Why You Need To Do You Sometimes


I am a huge advocate of making sure you give yourself some “me time.” But lately, I feel like I am finally realizing that there is something a lot more important than indulging in some Netflix in an empty apartment, and that is to simply be myself. Being abroad gives you the perfect chance to explore the world and explore yourself, and it does so by giving you a fresh start and letting you meet people from all over. However, when considering how big and diverse the world and its people are, it becomes so easy for us to get lost in it. I love running around and exploring new places, and I love those days when I just wear a big sweatshirt with leggings. Yet in Rome I feel like these, along with other, comfortable and habitual things I do are somehow looked down upon or seen as unconventional.


For instance, every single time I go for a run I get a facetious “thumbs up” from people walking to work or even a few people jokingly running alongside me, smiling. I feel awkward at times because it makes it very obvious that I am not from Rome when a local resident is running beside me in jeans, laughing and catching the eyes of everyone we pass. When thinking about it though, it’s pretty ridiculous and really funny how something as basic and simple to me as running on residential streets can result in such an adverse reaction from people. In reality, I give a “thumbs up” back and generally chuckle when people run beside me, but what if it actually bothered me and forced me to stop running? What if I felt like I was even more of an outsider and I stopped exploring new places and doing the things I love? Moral of the story? Just shrug off the people that run alongside you, making you feel uncomfortable for doing what you love.

Since almost all blog posts about being abroad seem to gravitate back towards being yourself and exploring, in this one I want to shift more towards the “doing you” sometimes. I am a comfortable person. My comfort zone is thirty minutes from home. So, at school and in Rome I latch on to the things and people that make me comfortable. At some point I inevitably get too comfortable and start being more individualistic. Once I start skipping weekly dinners or cancelling plans, I realize how although I kind of like the independence, being with people is so great.

All of this rambling on and pretty standard advice comes down to one really important fact: you need, and the frequency is flexible, to surround yourself with people you enjoy being around. Although snuggling in bed after a long day sounds nice, talking about it over dinner with a few friends is even better. We all have those days when we do not want to see anyone or talk to anyone, but, when we think about it, how much do we enjoy seeing that one person who makes us instantly laugh regardless of our emotional state?

My advice: be you, but be you with people that make you happy.

Studying and Struggling


The past two weeks have been taxing and stressful, filled with multiple studio critiques and academic midterms. Not to mention a required (and admittedly marvelous) class excursion to Venice to view a staggering amount of contemporary art at the Venice Biennial. My head is still spinning from the quantity of work. However, having to take a break from studying for two Italian midterms and a test in my reading intensive art history course was honestly as daunting as it was exciting. I knew I couldn’t forget about Monday and the tests waiting for me in Rome. My Italian classmate and I studied vocabulary term flashcards, wrote a script in Italian and rehearsed for our oral exam on the train rides between trips. My art history classmates were trying to keep up with readings while on taxi rides, during meals and on the train as well. It was a trying weekend trip in that way, and in general for these past two weeks.

I have been struggling in my Italian class since the second week of fall classes. On my first quiz I received a C+. As a straight A student, that C+ did not feel so great. If anyone reading watches the show, Adventure Time, you may imagine Lemon Grab screaming, “Unacceptable!!!” I am what is described as learning disabled. I am dyslexic, specifically there is a defect with my phonetic decoding process. This makes it nearly impossible to phonetically sound out words or letters to enable reading and spelling. As you may figure this fate makes it very difficult to learn how to read and write in another language. On my second quiz I got a D. That was beyond unacceptable. I didn’t exactly know what to do to fix my problem, but I was pointed in the right direction. I was told to talk to Temple Rome’s Coordinator of Student Life, Hope Campbell Gustafson. I met with Hope and explained the stress and failure I was experiencing in my Italian class.

This initial meeting became a turning for my progress in Italian class. Hope kindly questioned me about my class and how I felt. Once I explained how uncomfortable and stressed out I was over my grades, the learning environment and my utter lack of written sound comprehension, Hope began to devise ways out of the hole I was in.  I work in the academic advising office at Tyler School of Art. We reached out to my boss back at Tyler and Director of Academic Advising, David Logan. As reliable, caring and steadfast as ever, Dave was contacting other offices at Temple and working with Hope in Rome to see what we could accomplish together. The first place we reached out to was main campus’ Disability Resource Services. I had registered with them and submitted my documentation before I came to Rome, but had not received an accommodation letter from them. Dave and a DRS Officer worked to get the ball rolling on my letter. In the meantime Hope urged me to speak with my Italian teacher and let her know of my disability. She also offered to speak with my teacher on my behalf.

I took Hope’s advice and spoke with my teacher about my problems. Fortunately, she was extremely kind. She had never taught a student with my particular set of limitations, so we both did not know exactly how to go about helping me learn and take tests more successfully. It was still rather stressful during this process, but over the following weeks we figured out some patterns and strengths. Hope and I also had a meeting over Skype with the DRS Officer and worked further to make things more official. I finally have my accommodation letter. I was recently informed I earned a 90% on my oral midterm, and I am still waiting to hear what I received on my written midterm, but I’m optimistic. Studying in Rome and studying foreign language, or another subject, can really be tough for some students but Temple Rome has an amazing staff and wants to support you. So when you feel stressed to the breaking point, or better yet before that, ask for help!

