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!

5 Things I Learned from My Semester Abroad

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Surprisingly, this is the hardest post I’ve had to write. It’s hard to sum up a four month, life changing experience in a certain amount of words. It was hard to figure out which angle to even discuss this from. However, I think the best way to do it is by listing and discussing the top 5 things I learned throughout this experience. I hope that they will come in handy for anyone who is planning on studying abroad and I also do have to warn that although these things sound cheesy, or obvious, or both, they’re a little harder to do when you’re actually confronted with the culture shock.

1: It will not be comfortable at first, give it time.
Yeah, you’re gonna squirm and have to wiggle your way in and out of situations (and if you’re going to Rome, then also through sidewalks because Romans don’t necessarily enjoy moving out of people’s way). But, with the more necessary Italian you learn, and the more you come to know as familiar, the more it will become comfortable, routine even. The most important thing to do is to give it time and (in most cases) forget the comfort zone.

2: Try all kinds of new things. 
I do mean all kinds. Go to an art museum that you’re not sure you would like, take a class you’re not sure you would be interested in, try food you wouldn’t otherwise try, wander if you usually plan and plan if you usually wander. I know it’s a bit cliche, but taking a semester abroad really helps you learn about yourself. However, having that full experience only truly comes if you’re willing to do things you haven’t done before in order to experience a new culture to the best of your capabilities.

3: Don’t be afraid to do the tourist attractions.
They are not lame or overrated, they are tourist-havens for a reason. Especially in Rome where things can be 2,500+ years old, it’s important to go see the tourist attractions and learn about the history of the place that you’re inhabiting, especially when it comes to the ways it shapes the contemporary climate of the country that you are temporarily living in. It’s also just plain fun and interesting. The Colosseum and Trevi Fountain are awesome, the Pantheon is beautiful, everything that people rave about that are must-sees in Rome are worth exploring.

4: Stay in Rome more often then you think you would like to.
Though I believe I stayed in Rome and in Italy more than some would while abroad, I definitely didn’t stay enough. I got so swept up with how cheap and easy it was to travel to other European cities/countries that I’ve always wanted to visit, but in the end, I did wish that I stayed in Rome and Italy just for one or two more weekends to explore some more. The weird thing about studying abroad here is that you feel like you’ve been here long enough by the end but also feel like you need an infinite amount more of time to really see everything.

5: Don’t forget to have fun! This is a once in a lifetime chance so soak it all in!
This experience was so much fun and incredible for me! I met friends that I hope will be my friends for a long time, I’ve seen things I’ve always dreamed of seeing and done things I’ve always dreamed of doing. I learned so much about myself and made some decisions about what I want for my future and what I don’t want for my future. I’ve taken classes I wouldn’t have even dreamed of taken and learned so much more because of it. I really tried to make this entire trip worth it and I hope that everyone else will try to do the same with any trip or big adventure/opportunity that they embark on.

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As Expected: The Food is Great

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No one’s surprised.

As I’m going through finals and my last week in Italy, I’ve been trying to have all of the food I know I’m going to miss. I decided to give anyone reading this some ideas for really good Italian delicacies to seek out if they ever decide to come here.

First thing’s first, suppli/arancini:
These little fried balls of rice, tomato, and mozzarella are probably the equivalent to heaven. There are many different types, but the general common idea is that it is a fried ball filled with rice. You can get some with meat in them or you can get some with spinach, etc. They are always delicious and always a good way to make your soul happy! 🙂

 

Wild Boar Pasta
Okay, hear me out. It is so good. It doesn’t taste particularly gamey, more like a type of beef and in the sauce that usually comes with this pasta, there is no other option but to get it and fall in love. It’s a nice spin on ragu so that you’re not always eating the simple tomato and ground beef bolognese/ragu sauce.

 

 

Cacio e Pepe
So simple, yet so good. This pasta is only pecorino cheese and black pepper, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. It is definitely one of my favorite types of pasta that I have ever tasted. (I also much prefer this over carbonara, although carbonara is still pretty good.)

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Zucchini Flowers (Fiori di Zucca)
Okay, I guess I just really like fried things. But I also have a really good relationship with zucchini and these fried zucchini flowers just make it that much better. The Jewish Ghetto is known for them, but anywhere you get them will probably be delicious. Sometimes they’re filled with cheese and I almost have a deliciousness-induced heart attack.

