Falling for Florence

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I’ll admit it- my first impression of Rome was not the greatest.

I  was fresh off of a flight, tired, and cranky. The first thing I saw was not the beautiful cobblestone streets and architecture of my dreams, it was a man almost getting hit by a bus. Our taxi to the residence pulled up next to a dumpster, and our driver opened the door into oncoming traffic. I felt tricked. This is the city I’ve been dying to come to? It’s….gross! I felt a bit ashamed for being so quick to judge, but in my defense, long-haul flights are not fun. I probably would have said a private beach in Hawaii was ugly if it meant getting to my room and to sleep any faster.

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Yeah, I was too tired to appreciate this. Crazy.

Me and Rome have been getting along much better lately. The graffiti is interesting, the traffic is manageable, even the trash just begins to remind me of home. (To clarify- I don’t live in a dumpster. I live near New York, another city lots of people think is gross and dirty. It is, but I still love it.) I figured, if I could like it at home, I could like it here. But it’s taken me a while to get to this point.

Me and Florence, however, is a different story. From the first second-I loved Florence. There was something so vibrant about it, even at 10am on a weekday. There weren’t mobs of people, just light crowds, the faint smell of pastries (and leather. so much leather), and gorgeous open squares.

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Being a dork in front of the Cathedral di Santa Maria. Hey, when in….Florence?

The first thing we did was take a quick walk around the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore- yes, the one with Brunelleschi’s Duomo. Just from the outside, it is stunning. The patterns of alternating green and white marble are striking, and it makes for quite the sight when you catch a glimpse down the street. Our tickets to climb the dome were not until the next morning, however, so we had to find something else to do.

We headed over to the Uffizi Gallery, where we happened to meet up with some other Temple students we knew- we’re literally everywhere. We decided to head in together, and we spent the day looking at all the incredible art the Uffizi has to offer. Botticelli, DaVinci, Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Bosch, Titian, Raphael.

It was so crazy to see some of this work that I remember learning about in high school right in front of me. It makes me want to send a postcard to my high school art history teacher- Hey! Remember me? I’m seeing all that stuff you told us about! It was also fun to put some of my new knowledge of Greek statues from my Mythology class to good use, pointing out how to tell which gods statues are of. Like, if there’s a snake, its probably Apollo. And upper arm bracelets symbolized beauty, so if the statue is wearing one, it’s probably of Aphrodite.

We spent the rest of the evening around the Ponte Vecchio, and then took a walk through the Boboli Gardens, which offer a beautiful view of the city.

The next day, both me and my friend woke up super early to go climb Il Duomo. It’s four hundred steps to the top, and every single one is torture. I’m sure if you exercise regularly, each stair is like a marshmallow cloud pillow, but I do not, and it sucked. I did fine until about halfway up, then it started feeling like I would be climbing stairs for the rest of my life, because they did not end. Only after two breaks and countless complaints of “these stairs are actually going to kill me.”, did we reach this sight:

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Giotto’s Bell Tower! We were going to climb this too, but decided not too after nearly dying halfway up the Duomo.

There’s not really words for it, but it was incredible. I could have stayed up there all day, and that’s not just because the spiral staircase was terrifying and my legs hurt.

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This is the face of someone whose legs are ready to abandon their body and just leave forever. Also of someone realizing how high up off the ground she is.

We took one last pit stop before leaving to go see Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria Accademia. It’s huge. Seriously, the thing is massive. I’ve been told it’s big, but I’m 4’11”. Everything is huge to me. But I couldn’t get over the size of it, and how something so large can still seem so life like. It seemed like the perfect way to wrap up our trip.

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So weird to see this in real life- it never actually seemed like something I would be able to do.