They're very necessary , just take them everywhere.

They’re very necessary–just take them everywhere.

Why You Need To Get On Local Transportation And Get Off At A Random Stop


I like to think that I am a very independent person. Once I got my license, at the naïve age of 17, I really started to do a lot on my own. Having the ability to drive places and pay for my own gas was liberating (until I realized I should have let my parents pay for my gas as long as possible). However, that fervor to be independent that has continued to grow ever since, sort of plateaued here in Rome. I found myself constantly feeling as if the only way to leave my apartment was with a friend. The buddy system started to define my schedule, literally. I saw nothing wrong with it since I genuinely knew nothing about Rome, yet looking back on it now I wish I had branched out earlier.

This morning I convinced myself to IMG_1460go on the metro and get off at a stop I had never been to. If I am being honest, I almost did not do it. I kept having this voice in my head telling me something was going to go wrong and I would get lost or kidnapped. These thoughts were ridiculous and still legitimate. But, these thoughts would be legitimate if I had just arrived in Rome and neglected to venture off with a buddy. Here, a month into my program, I should be confident in my abilities to navigate the metro and walk around an area I know nothing about. Finally, exploring a new place and actually kind of getting lost was an amazing experience. The second I realized how fortunate I was to be able to just hop on the metro and go to a mysterious, incredible place, I knew I had to share my experience and offer advice.

I say offer advice because, when you think about it, just roaming around different parts of a foreign city can get dangerous. Also, if you do not like being by yourself and you get nervous, then bring a buddy along! I talk about my wanting to be independent only because it is something that I think defines me, and my type of independence is not necessarily everyone else’s type of independence. Being independent can also be something that you do with friends or family. There is no one set of guidelines in order to be independent and there is no one set of rules for traveling in a foreign city. What I am trying to get at is find those set of rules that pertain to you, those guidelines that you follow, and deviate from them. Explore in a way that you never thought you could, and form new perspectives that you never knew you had.

In reading this, do not feel obligated to go somewhere different and get lost. Your version of getting off at a new metro stop could be going to a new restaurant for dinner. There is no one way to take advantage of living abroad, the only commonality is that you absolutely have to take advantage of living abroad in any way possible.

Why Grocery Shopping Has Become The Best Part Of My Week


Admittedly, grocery shopping is not the absolute best part of being in Rome. However, it is pretty darn close. Whether “grocery shopping” means shopping at the local market, local food store, or local hole in the wall that sells random American goods, it doesn’t matter. Point me in the direction of a place that sells packaged goods and I am like a kid on Christmas. Before you start to think I have gone crazy, go to a grocery store when you are stressed out and tell me it does not make you feel better. But, don’t just do the regular, speedy shopping with a list. Go and get something you have never had, ask the butcher for a random kind of meat, and browse the isles you never go down. If it doesn’t make you feel better, well, then I might be crazy.

However, if I am feeling homesick or overwhelmed with schoolwork, I head to a grocery store. It has become a very economical and successful stress reliever. Every single morning I IMG_1265go to the local market. Mercato Trionfale has become my daily routine–I genuinely base my entire morning around it. I love walking around the vendors and seeing random fruits and vegetables. I love going back to the same vendor every morning to get a plum, or prugna, and I live for embarrassing myself as I attempt to speak and understand Italian. As of today, my favorite purchase has been figs, or fichi. I put them in everything, from salad to omelets to sandwiches.

Going to the market or grocery store has not only become a serious stress reliever, but it has enhanced my abroad experience significantly. I put myself out there, stepping way out of my comfort zone, and try to communicate in an unfamiliar language. I learn when certain fruits are in season and when others are not (unfortunately for me figs are in season for about one month, September). I interact with people from all walks of life and I get to experience a completely different culture. Although I should feel uncomfortable and nervous because I am in a place filled with people who predominantly, if not only, speak Italian, I am not. I like struggling to say what I mean or getting too much or too little because even I could not understand my own demands, and I love being in a place where everyone is treated the same. Markets and grocery stores are not places where I feel I am being stared at or taken advantage of because I am a foreigner. In actuality, they are the places I feel most Italian.

If I have yet to convince you of how amazing the market and grocery shopping is, let me put this concept into perspective with a short story. A friend and I went to the market for an assignment for our Italian class. We were supposed to say certain phrases, ask for certain vegetables, things like that. So, instead of taking our time and making sure we were confident with our vocabulary, we asked vendors for ridiculous items and sped through the entire interaction. When I say sped, I mean sped. We videotaped ourselves and both videos together were less than thirty seconds. We ended up with one zucchini (yes, one), and a huge, abnormally shaped turnip. Although our interaction was not quite what the assignment had called for, it was fun and had us laughing. Our teacher stills brings up the “famous zucchino.”