Gelato
Yes, it’s different than ice cream. Yes, it’s delicious. I know I didn’t need to tell you, but it would’ve been criminally remiss to not include it.

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Panino
I know that there’s not much that seems different about having a sandwich, but there’s a lot actually. (Also: one sandwich is a “panino,” multiple are “panini,” and none of them are pressed–that’s something different.) Most of the difference comes from the fresh ingredients one can find for their sandwich. Besides, obviously, having more options in terms of prosciutto and cold cuts, there’s also more options in terms of cheese, pesto, eggplant, etc., that one may not find in a deli in the States.

Pizza
Italian pizza is as good as you would expect it to be. Considering that pizza is an Italian invention, I think it’s safe to say that this pizza is the best pizza I’ve ever had. There are so many different types and they’re all so good. I’ve tried so many kinds and can’t tell you of a single kind not to get.

Pesto
Just anything with pesto. I do mean anything: panini, pizza, pasta, anything. Authentic pesto is so incredible. It’s also interesting to see how every place has pesto that’s slightly different, but still delicious all the same.

The food has honestly been one of my favorite parts of studying abroad and I’m really happy that I got to share this with people studying abroad in the future. Happy eating!

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Temple Rome’s 50th Anniversary

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There have been a lot of events surrounding Temple Rome because next May will be Temple University Rome’s 50th anniversary. I was lucky enough to sit in and help with interviews for a video/documentary that will be shown at the big event here (in Rome) in May on the anniversary. I met a lot of interesting people related to Temple Rome while helping. I got to talk to current teachers who teach subjects I’m not taking and hear how they are finding Temple Rome. I also got to hear from teachers who went to Temple themselves about how much they love the program. In addition to former Temple students that are now teachers here at Temple Rome, I got to speak to former Temple Rome students from years ago that have since moved on but were called in to reflect on their experiences as a student here. One of them was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, who now lives in Rome. She is Italian-American and talked about her experience living here for the first time. (Obviously, she loved it so much that she moved here).

Also, my aunt went to Temple Rome in 1994, which is awesome. It was interesting to talk to her and hear that she had some of the same problems or reactions I had when I first came here. We commiserated about things such as the amount of dog fecal matter on the sidewalks, the confidence needed when crossing the street, and more! It’s also cool that we got to study in the same exact building in a foreign country, and that we had some of the same experiences. She liked walking around the piazzas, just like I do.

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Then I got to give my interview, which was really cool! I’m excited to see the final video. I was a little nervous to provide one of the few voices of current students in the Temple Rome program, but I was honest about how much I love what Temple does here. Especially the student-life personnel who are always there to answer any questions from something big and important like: “I lost my passport, what do I do?” or “I lost my phone, what do I do?” to something fun and trivial like “Where should we go eat if we want to have really good carbonara?”

 

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My aunt in Temple Rome in 1994

I love that Temple Rome has this legacy that comes with its history of being here in Rome for 50 years. I think that it gives the program a certain seal of approval in terms of its constant success. And its longevity fosters the idea that it’s trustworthy in terms of providing you with an awesome experience (although that also comes with someone actively seeking out the experience as well). Hearing how much has changed and how much hasn’t changed in terms of Rome and Temple’s program, I realized how lucky I am to be here (not that I don’t feel that every time I wake up and walk past the Vatican walls, etc.), but specifically how lucky I am to be a part of Temple’s program, especially as a Temple student.

 

European Integration: From Rome to Brussels and Back Again

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Recently, my political science class went to Brussels to visit the various EU institutional buildings. In class, we have been learning about the EU institutions, their impact on Europe as a whole, and how they relate to the United States. We have discussed the most recent US election and its impact, the migrant/immigration crisis compared to the US, the founding ideas of the EU and their similarities to the US, and so much more comparing my new temporary home to my original one. It was incredible to be able to take a relatively quick flight there to experience the things that we have been learning about here in Rome and to put them into context. We walked past the EU Commissions building and spent time in the Parlimentarium museum which is the single-most interactive museum I have ever been to (excluding the Please Touch Museum in Philly, of course). They had audioguides that explained major events in Europe and the US per decade, maps you could touch and highlight, many different electronic interfaces with even more information, and so much more. It was cool to see lots of other people there involving themselves in the information presented to them in various ways. Also, as an English major (not a Political Science major), I found it helpful to go through the museum and have the lessons we learned in class be presented in a different way.