One thing I love about Temple Rome so far is how they encourage us to explore on our weekends, and how easy it is to do so. Our trip was very last minute, we only decided a day before leaving to actually go. But it was still an easy trip, and we were in Florence in a few hours. If you travel a few hours outside of Philadelphia, all you’ll end up in is a cornfield in the middle of Amish Country. Here, we were able to get to the center of the Renaissance in a morning. And it felt so incredible to be able to apply the stuff from my courses to my museum trips, it makes it feel so much more real. I’ve been really excited to get around, and my professors have only been encouraging about it. They ask us about our plans and give us advice and recommendations. It’s nice to have a system at school that understands our desires to travel, and supports it rather than ignoring it. I feel like I’m in an environment that really fosters curiosity, and it makes my studies easier. It’s something that compliments my travelling, rather than impeding it. Temple has been fantastic so far for stressing the fact that we are global students, rather than just temporary Italian ones.

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We are incredible together“- me and Florence, me and Temple Rome

 

Rome: La Citta d’Arte

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I was two things in high school: an artist, and a procrastinator. 

Those two did not mix. You can pull an analysis paper out of nowhere at 11pm the night before it’s due, but you can’t really do the same to a painting. Not a good painting, at least.

Needless to say, my art grade could have been a little better mid-way through the semester. My art teacher was getting a little annoyed at my constant late or unfinished homework, and I was looking to get back in her good graces. Then- an opportunity. She was being bothered by a representative from a local university to get students to enter a logo design contest for the town’s Italian Cultural Society. I figured hey- I like logos, I’m learning Italian. I can enter this contest, and get some sort of credit for it.

So I entered, but didn’t win. I did, however, get the chance to go see a lecture at the university by a pretty famous type designer: Louise Fili. I’ve you haven’t heard of her, I guarantee she’s designed the packaging of something you’ve bought. Give it a look.

But her lecture inspired me. The passionate way she spoke about Italy, about how it influenced all her work and how Italian type was her favorite was incredible. It got me thinking about me coming to Italy, and the art and type I would see. 

So far, I’ve seen a lot. What I love the most about Rome is that there’s art everywhere. It’s not just in the museums. It’s in metro stations, on the side of trains, on buildings and facades.

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Lots of trains here are covered in spray paint- I love it.

There’s art in graffiti, in the logos, in the old buildings that are now cinemas or apartments. I think a lot of people, when they think of art, think of stuffy museums where it’s overwhelmingly quiet yet still somehow to full of other people to enjoy. (Not a total dig at museums- I love them and could spend days in a museum. But dear god, do they get boring sometimes). But nobody really goes straight to the accessible art, the street art. Maybe because it’s not locked away it doesn’t feel as if it has value. But I don’t think it makes it any less art. Some of the stuff I’ve seen has been incredible, from the message to the detail. And it’s not something you’d ever see, or even want to see, in a museum.

What I like about this street art in Rome is that Rome is a city that could easily let all of it’s art be from antiquity. Rome has enough statues and Renaissance paintings to keep every museum stocked for decades. Rome has the Vatican Museums, the Galleria Borghese, the Ara Pacis, every single church in the city….it goes on.

Yet they don’t. Modern art is flourishing, in so many museums. There’s the MAXXI, the Chiostro del Bramante, MACRO. You can see work by world-famous modern artists (me and a friend were able to see this stunning Yayoi Kusama installation All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins at the Chiostro del Bramante), or work by lesser known, local artists. Even Temple itself has a gallery, showcasing local art.

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The pumpkin room- you only get 20 seconds inside, but it was still beautiful

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The reason we visited the Chiostro del Bramante- a little bit of Philly in Rome!

And I can’t forget the type. Following in the steps of Louise Fili herself, I’ve been photographing every cool sign and logo I see, and it’s been awesome. The colors, the font, is all so beautiful and Italian looking. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that. I can’t wait to take this pictures home and apply them to my schoolwork in advertising and branding. 

I think this is my favorite thing so far about Rome- how it’s a city that is both ancient and very, very modern, and you can tell that just from the art. From the way that there’s buildings here that are evidently old just covered in graffiti. I’m sure some would call it vandalism, but I just see it as a younger generation of Romans making this city theirs.

