Monthly Archives: October 2010

Sarah’s Fall Break Part One: Dublin


Temple Rome has ruined my life.  I had this whole big unoriginal plan of graduating from college and eventually going to grad school, then getting a job and spending the rest of my life working, raising a family (God willing) and living the good ol’ American dream—charming husband, adorable kids, white-picket fence, little yippy dog and soccer mom minivan—the works!

Jaclyn and I arriving in Dublin

I am currently a cadet in the Air Force ROTC, so in May I will commission as a Second Lieutenant and Public Affairs Officer, and I’ll spend two of my four years of service on Guam.  So now living and studying in Rome, having the opportunity to travel all over Europe, I can’t wait to serve those four years and get right back into traveling the world!

And if it wasn’t enough that we’re already living the life in Rome, we’re also given a 10-day fall break right smack in the middle of our 15-week semester.  My sister Jaclyn and I had been thinking about this break long before we even arrived in Rome, and Dublin, London and Paris were at the top of the list.  So thanks to EasyJet and Ryanair, we booked those three cities in that very order.  Ok, so maybe I was being a bit dramatic before, Temple Rome obviously hasn’t ruined my life, but they’ve definitely spoiled me rotten—right down to my very core.

It would take volumes to recount our entire fall break, so this is what I’ll do: Dublin was our absolute favorite place and the city we enjoyed the most.  Full details of our time in Dublin—I can do—but I am going to have to go Halftime Highlight Show style for London and Paris in another post, and of course, my apologies in advance.

Is there anything about this photo that seems weird to you?

Our flight was scheduled to depart around 11 a.m. Monday morning, and we were excited when we found out that five of our girlfriends from the Temple Rome program were on the same flight, and staying in a hostel not far from us.  You see, a friend of mine who graduated from Temple is now in medical school at Trinity College in Dublin, and so he kindly let my sister and I crash at his place for the three nights we’d be in Dublin.

We arrived mid-day, and we first had lunch on the docks of the Grand Canal and began making plans for the evening for when I’d be celebrating my 23rd birthday, and everyone was in the mood to fiesta.  My friend rounded up a bunch of his roommates and friends from school to come out for dinner and then out for a night in the Temple Bar area for my birthday.  We made sure to stop at the famous Temple Bar for a round, and in the end turning 23 wasn’t so bad, after all.

Docks at the Grand Canal

The following day Jaclyn and I headed out in the morning to explore Dublin.  We started at Trinity College, walked Grafton Street, alive with tons of people, shopping, and entertainment.  We spent time talking to different people in St. Stephen’s Green while admiring the deep green grass, neat little bridges and beautiful lakes and then we walked until we got to a place called Jim Joe’s, which seemed like a great place for lunch.  As true tourists of Dublin, we ordered a seafood stew, a vegetable pie (like chicken-pot-pie, except I don’t eat meat), and for dessert an amazing fudge brownie topped with ice cream.  It was the perfect lunch, and we met three American students studying abroad in Dublin who we enjoyed sharing stories with, comparing cities and exchanging travel information.

Our first real Irish stew... mmm.

Our next stop was the Guinness Factory!  We really wished our whole family could have been with us in Dublin, and especially our dad and two brothers for the Guinness Factory; they absolutely would have loved it.

We planned to spend about an hour there and after two hours of touring we finally made it up to the Gravity Bar at the top level where you get to enjoy a free Guinness and admire the 360 degree view of all of Dublin.  It was breathtaking!

View of Dublin from the Guinness Factory's Gravity Bar

Following the Guinness Factory we met my friend and his one roommate for my birthday dinner.  Dakota was a great trendy restaurant, and since Jaclyn and I enjoyed the seafood stew so much at lunch, we ordered it again for dinner! We then went to the bar at Trinity College and were introduced to a nice group of med students, some we had met the previous night.  My friend and I spent the evening first on the MV Cill Airne; a boat turned bar/restaurant on the Liffy near the Grand Canal.  It was beautiful sitting on the deck of the boat having a drink looking out at the Samuel Beckett harp-shaped bridge and catching up with this friend that I hadn’t seen in over four years—funny how life works sometimes.  We headed next to a pub called The Ferryman and really enjoyed the music, the people, and the overall local feel of the place.

Sunday Jaclyn and I had plans to go to either Galway or Cork, but being that each is about a two to three hour train from Dublin, we tried looking for something more local.  The Wicklow Mountains, Valleys and Lakes Tour popped up on Google, and for a very decent price we could take a seven- hour bus tour through the Wicklow Gap and the Blessington Lakes.  The next stop was in the beautiful village of Avoca for a visit to the oldest weaving mill in Ireland and lunch at a little mom-and-pop restaurant, and then past Glendalough “glen of the two lakes” for a final scenic drive along the coast of Ireland.  The tour was absolutely amazing and we couldn’t have had better weather.  The bus stopped at several different spots and at one point Jaclyn and I were hiking in the woods along a waterfall that led to a lake at the top of a mountain!