Brussels is an interesting city that is different from Rome in a lot of ways. First, mainly considering size. Brussels is a lot smaller than Rome (although we didn’t have much time to experience the whole expanse of Brussels, the size difference was still evident), and the cultural and historical backgrounds of the city are entirely different as well. The main thing about Rome that seems incomparable to any other city that I have visited is the sense of history that Rome has. While walking through the city, you can feel yourself walking on 2,000+ years of history. What was cool about Brussels was the history that was evident there, but in a more modern frame. Going to the Museum of the City of Brussels in the Grand Place was a great way to feel the history of the city that can’t be as obviously felt as in Rome when you can casually walk by monuments like the Colosseum.

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It was also interesting to see the amount of Italian restaurants or restaurants that served some sort of Italian food in Brussels. I noticed the same thing in Vienna, though that makes a bit more sense considering that Austria shares a border with Italy. It seems no matter where I go, I can’t get away from carbonara pasta (although I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to). I enjoy seeing the overlap of European countries’ cultures in other cities. Things like finding Belgian beer and chocolate in other countries besides Brussels, or carbonara in other countries besides Italy is really cool to me. We also discussed in my political science class, the idea of being European and how that doesn’t hold much weight in terms of its nationalism or unifying power as being an “American” does, but I find in very subtle ways that this sentiment may not be true or the difference may not be as polarized. I think Europe is integrated and proud in many different ways, sometimes reflected in the restaurants you just happen to walk into.

Art History in Florence

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This past weekend, my High Renaissance Art in Italy class traveled to Florence for two days of immersion into the Renaissance architecture, painting, and sculpture that fills the city. Upon getting off the train from Rome and arriving at our hotel, most of the class headed to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David, about which we had a written assignment to complete for the course. Seeing this ubiquitous icon in person for the first time was quite a similar experience to visiting the Sistine Chapel (also for my art history class). It is imagery I have seen dozens of times throughout my life; however, actually coming face to face with it, you are for the first time actually confronted by the marvel and grandeur of it.

This feeling continued for the rest of the trip, and I quickly found Florence to be a heaven for art and architecture. Visiting the Uffizi Gallery, I was enchanted by the Botticelli room in particular, and could have spent hours examining the intricate details of the Allegory of Spring. As a class we also took a Renaissance walk through the city, stopping to analyze and learn about the palazzo’s and squares we’ve seen in our textbook. This was yet another reminder of the wonder of studying art and art history in Italy – it is a uniquely privileged experience to be able to study the material from life rather than from text, and immerses you in the subject matter in a much more personal and intimate way.

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In the free time of our trip, I walked up to see the panoramic views of the city, the Duomo, and the surrounding water and hillsides from the Piazzale Michelangelo. I wandered through the quiet streets, and discovered how picturesque and idyllic of a place it is. The serene morning hours were especially atmospheric: walking through gardens of dew and raindrop covered roses, with a golden glow from the sun reflecting in the windows, smelling smoke drift out of chimneys and imagining the warm and cozy residents huddled inside.

These moments are some of my favorites of the semester, and evoke the idyllic Italian environment I have loved getting to know. While I think that Rome provides perhaps the most authentic, immersive, and stimulating environment to live in in Italy, it is amazing to be surrounded by so many interesting cities rich in culture and beauty throughout the country, just a short train ride away.

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Seeing Rome Through New Eyes

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This past week, I was visited by my mom and her best friend. The morning they arrived we headed over to see the art collection in Galleria Colonna, walked through the Piazza del Campidoglio, and headed down through the warmly colored streets of Trastevere for a long and lazy lunch. In these few hours following their arrival I could feel myself seeing Rome through fresh eyes again, almost as if it was back to late August when I was seeing Rome for the first time. At each corner we turned we noticed a beautifully colored building, flowers pouring out of a windowsill, or relaxed Romans reading the paper on a sun-drenched bench. Although I do notice these expressive and evocative details when I wander Rome on my own, there was something special about experiencing the awe and appreciation of a visitor. Unlike when I first got to Rome, however, this time I felt utterly comfortable in my environment, not constantly having to pull out a map or worry I was heading in the wrong direction.