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Chit Chat with Italians

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This week Temple University Rome hosted a chit chat with Italians that brought together American and Italian students from multiple schools. American schools represented in the chat included Temple and St. John’s University. Italian students that participated in the chat were from Sapienza University, LUMSA University and the Sport University, “Foro Italico”. The chat was a great opportunity to meet new people, practice Italian language, make some Italian friends, and discuss the cultural differences between the United States and Italy. American students were free to ask Italian students any question they had and vice versa. The chat was mostly in English, but also in Italian.16640888_1365496216848612_1695648932150387952_n.jpg

We first had an open discussion as a large group and talked about what was different than we expected in Rome and a common theme seemed to be the language barrier. Most of the students from the United States, myself included, anticipated that there would be virtually no language barrier in Rome. I expected practically everyone in Rome to be totally fluent in English, but I quickly realized that this is not the reality. While there are many people in Rome who do speak English and it is totally possible to get by without knowing Italian, there are also many people in Rome who speak little to no English. More people speak English in Rome since it is a more touristic area, but as you get further outside of the city into the countryside and non-touristic areas of Italy, less and less people speak English. Fortunately, while in Rome, I am taking an intensive Italian language course so I have Italian class four days a week for two hours each day. The class is tough but I am loving learning the language and it is extremely helpful! I’ve learned the basics and can at least communicate in Italian enough to meet new people, tell them about myself, ask questions, order food, and other essentials.

This chit chat was the perfect chance for me to practice some of the Italian skills I have been developing! I talked to a few Italian students and met some great people. I was able to get some recommendations of where to eat, go out, and see theatre in Rome. I even made an Italian friend named Barbara who helped me study for my Italian test. She also only lets me communicate with her in Italian when we use WhatsApp and pushes me to speak the language as much as I can. It’s great to have a native speaker to talk to and give me corrections. Plus, I am able to help her with her English. However, her English is exponentially better than my Italian, but I do my best!16473426_1365493653515535_3670342498145154223_n.jpg

One of the interesting Italian perceptions of Americans that I learned was that most Italians seem to be under the impression that United States citizens have been to all 50 states. When I was asked this, I laughed and said most Americans probably couldn’t even name all 50 states for you. I am very grateful that Temple hosted this chit chat because I was able to learn more about our cultural differences, misconceptions, practice some Italian, and even make some new friends! I looked forward to continuing to develop my Italian skills as I chit chat with the locals!16508789_1365492450182322_358863321747595905_n.jpg

The Only Reason I Get Out of Bed in the Morning (I Have To)

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Ah, my arch nemesis. Mornings.

It’s 8:30am, and I’m half asleep on a bus rolling through the Italian countryside. Despite not having slept much the night before (thanks, jet-lag), my brain is screaming at me: “Open your eyes! There are beautiful mountains and sunrises and views to see! You’re going to miss it and regret it forever!”

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Okay, maybe my brain was onto something. Those mountains were stunning.

To which my eyes reply “No.” and stay shut until 10am, when we finally arrive in the beautiful medieval village of Todi and my friend shakes me awake.

The trip to Todi was the grand finale to Temple Rome’s orientation week- a day trip up to Umbria to explore Todi, followed by Titignano. It was not to be missed. Yet at 6:30am, when my alarm went off, I considered doing just that for a concerning length of time.

Look, I like to travel, but I also like to sleep. A lot. And I know- deep, deep down- that if I didn’t have something explicitly planned every day, I would do exactly that. All day. I know, I know, I’m in Rome! There’s so much to do!

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The view from the top of the “Wedding Cake” in Piazza Venezia, featuring the Colosseum and the Foro di Cesare. So much to see!

