Now That it’s Over, How to Prepare for Study Abroad

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When I initially signed up for study abroad, there were so many questions I had running threw my head. I initially felt excitedly overwhelmed by the different opportunities available at the Temple Rome program. Interesting classes, weekend class excursions, class tutors to younger Italian students, internships and student blogging and photography… so many options! I encourage everyone considering this program to see what is available to you, but keep in mind that you have to leave free time for traveling around Rome.

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Prada Foundation Museum in Milan, Italy

 

Now that the semester is completed, I have a broader understanding of the opportunities offered to various students. For everyone: look into a few classes that mention class outings and field trips. Make Rome your classroom. Take a class you wouldn’t normally take. Perhaps business students should look into an intro art class or art students take a history or culture course. I am a communications student with a business minor so I took two business courses (I recommend Business Ethics and Society with Cortese) and creative classes like watercolor painting, digital photography and a design course. What was really interesting about the Inside Italian Design class was that we had class outings every week. This class also had a weekend excursion in Milan, which allowed a tour of the city with a design interest from our Professor. This gave an interesting perspective into the city and a better connection with classmates. The excursion classes are more expensive, but the price is worth it for a class or two because you learn a lot about the background of a different city pertaining to your class’s focused interest.

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Market in Lyon, France

A lot of students participated in internships and Temple Rome is looking for more internships available for students with different majors. I recommend doing an internship if you need to add more to your resume; this feature can really set you apart from colleagues professionally. The main difficulty with an internship is that it takes up a lot of free time. Bare this in mind when applying. Other opportunities to add to your resume include being an assistant teacher that teaches a middle or high school class on English or tutoring and talking with some students individually. These usually meet once a week and are a good alternative to internships. Also look into what the Education Abroad Office has for students, like blogging and being a student photographer to share your experience with others.

Other advice I would like to share with you is not academic or of professional concern. It is about style and dressing in Italy. Like I have mentioned, Rome has been my classroom and Italy has its own style book. Be prepared to see a lot of dark colors, beautiful shoes and people wearing winter coats well into May. Italians like to dress warm and conservatively. When packing, I recommend bringing lots of layers for the unreliable weather and leave room in your suitcase to bring the Italian fashion home! A lot of my friends had to either buy a new suitcase or donate some clothes they packed to make room. So save enough room in your luggage for your purchases! With these tidbits of advice, I hope this helps in preparing for study abroad.

Leaving Temple Rome

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After preparing to study abroad for many months, it is hard to picture the end of the program. I spent hours researching places I wanted to travel to, classes I wanted to take in the program and attempting to pack my belongings into two suitcases.  But here I am, finals are over and the students come together for end of the semester events to remember their time here and share their experiences living and studying in Rome. Time really does fly when you are having fun.

The Temple Rome community did a fantastic job of concluding the students’ once in a lifetime experience and showing our growth over our months here. I really enjoyed the art exhibit of the different art classes here, displaying students’ work all around the building. I felt proud of my classmates (and myself) for the pieces we have created to capture our feelings toward Rome. We look back nostalgically at the photos, paintings, sketches, sculptures, etc. and remember our adventures, memories and triumphs in Rome.

For my digital photography class, I focused my final project on my interpretation of Italian culture. I have a few of my photos shared below. The project showed my interpretation of Italian culture while living here for a number of months. It involved places that I visited often, spaces where Italians met with one another and where they went about their days. Items that had significance to how Romans define themselves. Studying abroad allowed me to comfortably immerse myself in a different culture without feeling lost or overwhelmed. It prepared me to open my mind, look past my preconceived notions.

I really enjoyed how some of my classes were spent on the streets of Rome, in museums and unusual places I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. This was one of my favorite aspects of the program because it aided in the students exploration of Rome. I was able to make connections of where things were related to each other thanks to professors walking us around during lessons. And what’s not better than having a private tour guide in museums and having access to places not public. I learned a lot while on mini field trips and weekend excursions with professors. Don’t be intimidated by meeting professors onsite, they are always helping with directions to and from places. Some professors may meet at the Temple Rome campus first or mention traveling with other classmates on public transportation.