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After indulging in ricotta and spinach filled ravioli and white wine, we meandered through the maze of streets with no schedule to follow, stopping to enjoy every interesting sight we passed. We stepped into the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, a beautiful church I have passed countless times without ever actually going inside. This stop was the beginning of a wake-up call for my last month here—a reminder to take all the opportunities for cultural immersion and exploration that naturally arise from living in Rome.

Throughout the rest of the week I took full advantage of their stay, and went with them on each of their excursions to museums, monuments, meals and long walks. I was forced to think about how much of Rome I haven’t yet seen, and became almost overwhelmed by how much more there is to do before the semester ends. It also spurred in me a resolution to not take any moment in the next 6 weeks for granted, and to actually take the initiative to accomplish my goals and hopes for the semester.

It is almost as if the fact that I am staying in Rome for so long has made me less inclined to rush to do everything that is so classically emblematic of the city. However, I’ve come to realize that no matter how many touristic outings I go on in Rome, there is always always more to see and absorb. I feel so inspired and enriched by my daily life in Rome, whether it has been hearing in-depth analyses of Renaissance art work, or having fleeting interactions with locals. The more my days are filled with the overwhelming artistic and historical stimuli of the buzzing city, the more I crave to stay here longer, and the more I wish to discover the monuments and hidden wonders that make up the full Roman experience.

Soccer Games, International EU Relations, & A New President

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This past week I went to my first soccer game and we got a new president. (Woah. It was kind of a lot). The soccer game (Rome versus Bologna) was a lot of fun and really cool! The game was held in the old olympic stadium; there were very cool mosaics on the ground of various olympic events. We had awesome seats and while I know next to nothing about soccer, I was sitting next to some very knowledgable friends who didn’t mind me asking a lot of questions. (Rule #1 of going to a sporting event of which you know nothing about: Go with someone who knows everything about said sport and don’t be afraid to ask them questions!) Our team (Roma obviously!) won by a 3-0 shut out and it was an incredible experience to be there with all of those fans, singing their songs and chanting with them. (Also, the Roma scarves we got resemble the Gryffindor scarves from Harry Potter so that was a definite plus.)

Then, the rest of the week was shrouded by a cloud, a weird, “I’m not too sure how to talk about this, but all Italians keep asking me about this,” sensitive, unpredictable, election cloud. Everywhere I went people mentioned the election to me, and all of my Temple Rome colleagues were excited (in a way), nervous, and overall stressed about the turnout. It’s no secret that this election cycle has been gritty, dirty, and particularly whirlwind-ish. There are people in our program who were rooting for one candidate and people who were rooting for the other; it was tense. When Wednesday emerged and we had a new president, there were mixed feelings and no one really knew what to make of the outcome.

In my political science class with professor Bordignon, we had the opportunity to go to a discussion/debate on the impacts of a Trump presidency on the US’ relations with Europe, specifically the EU. We got to hear the vice-president and one of the former vice-presidents of the EU speak. We also got to hear various ambassadors (Italian and American) of the US for Europe and vice-versa give their take on what they believe the outcome of this presidency will mean for them. There were speakers that were liasons, members of the EU parliament, and journalists from the Associated Press. It was really interesting to get the European prospective, especially since the US has had such a close relationship with the EU beforehand. While we were a bit underdressed and unprepared, we were stationed to watch in the overflow room with the refreshments and the press. So, naturally, we had our pictures taken and were interviewed by Italian news personnel and journalists. It was fun getting to give our point of view to the people who asked and who were surrounding us, and we even ended up on Italian news for a couple seconds! We also got to keep our badges which was very awesome.

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Overall, it was a crazy rollercoaster of a week. I spent it elated, worried, stressed, and then happy again. Lather, rinse, repeat. But my main take away was the invaluable experience of being a part of things that exist at home, but have an impact or are treated differently abroad.