Well, that’s where the absolute genius invention of the “class excursion” comes into play. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: an excursion to somewhere that is not the room class is usually held in, that is part of the class. They can be large weekend trips, like the trip my roommate will be taking to Berlin for her art history course, or small, hour-long trips to nearby museums and monuments. And the best part of all: they’re pre-planned. So all I have to do is get myself to the designated meeting point (with my cell phone this time), and everything is good to go. It’s all the fun, sightseeing-and-picture-taking parts of travelling, without the tedious scheduling, booking, and paying parts.

So far, my favorite class for excursions has been my Rome Sketchbook class. We’ve visited local churches, the Colosseum, and the gorgeous town of Tuscania. And we get to just sit, absorb the beauty of it all, and draw.

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The view from the park in Tuscania

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My (attempted) drawing of said landscape from class

It’s one thing I do like about my classes (aside from the fact that only one is very early). They’re really integrating our surroundings to the lessons. For Sketchbook, we get to apply the techniques we’re learning to drawings of Rome- perspective in churches, contour on statues and paintings. It’s a really immersive way to learn about Roman art, as you have to pay attention to every detail if you’re drawing it.

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Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli- home of Michaelangelo’s Moses, pictured here. Also note, the reclined figure at the top- that’s a pope, in a very Etruscan pose. The Etruscans believed in eating in that position, and their meals could take hours.

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Another drawing from class, this time a close up of two of the statues from this wall- specifically our reclining pope friend up top there

In my theatre class, we aren’t just learning about Italian theatre, we’re going to plays- I’ve already seen one, and I haven’t been here three weeks! It was an amazing performance of Filumena Marturano at Teatro Quirino (right next to the Trevi Fountain, which was still packed even at 11:30 at night. Oh, Rome…)

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A quick little selfie of yours truly in the Teatro Quirino sign, after seeing Filumena Marturano. The play uses dialect from Naples, making it even harder to follow

I think it’s a really fantastic way to learn, by getting out and into my new home for the next four months. It also gives me really interesting perspectives I wouldn’t have gotten from audio tours or brochures. Being able to have class on location (I’m getting flashbacks to warm days in high school, where at least one student always asked “Can we have class outside today?”) also makes up for that fact that, well, I actually have to go to class while I’m here. This isn’t a vacation, it’s school as well.

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This is what an excursion looks like- we’re not just hanging out and taking pictures, it’s work too!

But most importantly, I like that it forces me to get out there. One of the things I wanted to accomplish while in Rome is to become more adventurous. I am a textbook introvert, and nothing sounds better to me than a quiet night in. I want to explore, but sometimes I need a little push. Or a big push. Or someone to say “We’re going out!” and to drag me out of my room and into the world. So these excursions are both making sure I’m doing something here, but also showing me really unique parts of Italy I wouldn’t have even thought to see if I had been left to my own devices- like Todi.

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The village of Todi in Umbria- all of the streets look like this. I couldn’t believe some people actually live here, it seems so picturesque

Our day in Umbria ended with the largest meal I have ever had in my life. It was several courses, and hours, long, filled with food I had never tried (I’m looking at you, wild boar ragu) and people I hadn’t met yet. It was a great evening, and I was glad I hadn’t let my cranky, tired self stay in bed that morning.

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So super cranky to be out of bed, being forced to see nice things and eat good food. So terrible.

Now, it’s a matter of continuing to go out. This coming week consists of two museum trips, and a weekend away from Rome, so I’d say I’m doing pretty well so far. But we’ll see…. Until next week! Ciao!

Women’s March Around the World

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While for many the subject of the recent U.S. Presidential election is a difficult subject to talk about, it has become impossible to ignore. It soon became very clear that debate in my home country would have an effect on a global scale. On January 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration, a Women’s March on Washington was organized. Sections of the Women’s March official statement reads as follows:

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country… In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

The Women’s March was not just about standing solidarity with all women, but standing together with all people from all diversities and backgrounds to fight for equality. It is undeniable that the Women’s March statement was right when it read “our presence in numbers too great to ignore.” According to University of Connecticut professor Jeremy Pressman and University of Denver professor Erin Chenoweth, more than 1 in 100 Americans participated in the historic March. The two estimate that as many as 4.6 million Americans joined the March. The March was not limited to just Washington D.C. People marched together in cities all over the U.S. including New York, Chicago, Seattle, and the home of Temple University, Philadelphia! If those numbers and widespread geographic locations are not impressive enough, you should know that people marched together all over the world, including Rome.