I will really miss the experiences I had in Rome to explore the city with professors, classmates and friends. I wish I could spend another semester at Temple Rome exploring, learning and growing.  Learning more of the Italian language, trying more foods and traveling to more places. I believe most students would’ve loved to stay longer. But reality has hit; no longer will Rome be our classroom. It is time to go back home, to the familiar and see our family and friends. Drive and walk down the same roads, go to the same places, same classrooms. But I will often reminisce about Rome being my live classroom.

History with a Side of Gelato

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History with a Side of Gelato

It is hard to believe that I have only been here for a week. Very quickly I have established a routine and adjusted myself to this city. Prior to leaving, family and friends gave plenty of suggestions about what to try, telling me the pizza is different or certain types of pasta to try. Throughout the week I have tasted as many of these specialties as possible. All are delicious, however, the specialty that has impressed me most, and ultimately defined my routine, is the ice cream. In the United States my freezer would almost always contain ice cream and a bowl of it was always the perfect dessert. It is not surprising then, this nightly ritual has followed me to Rome.

Gelato, as it is called here, is different from American ice cream because it is uses whole milk rather than strictly cream. This means you taste more of the unique flavors, rather than just the fatty cream. Plus the lower fat content means I can feel a lot better about eating it twice a day!  I had only been in Rome for few hours when one my roommates suggested finding a gelato shop. I was surprised a quick Google maps search showed gelato shops on almost every street corner. After finding a shop just around the corner form the Residence Candia I had a delicious mango gelato, far superior to any mango sherbet in the States. My roommates and I quickly agreed gelato would be a daily tradition.

After settling into the Residence, a group of us made the walk to Temple Rome for a pizza party. Roughly 30 minutes, this walk passes through markets, restaurants, and even over the Tiber River. It was on this first night we met Gianni, a student affairs assistant. As a true Italian he has been instrumental in our quest to find the best gelato. Throughout the next few days he provided endless recommendations and advice. Most importantly, he has provided us with a list of his recommended restaurants, movie theaters, and, most importantly, a full page of gelato shops.

Following Gianni’s advice, my roommates and I placed all of the shops on Google maps and found shops near each of the places we wanted to see. Quickly, we fell into a schedule. After a nice walk to Temple Rome and back for classes, we would venture to the local supermarket to find foods for dinner. I quickly learned that in Italy people do not buy their food in advance, but go shopping each afternoon for dinner. After shopping for our meal and eating a late dinner, once again an Italian tradition, we would pick a different gelato shop and experience a different part of the city. Despite the ease of public transportation, we walk each night and enjoy the sights and sounds of Italy. So far I have had fragola (strawberry) at the base of the Spanish Steps, Crema Di Grom (a specialty of the store that was similar to cookie dough) in front of the Pantheon, and Caramel (better than any caramel I have ever had in America) feet from Vatican City.

I never thought I would establish a routine so quickly, but gelato is the perfect way to end my day, just like ice cream signaled the end of my day in America. Classes promise to greatly enhance this routine. Already, Dr. Pollack has explained to us the food subsidies of the European Union, explaining why food (including gelato) is so inexpensive. History of Art in Rome has excursions planned to many of the sites where I also plan to have gelato. Having the expertise of my professor will certainly increase my appreciation and my overall experience. Fortunately, there are still countless flavors of gelato and places to go with my remaining 5 weeks.

Pre-departure Jitters

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Sean Dix, Rome, PhiladelphiaI have traveled before with and without my parents, but still I can’t help but feel a little anxious about spending six weeks in a country on the other side of the world. What if I forget my toothbrush? Where can I buy a toothbrush in Rome and what is toothbrush in Italian? Google translate assures me it is “spazzolino da denti,” but can I trust that, and I how do I even pronounce that? I’m much more comfortable knowing one of my best friends is going. He is very Italian and still has family living there. His dad will only text him in Italian (my friend claims he can understand it). I’m sure he can help me get the most out of this experience.

For as long as I can remember I have loved to travel and explore. Whether just trips into the city or to another country, it was something I always craved. Even here in Philadelphia, I grow impatient when I haven’t gone into center city or found a new neighborhood to explore. There is something magical about meeting people and seeing places so different from the uniform suburbs I grew up in. When Pope Francis came to Philadelphia, I spent almost every waking moment in Center City and the Parkway. It was incredible to hear from a man who is just as much political as religious, advocating for the refugees and working as a mediator in US-Cuban relations.