So, when you’re feeling anxious or stressed or just having a bad day, go to your local grocery store or market and aimlessly walk around. And, if you’re like me, just make a fool of yourself and be happy about it.

Modifying Ruins


The United States is a young country. One that is credited with both a rich and storied history. America’s past is preserved in the traditional form by way of great monuments and museums. These state and federal funded, distinguished buildings are considered works of art. For the residential and commercial areas of America however, demolition and reconstruction is changing the city’s architectural landscape all the time. Locally in Philly, even walking through Temple’s campus we see old buildings being destroyed and new ones rising out of their rubble. popular style has an expiration date in America.

This is not the way in Rome. The city is old and its history is stacked on top of each other like a Jenga tower. Walking through any street you will see a building of one epoch sandwiched next to architecture from another. It is also not uncommon to see one single piece of architecture that has been worked on at different periods and has resulted in an actual hodge podge of Italian styles. A Neoclassical building with Art Nouveau decor and an interior modified and re-purposed with Fascist rational design, as is the case of the Piazza Venezia. The grandiose structure is called “The Wedding Cake” by locals because of its layers and white marble. The road next to the Wedding Cake is the route of Mussolini’s demolition tour of Rome to create his road to the Colosseum. While paving the way for this road an exorbitant amount of priceless Roman history was found. Some artifacts were destroyed for the sake of reconstruction and others preserved and honored, for example, many forums of past Roman emperors, like Augustus Caesar. It seems one cannot merely dig into the dirt of Rome without unearthing some article of the ancient past.

But what has stuck out to me most while observing Rome is the modification of past structures to accommodate a new way of living. For example, while touring the ancient Aurelian Wall, I noticed a part of the arch ways had been knocked down to allow traffic flow for modern automobiles. And to boot the area is covered with graffiti. I have attached a few photos of these sightings below. It is an interesting display of change and adaptation. This is not just the modification of the Aurelian Wall to accommodate modern ways of transit but also by the visual imprint of modern culture. Some graffiti is not unlike ours seen in Philly, simple tags of the same names spread over the city. However, some examples of graffiti are mural-like and harken to another moment in time once seen has boldly futuristic, like a space station, while others portray iconic scenes and characters from cinema. Pulp Fiction is the film I am referring to in particular, an English language film by an idiosyncratic American film maker. This juxtaposition of modern and foreign cultural influence paired with the antiquity of Roman history is a fascinating sight to behold every day.

Ancient Arches changed for the new modes of traffic

Ancient Arches changed for the new modes of traffic

Space station cartoon spray painted onto store front across from the Arulian Wall

Space station cartoon spray painted onto store front across from the Arulian Wall

Modern Americana found in Rome's street art.

Modern Americana found in Rome’s street art.

Why You Need To Deviate From Your Normal Routine


The first few weeks have honestly been a blur. In the blink of an eye I spent way over my personal weekly allowance, ate more than an acceptable amount of gelato, and have yet to get on top of my schoolwork.

I walk around with people I am still trying to get to know, I aimlessly wander to places I have not seen, and I find myself constantly out of time to do the things I used to love most: running, reading, and cooking. But in reality, aren’t these the things I should be doing abroad? Shouldn’t I be exploring with no agenda? Being so tired that I pass out the second my head hits the pillow? The thing I have finally started to realize is that my routine at home that I grew so accustomed to, is not a routine that I need to do for the rest of my life in order to feel comfortable. I wanted to come abroad to a program where I knew no one in order to be my own person, but to do that I need to step out of the comfort of going through the motions and actually experience new things in a new perspective.

The trick to truly going out and experiencing new things is to stop trying so hard to do the old things. For me, I realized I don’t have to run everyday and can just walk around and hangout with different people everyday. I don’t have to carve out time to run by myself, but rather I can talk with people and engage in conversations that running would have prevented me from even starting. I can cook, but I can also cook a single dish and go to a potluck dinner. I can actually get on top of my school work and read about the history of fascism in Rome, and go beyond the assigned readiFullSizeRenderngs. I can go to a local market and find a book in Italian to help me immerse myself into learning the language. Everything I once did can still play apart in my life and be a major aspect of my transition from comfortable to a comfortable uncomfortable.

So, how does forgetting about an old routine actually help? Well, on Monday I told myself that I was genuinely in Rome and wasn’t leaving. This meant I really needed to generate some kind of routine if I wanted to get as much out of this experience as I possibly can, while still having money. This week is the first week I have felt good about everything. I have a set day to go grocery shopping (and I won’t deviate—groceries for the week gotten on Sunday are all of the groceries for the week that I will have), I exercise by either running with friends or walking a lot after class with friends, I cook with roommates, and I set aside time to be by myself and either do homework, grab a gelato, or people watch in Villa Borghese. All of these things really do make a difference if you give them a chance. My advice is to keep doing the things you love, but do them with a new perspective and a new attitude.