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Although I could not participate in the March in D.C., I was extremely grateful to be able to participate in the Women’s March in Rome. Hundreds of people gathered together at the historic Pantheon for the March. While we did not have the 1,500 bodies required by authorities to physically march the streets of Rome, they could not stop us from our stand-in at the Pantheon. The event included inspiring testimonies and speeches from multiple locals, given in both English and Italian. There were also many musical performances in both languages. At exactly one o’clock PM, we took a one minute moment of silence, as would all the other Women’s Marches around the world. Then we all sang songs together such as “We Shall Overcome” and “Amazing Grace”. As I sang and looked all around me, I could not help but to be moved to tears. I am in a foreign country, surrounded by hundreds of strangers of all different sizes, shapes, colors, backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and identities, some from the U.S. and many from Italy and other European countries. I cannot describe the overwhelming compassion and kindness I felt among that diverse crowd of people, all gathered together for the same reason. There was such a strong sense of love and acceptance for my fellow human beings. I met many people and even embraced some strangers with a hug. I did not expect the Women’s March to reach all the way to Italy, but I could not be more grateful that it did. I will never forget that day. However, this is only the beginning. It does not end here. We will continue to make our voices heard and we will continue to fight for the equality of all people and we not silently allow our rights to be threatened. We are all part of one race: the human race. We all stand together.

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Possibly my favorite sign from the March in Rome

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An (American) Idiot Abroad

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It’s certainly no secret that Americans aren’t viewed too highly in other countries. And with the current state of our politics, well, it isn’t so hard to understand why.

However, it has been hard to deal with how that stereotype affects me.

 

Being from New York, I have a certain attitude towards tourists, and that attitude is usually something along the lines of “Ugh, get out of the way.” Even in Philadelphia, somewhere I’m still relatively new to, the swarms of people surrounding the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall during the warmer months of the school year have been a bother, not people I want to be like. Anywhere I go, I bring that attitude towards the typical “tourist” with me. I prefer to live like a local, to look like I know where I’m going and what I’m doing.

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Me, trying my absolute hardest to fit in and not stand out at all.

But here in Rome, it’s so much harder to blend in. The sights are so beautiful, I don’t know how even someone who has lived in Rome their whole life can just walk right by. I feel like I stop every five minutes to photograph a sign, a monument, or a building. I can’t not do it.

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Italian signs and typography are so unique and beautiful, I stop every time.

I also don’t speak very fluent Italian, and the fact that it takes me several minutes to form a full sentence is a pretty big indicator I’m not from around here. Not to mention the matching American accent that always gives me away. I can hardly get past a sheepish grin and a “Ciao!” before the person I’m speaking to lights up and laughs with an “Ah…..American!” and then switches to English.

It’s been a bit of a struggle, as I’m not used to the immediate give-away that I’m not a local. I’m also not used the feeling of shame I get when someone has to try to speak to me in English, instead of me trying Italian. It should be the other way around! I shouldn’t be going into a country expecting them to speak my language, instead of me trying theirs. It’s also hard to deal with the fact that in Italian, I can only speak like a child. I know simple sentences- I am this, I want that, I think this, etc. I can ask directions, but I can’t understand the answers. It’s frustrating to think that people could see me as stupid here, when I know that I can be smart in English. It does make me think, though, of all the people back in America who don’t speak English, but don’t have the luxury of Americans being able to understand their language. It’s making me try harder, because I don’t want to be seen as someone who’s not trying. I don’t want to contribute further to that American stereotype.