I can’t wait to be close to Vatican City. I’ve learned political events can be so very different depending on the location. In high school I went on a German exchange during the NSA spying scandal. On a day trip to a Fasnacht festival in Switzerland, so many of the floats were dedicated to freeing Edward Snowden and criticizing the U.S. for spying on our German ally. I felt myself trying to hide in the crowd, unrealistically fearing I would be discovered as an American and booed. I know I never would have felt such shame and despise for the NSA if I had learned about the scandal in the U.S. In North Philly, it is easy for me to accept the Pope’s pleas to help the refugees, but, just like the NSA scandal, I cannot truly comprehend the crisis without being there.

Location, location, location. It is not just the anthem of real estate. As a Political Science and Global Studies double major, studying abroad was never an option. It’s a requirement. Politics is about interacting with people and understanding how they work together, which is greatly influenced by location. After months of learning about the European Union and trying to understand concepts like Brexit, Grexit, and the always constant refugee crisis, I felt something was missing. The media may quote big names like Angela Merkel or David Cameron, but there is still a distinct U.S. interpretation.

I am very excited to be able to study this with one of my favorite professors. Dr. Pollack, head of the Global Studies department, is heading to Rome this summer to teach Politics of the European Union. He has given me exposure to new perspectives and ideas, but in North Philly everything I have learned about the EU has been secondhand. It is time to step well outside of my comfort zone and gain a new view on European politics with the many field trips and guest speakers Dr. Pollack promises.

State of Limbo

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Well, I officially am no longer in Rome. And I hate admitting that to myself. At the present moment, I am in Northern Ireland, visiting one of my roommates who is also studying abroad. I’ve spent the past week in the UK, and will be here for one more week before I return to U.S. Of course. Based on my surroundings, I know that I’m no longer in Rome, but I have to keep reminding myself that at the end of these two weeks I won’t be returning to Rome. This isn’t just a fun extended spring break or something like that—I am going home at the end, and this is real. It’s scary, and I don’t like it at all. It’s kind of like a state of limbo, an intermediate state where my mind is no longer in Rome, but also not in a “home” mindset. I’m simply just existing right now, and I think I’m okay with that.

Leaving Rome was a blur of emotions. When packing, last minute errands, and endless goodbyes happen, it can be easy to get caught up in the flurry of everything, and caught up to the point where you forget to process everything. I found myself in this state up until about the last 16 hours I had left in Rome. Once things had sort of settled down, I was able to take a step back and let it all hit me: “I’m leaving Rome.” For my last day in Rome, I made sure to do all of my favorite things. Instead of filling my day with last minute grand adventures, I chose to do the things I knew meant the most to me during my time in Rome. I went to my favorite park, where I could see my favorite view of the city, went to my favorite pasta place for lunch, visited the Cat Sanctuary at Torre Argentina, and finished the day with a gelato outing with a friend. When you are walking around doing all these things, it’s important to savor each moment, but I also found that I tried to look at each thing with a “this is my last ___ for a while,” rather than “my last ___ ever.” I have to hope and trust that I will be back to Rome one day, and I can’t wait to see which things (both with the city and myself) will have changed and remained the same once I get back.

Being in the UK has been an odd experience. It’s been great to see my roommates (one is in Oxford, and the other is in Northern Ireland), and to see what their abroad experience looks like, but it is also so difficult not being in Rome. I find myself being extra pretentious about pizza and pasta, and I scoff whenever I walk past a restaurant that claims to be Italian. I miss the sights I would normally see on my way to school, and I miss hearing Italian being spoken (it’s taken nearly every fiber of being not to say “mi scusi” or “ciao” during my interactions with others). While I miss Italy, I am also preparing for my return home. It’s been nearly 4 months that I’ve been abroad, which, when you look at it, is actually a fair amount of time. I’m excited to see my family, and I’ve already made a list of foods I want on my return (this Texas girl wants tacos haha). I’m taking things one day at a time. For now, I’m okay with being in limbo, because I know it will feel even stranger to be back in the States. Stay tuned for my final blog about my return home, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy the final days I have left in this abroad adventure!

P.S. check out this photo below- before we left Rome, my roommate and I watched the sunrise at the Campidoglio Hill, which overlooks the Forum. It was truly breathtaking!!

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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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