It’s Okay to Feel Homesick

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So, let’s talk about homesickness. I’ve been hearing from some of my colleagues in the program that these most recent couple of weeks since fall break have been slightly challenging due to a bit of homesickness, and to be honest, I was feeling it too. Over break, my mom came to visit as did many family members of other students in the program, and the thing we can all agree on is that it was hard to say goodbye. Many of us traveled to other countries with inhabitants whose native language is English or traveled to countries where citizens spoke more English — making that transition back was hard as well. And some of my friends went to the countries that were home to their family’s history and nationality. Having those experiences was great and incredible and making the adjustment back was a bit harder than the rest of us realized.

All of a sudden we were missing brunch (particularly pancakes), an actual fall, blankets and fireplaces and sports (Congrats, Cubs!), iced beverages, and all of the things/people we can find in our hometowns and cities. It wasn’t that we didn’t miss them before, it’s that we were missing them a lot more now. I can say that personally, it was weird and I didn’t like it, or better, I felt a bit guilty for it. Here I am in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I want to go back to Vienna and stay with my mom for a couple days, or am wondering what it would be like to come back home. I also felt the awareness of this weird stigma about homesickness, one that made it out to be something weaker people felt. But the reality is: we (as in my fellow Temple Rome students) are all bound to feel it at some point.

I think the best thing you can do is let yourself feel it and let it pass, be honest about it and talk to your friends because the odds are that you are not the only one feeling this way at least to some extent. And even your family would understand, so it may help to talk to them about it. But, it’s also nice to remind yourself of the beauty that surrounds you and the home you can find in your new environment (even if it’s not what you have at home).

As time goes on, the urge to be home will most likely pass and everything will return back to normal. This doesn’t mean you won’t miss anything, but that you’ll miss it casually as you most likely did before (except pancakes, I would sell a kidney for some IHOP right about now), but just remember that it’s a part of the natural process and it’s not worth stressing over. Everything will be fine and you’ll be back home in no time…most likely wishing you were back abroad haha!

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Spending Weekends in Rome

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A common pattern amongst study abroad students, particularly those studying in Europe, seems to be travelling to a different city every weekend. The convenience and ease of travelling within the EU, coupled with the innumerable sights to see across the continent unquestionably leads to the appeal of planning trips for every weekend of the semester. Especially for people who do not have many opportunities to travel in this part of the world, this time in adolescence is a great opportunity to do so. Once we return to the U.S. and soon enter our senior year of college, many of us will be looking for jobs and don’t know when we will have the chance to travel for such an extended period of time again.

However, while I do understand the appeal as well as the benefits and learning experiences that come out of this city-hopping, in my personal experience of the past couple of months, my weekends staying in Rome have been some of the most significant. I personally love travelling more than anything, and while I know that I would also learn from jumping from city to city, my hope and goal in choosing to study here in Rome was not to travel all around Europe, but to really immerse myself in the Italian culture, and get to know the city as my home, not just as a visitor. Before coming here, I was a bit hesitant in deciding to study abroad in Europe, as I am originally from Europe and I knew that I wanted a very different, eye-opening experience that would significantly impact my perspective and my cultural awareness. Choosing to stay mostly in Rome and travelling around Italy has therefore been the best way for me to get what I wanted out of the semester. I wanted (and want to continue) to learn the ins and outs of the city, step off the beaten path, meet locals, and engage critically with my environment. I hoped to learn about the customs and traditions, pick up ideas and mentalities that may improve my own perspective and mindset, as well as be able to critique and understand the pros and cons of the culture.

During the busy weeks of classes and packed schedules, it’s rare to find moments that feel truly Italian, moments that exude the slow, laid back ideal many of us picture when we think of Rome. Weekends, however, have held some of my favorite memories, filled with countless moments that felt truly and iconically Italian: lazy, sun-drenched Sundays sipping cappuccini and wandering around flea markets, and hours spent in Rome’s many breathtaking museums and tranquil parks. I would not feel nearly as at home or as comfortable in this city if I didn’t have this uninhibited time to take in these moments and experiences, and would recommend to anyone studying abroad that you take all the chances you get to really get to know the place you are living: the good, the bad, and all that lies in between.