Another thing that comes up a lot for me as an American here is our politics. In the small, once Etruscan town of Tuscania, an elderly man in a bakery tried to talk to me about Trump and Obama on the day of Trump’s inauguration (No surprise here, I really couldn’t understand anything else he was saying). 

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“Hotel al Gallo” – it’s hard to seem like a local when I’m stopping all the time to photograph streets like these

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Tuscania is beautiful! Being such a small town, people here speak much less English. More chances to practice!

It sometimes feels that even in another country, it’s impossible to escape what’s going on back home. It’s not an entirely bad thing, though, as this past weekend I got to meet up with a bunch of other Americans, expats, and just general human rights advocates at the Women’s March sister march here in Rome. It was a powerful feeling, being surrounded by other people who, despite differences in race, gender, religion, and citizenship, all felt the same about human rights and equality.

I think it just goes to show that people are not that different after all, if all around the world people were holding similar marches to show support for women and women’s rights. That even in different cultures and in different languages, we all stand for the same beliefs. And that makes me feel that, language barrier aside, I’ll be able to make a place for myself here.

Mia Famiglia a Roma!

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This past Friday was an especially eventful day for me here in Italy! My day started off with  an excursion with my Roman Art History class to the beautiful town of Tivoli. Not only did I get to learn about the rich history and exciting architecture of Tivoli, I got the opportunity to visit the site where one of my favorite movies of all time was filmed: The Lizzie McGuire Movie. I would be lying if I denied that Lizzie McGuire was part of my inspiration to come to Rome and I’m pretty positive her Italian adventure was what made me fall in love with Italy at such a young age. I mean who doesn’t want to ride on the back of a moped with a handsome Italian man and become an international pop star? This may not have happened to me in Italy (yet), but I did get to walk through the jaw dropping Villa d’Este, also known as the Tivoli Gardens. You might remember Lizzie and Paolo having a romantic chat under one of the waterfalls in this garden in the film. My jaw dropped when we entered the incredible garden; I had never seen anything like it. It was HUGE. I was surrounded by greenery and astounding fountains everywhere I looked. I may not have met my Paolo there, but still, I can’t complain.

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When I got home to Rome that night, I was greeted by my brother! My brother works at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia teaching English. He decided to take his week off in between semesters to come visit me in Rome and I couldn’t wait to see him! Since he works outside of the country, I had not seen him since the summer, so a reunion was long overdue. And what better place than Rome! You should know that my brother has been to probably over 30 countries at this point in his life, but never Italy. HA! Beat him to that one. While I have only been in Rome a few weeks and am by no means an expert on the city yet, I was looking forward to showing my brother around my new home for the semester. Of course, we had to visit all of the must-see spots in Rome, so we took a trip to the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon.

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One thing my brother and I share in common: we LOVE food! We’ve already been trying plenty of delicious food here in Rome. We had all kinds of pasta, sampled plenty of meats and cheeses (there is no ham in Saudi Arabia so my brother couldn’t wait to get some good prosciutto), pizza, gelato, and a delicious dessert with rhum baba! It is basically a rum sponge cake paired with hazelnut icecream, chocolate, and whipped cream, so essentially heaven to your tastebuds.

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We also went out for one of my favorite Italian specialties, aperitivo. Aperitivo is like Italian happy hour. You pay one time, usually around 10 euro, and you get a drink and an unlimited buffet of delicious foods! Make sure you choose your restaurant for aperitivo wisely. Some restaurants and bars offer only small snacks like nuts and chips, while others have an entire spread that you can turn into dinner! It also gives a chance to try some new tasty cocktails.

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Having my brother visit me in Rome for the week has been great and we still have a few days left together to explore the city. Although I may no longer be in the city of brotherly love, I am feeling the brotherly love here in Rome!

