyway, one of the biggest cultural differences that I hadn’t anticipated was Italy’s connection to wine.

When I told people last semester that I would be studying in Rome, one of the most common pieces of advice I got was to get nice wine. “You can get good wine for so cheap in Italy,” they said. “It’s worth it to spend a few more euro in order to get a nice bottle,” they said. So naturally, I’ve been buying whatever’s on sale at the grocery store, because a) I spend all my extra money on pastries, and b) I don’t know the first thing about wine.

Roberta, our sommelier

Roberta, our sommelier

Luckily, this week Temple ran a wine tasting program, bringing in a professional sommelier to teach us all we could ever want to know about wine. She started by showing us how wine is made, explaining the difference between the production of red, white, and sparkling wines, and teaching us about the proper glasses for each type. Along the way I learned that I’ve been using the word “champagne” incorrectly for my entire life; apparently champagne technically only refers to bubbly wines produced in the Champagne region of France, and everything else is really just sparkling wine (or vino spumante, in Italy). In other words, if you’re ever looking to come off as really pretentious, that’s a great fun fact to pull out at parties.

Then we got to matching wine and food, for which there are two approaches: accordance and opposition. The first strategy, simply put, consists of matching the intensity of the flavors in your wine and your food. That basically boils down to the concept of pairing a flavorful meat with a heavy red wine, as opposed to a blander fish with a lighter white wine. The contrasting approach has more to do with offsetting flavors to create a rounded experience. Salty foods, for example, should be paired with either a sweeter wine or a wine with a higher alcohol content, while fatty food goes better with a bubbly or acidic wine.

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Wine Connoisseurs

Finally, we got to the actual tasting. We were instructed to hold the wine glass by the stem, never the chalice, so as not to accidentally heat up the wine past its intended temperature, and to smell the wine before drinking it (I’m honestly not sure what the point of this is, other than shaming your friends for not being as in-the-know about proper wine drinking etiquette as you are). We tried three different wines—a sparkling, a white, and a red—according to the correct sequence of wine drinking, which is white to red, lowest alcohol content to highest, and youngest to oldest.

Moral of the story: drinking wine is complicated, but rewarding. Also, 12-euro bottles taste a lot better than 1-euro boxed wine.

Being Sick (and Homesick) in Rome

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As I have found out, being sick in Italy is not fun. Constantly reaching for tissues, coughing up a lung and going from an arctic tundra to a sauna is less than enjoyable. The one nice thing about being sick in Italy is that there are ways to fix it. They have amazing pharmacies where you can go in, describe your symptoms, and they can give you the cure, all without a prescription. Stuffy nose? Yeah, they can fix that. Migraines? I’m sure they have some Tylenol. Deep cough? They have cough syrup. Missing chatting with my mom? Wanting to laugh with my old friends? Craving chicken tenders from Richie’s? Sadly, they don’t have the cure for those.

Symptoms of various illnesses are typically the same for most individuals. The common cold has a stuffy or runny nose, cough, sore throat and maybe a low grade fever, while people with the flu typically suffer from body aches, high fevers, fatigue and body chills. Unlike a cold or the flu, homesickness is different for each and every person.

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I Did Not Listen to Too Many Sad Songs, But I Sure Did Eat Pasta

Coming into this trip, I expected to get homesick roughly around week four or five. A huge wave of sadness would come over me where I binge eat pasta and cry to sad songs. Contrary to what I expected, my homesickness was not a slap in the face of emotions and longing for the familiar. It is more like this dull, constant hum in the back of my head. When all is quiet around me, it is easy to focus on this hum. I think of home-cooked dinners with my grandma, playing cards with my dad, watching TLC with my best friends, and playing with my nieces and nephews.

A lot of the time, the hum of homesickness is easy to ignore. Between the Italian phrases I need to memorize, directions that I have to remember, and trips that I need to plan, my mind is preoccupied with a lot of other noises. While the amount of things going on around me may be a little overwhelming, it is helpful to stay busy.

This brings me to the four best treatments of homesickness (I say treatments because I do not really believe there is a true cure):

Stay busy: There is so much to do in Rome; try new foods, meet new people, take a walk around Flamino, study for a class, read a book, go to the movies, take the metro to a place that you have never been, go to a museum, etc. The options are practically endless.

Talk about it: One of the biggest mistakes that I made in the beginning was trying to act like I was not homesick. I did not want the people that I just met to think that I was whiny or too emotional. The funny part is that they were homesick too, but until one person was confident to talk about it, nobody wanted to say anything about it. We all took refuge in each others’ stories of our loved ones at home, and the things we miss about the U.S.

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Group Hugs Always Help

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A Care Package From My Mom With All of My Favorite Treats… And a Pillow

Reach out to those you miss: Wanting my family and friends at home to think that I was independent enough to get through this experience on my own, I did not talk to them about how much I have missed them in these past few weeks; however, I soon came to realize that plan was not going as well as I thought it would, so I reached out. After talking to everyone at home, I felt revived and content. There might be an ocean between me and the ones that I love, but they are only one message away.

Eat Gelato: Just do it. I promise that it helps.

While I hate to admit it, it is true: I have been homesick while in Rome. Luckily, I realize that it is not the end of the world because treating homesickness is completely under my control. I have great people in my life that I am able to talk to about it, and there are plenty of things to do in Italy to keep me busy. Most importantly, I am sure Rome will never run out of gelato.