 

Totally in Love with Todi

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     The moment I landed on Italian soil, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Traveling to Italy has been a dream for me since I was a little boy and that dream has finally become a reality. This first week in Italy has been full of pure joy, uncomfortable situations, absolute awe, culture shock, and beauty. Our orientation week was packed full of events including a tiramisu extravaganza, a visit from the US Embassy in Rome, a scavenger hunt and walking tour around the city, and of course free time to explore. However, my favorite part of orientation week was visiting the gorgeous town of Todi.

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     Todi is a tiny Medieval hill town in Umbria, Italy. We visited this past Saturday and had the opportunity to look inside the incredible cathedrals, wander the cobblestone streets, take in the astounding hill top view, and of course, grab a cappuccino. It is important to note that you should never order a cappuccino after lunch. Order a cappuccino at 8pm and Italians will look at you like you are crazy. Also, you should know that if you order a latte, you won’t get what you expect. Order a latte, and you will just end up with a cup of steamed milk. If you want what we consider a latte in the United States, then order a caffe latte. After some trial and error, I have finally learned how to properly order coffee in Italy.

So finally after enjoying my cappuccino in Todi and seeing the sights, we took a short bus ride to Titignano, where I discovered an even more beautiful view. We arrived at our destination in Titignano, a gorgeous castle where we would soon enjoy the meal of a lifetime. As we ate our antipasti, I was in complete awe of the view from the hilltop. It was beautifully green as far as the eye could see with a winding river coursing through the various mountains. No picture does it justice. Finally, we were ready to go inside and begin the rest of our meal.

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     As I sat down, I knew I would have to pace myself for the many courses we were about to be served. We started off with tasty cheese and meats before moving on to pasta. Next was a scrumptious rice with my personal favorite vegetable, asparagus. Then we had our main course of meats including deer, lamb, and chicken. Each one was delicious and we also had incredible wines to enjoy with our meal because it isn’t a real Italian dinner without wine! I learned to start with white wine and then move on to red. Never go from red to white or switch back and forth. After the main course, came dessert which included tiramisu and biscotti. I will admit that this tiramisu was much better than the tiramisu I made during our tiramisu extravaganza at orientation. Paired with dessert was a dessert wine which was very sweet, but perfect to dip your biscotti in. I was completely stuffed, but all of the food and wine was so amazing that it was totally worth it. If you can’t tell, I’m very passionate about food and wine so this was a perfect way to spend one of my first days in Italy. Our meal was also topped off with an enormous cake celebrating Temple University Rome’s 50th anniversary and a shot of espresso. I think I’m slowly becoming a coffee addict.

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     After our meal, I walked outside again to find that the sun was setting over the mountain tops. This unbelievable view after probably the best meal of my life took my breath away. I stared out over the horizon and took it all in as I thought to myself what an incredible semester lies ahead in Italy.

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Leaving Home (Take Two)

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My first day of college was, by all means, a complete disaster.

I was miserable being away from home. Every few hours I would lock myself in a stall in the communal bathroom of my freshman dorm to cry and play Candy Crush on my phone. I missed New York, I missed my family. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or get to know my new surroundings, I wanted to go home. When I wasn’t crying, I was trying to figure out the soonest I could get there.

Turns out, I needn’t have worried. I quickly adapted to life in Philadelphia. I learned where to get food, how to use the subway, and even how to successfully order a cheesesteak without completely giving myself away as an out-of-towner. I began to like the city I once hated, and I stopped feeling like a stranger there. I am by no means like a local, but for most of the year, Philadelphia has become my home.

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A skyline view of Philly from the PMA- my favorite weekend place for some peace and quiet

And so with my confidence boosted by my ability to learn Philly in two short years, I decided to go even further- to Rome.

I was not ready.

Having forgotten my initial reaction to Philadelphia, the instant homesickness was a surprise.  The shock from that was probably worse than my culture shock. What am I doing missing home? I’m in Italy! There’s no time for homesickness when there’s museums to visit, ruins to see, and gelato to eat!

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Don’t worry- homesickness aside, I am seeing those sights!

I felt incredibly out of place, and I didn’t know what I was doing here. Why had I bothered to come, if I was just going to wish for home?

I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. On some level, I know that I’m here to go to school. I am here to learn, to practice my Italian, and to fulfill a decade-long dream of coming to Rome. For right now, I just don’t know my place here. But I have time.

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Getting lost is never fun, but finding streets like these can make you feel less bad about it

I can feel myself making progress, though. I’ve figured out the subway (or metro, as it’s called here), and two (of many) bus lines. I can make my way around the areas by school and the residence, I’m learning where to go to eat, and I’m seeing the sights. The nerves that would make a trip around the block feel like a marathon are lessening, and I’m beginning to feel comfortable. I can’t wait until I feel as at home on the streets of Rome as I do in Philadelphia or New York.

For now, though, I’m just taking each day as it comes. I’m appreciating every day that the trip to school gets easier, or every time I don’t need to check my map to find a place for dinner. I’m excited to see what this semester brings me, but I know there’s no rushing it. (According to most people, it will go fast enough as it is). And maybe by next week’s post, I’ll have made more progress in integrating into Roman life! Until then, ciao amici!

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And of course, sunsets like these make the homesickness sting a little less

Saying “Ciao!” to the City of Brotherly Love

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Over the past three years, Philadelphia and Temple University have truly become my home. As I prepare to leave for Rome, I am filled with excitement, but a part of me will still miss the charms of Philadelphia. I’ll miss walking through the beautiful Magic Gardens, finding a new piece of art every time. I’ll miss going to Reading Terminal Market to get a pastrami sandwich. I’ll miss walking through the Christmas Village, shopping for trinkets and eating delicious pretzels. I’ll miss those warm summer nights gazing up at the stars from a hammock in Spruce Street Harbor Park.

I have made sure to soak up as much of Philadelphia and Temple as I could before I depart for the Eternal City on January 9th. Part of that experience included going to possibly my last tailgate at a Temple football game. It was great to be surrounded by loved ones, full of Temple pride and cheering on our Owls! There is something special about looking out at the sea of cherry and white, singing the Temple fight song together that I will always remember.

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Another part of Temple I had to experience again before I leave was performing in a Temple Theaters main stage production. As a theatre major, I usually perform in one production each semester, and this fall I was ecstatic to be a part of the cast of Hairspray! The cast of Hairspray truly became like family. Not only did we spend countless hours together in rehearsal, and have a blast singing and dancing together, but every night we got on that stage, we had the joy of telling a story about love and acceptance. Sharing that story with the audience meant the world to us and it was especially needed now.

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I have also begun to prepare for my time in Rome by starting Italian language lessons on the app Duolingo. I have no prior experience with Italian and I want to learn as much as I can during my four months there, so I decided to get a head start! While I am in Rome, I will be taking an intensive, eight credit Italian course. I hope to become as fluent as possible in Italian and cannot wait to meet and talk to native Italian speakers. I have found the app Duolingo to be extremely helpful and would recommend it to anyone looking to learn a new language!

While a lot of my personal preparation to leave for Rome has been experiencing as much fun as Temple and Philadelphia has to offer, it has not all been fun. Preparing to go abroad can be overwhelming and stressful at times. Applying for a student visa can seem like an enormous undertaking and trying to find an apartment in another country may feel impossible. It is also challenging to balance school while working endless hours each week to save money to go abroad. Plus, buying plane tickets is no easy feat for a poor college student. Although it may sometimes feel like preparing to go abroad is exhausting on top of our busy lives as students, I promise it is more than worth it. I have been abroad one other time before and it was the most incredible experience of my life. I cannot wait to have this longer, more immersive experience abroad and a little bit of preparation is a small price to pay for the experience of a lifetime.

It is hard to believe that I leave for Rome in just a few days, but I could not be more excited! While I am going to miss Temple and the City of Brotherly Love, I feel prepared and look forward to exciting new adventures in Roma!