Jaclyn and I at a lake on one of our Wicklow Mountains, Valleys and Lakes tour

We’d picked three of the most expensive cities in Europe to visit on our fall break, and Dublin was probably the most expensive of the three, so when we arrived back in Dublin city centre just in time for dinner, we decided to save some euro and eat in.  Our girlfriends were getting back to Dublin after spending a night in Cork, so we all made plans to meet out in the Temple Bar area.  We made sure our last night in Dublin was full of Irish craic (term in Irish culture to mean entertaining, funny or enjoyable conversation), plenty Irish jig, tons of laughs and just plain fun.  We all agreed that Dublin was really quite an incredible place, and so our last night was nothing short of bittersweet.

We were certainly going to miss the sheer beauty of Ireland

Jaclyn and I pouted our way though packing our things, excited for our next adventure in London but genuinely sad to have to leave Dublin (really, it was quite pathetic!).  It was just around 6 in the morning when we were walking towards the city centre when a man randomly stopped us and asked us if he could give us a cab ride to the airport.  We took it as a blessing in disguise and hopped in the cab, thankful that we didn’t have to cart our luggage any further.

David was our cabbie’s name, a middle-aged man with a wife and a daughter and enough Irish craic to get us all the way to London!  During our 20 minute cab ride he told us stories, jokes, tales, played us Irish music, talked to us about Irish life and culture, told us his life story and ultimately made the last moments of our weekend in Dublin just over the top incredible.

We lived it up as much as we possible could while we were in Dublin, and our tour guide through the Wicklow Mountains at one point on our tour fabulously, in his Irish accent, quoted Oscar Wilde (who lived in Dublin) when he said, “The only way to give in to temptation is to yield to it.”  Along with Arthur Guinness and John Jameson, I’d say we would have made Oscar Wilde pretty proud during our little holiday in Dublin.  So cheers to us.  Next stop: London and Paris in my next post, “Sarah’s Fall Break Part Two: London and Paris.”

Driving along the coast of Ireland

Can’t get enough of my dazzling wit and charm?  Be sure to check out my personal blog, The Bergen Beat, where I’ve been posting about this study abroad experience as well!

It’s nice in Nice


Chloé et Moi


Yves Klein

Fall break is already here and …. almost over???!!! Some of us traveled in groups and some of us went by ourselves but all of us went to discover and explore new or already visited European cities for the week of fall break. Barcelona, Paris, London, Egypt, Nice, Madrid, are just some of the places that us Temple students are visiting right now.

I left Rome on Friday morning, very excited to revisit the South of France and my friends that I met last summer as an au pair. I had been keeping in touch using Skype and Facebook but to be back again didn’t feel real! I was so anxious and excited to speak French again and visit Nice, Cannes, Grasse, and other towns. So back to Friday morning… I caught the metro to Termini, hopped on the train to Fiumicino Airport, and then got on my plane to Nice, France. Ahh yes, the south of France, where the stars drive around in their fancy cars, and the locals basically live a vacation lifestyle.  What could be better? Touching down into Nice airport is the most fabulous thing ever. Arriving right on the edge of the mediterranean sea with crystal blue water and palm trees feels so great.

Ok, back to reality… I got off the plane and caught the Ligne d’Azur 500 bus towards Grasse and got off in a small town not far from Nice, called Roquefort les Pins. This is the town where I was an au pair for two weeks last summer. I sat at the bus stop and waited for my friends who soon arrived on vespas and greeted me with a big hug and a kiss on each cheek. Next thing I knew I was on the back of my friend’s vespa, baguette in hand, and french on the mind. For the first hour I was with my friends I kept using Italian words as a normal reflex and realized that it’s not that easy switching languages! The first night here in Roquefort was very relaxing and was just what I needed after all the constant craziness in Rome. Reminiscing with my friends about last summer kept us laughing for hours, and this time I can actually speak French and talk to them. Last summer was a bit difficult as it was my first time in France and the first time I was applying classroom French to real life people my age speaking it fluently, so it was a compliment when they told me my French was very good!

Saturday and Sunday it rained all day and hailed at night so it deterred me from going out to explore, which upset me but I had all week ahead of me! Right now in France there is a strike because the retirement age is trying to be pushed up to 65 or 67 instead of 60, so most of the buses, airplanes, and schools aren’t running or in session. It is a pretty serious deal and I’m experiencing it first hand. My friends can’t get to school because there are no buses, and if there are buses to take them, all the students in the school are outside protesting. Lucky for me, the buses have been running on the days that I’ve wanted to travel. Monday I went to Cagnes sur Mer with two of my friends who didn’t have school because of the strike. Tuesday I went to Cannes to explore and I found myself on the beach for a couple house soaking up the sun… wow the beach in October, what?! Yesterday I went to Nice to visit the contemporary museum and explore the fabulous streets. Today I will be going to Grasse to visit the perfume factories, and later I will visit the family that I was an au pair for.

Saturday will come too soon and I will have to say goodbye to my friends here in France. Hopefully they will visit me in Rome! I am sad to leave France, but hey, I’m going back to Rome!

J’aime la vie

Getting Credit in Naples, Italy.


This past weekend I had my Baroque Art History class trip to Naples.  We all had to be on the bus by 7am on Friday morning and I slept the whole way there.  We arrived about 2 ½ hours later at the Capodimonte Museum, an old hunting mansion that was renovated into an art gallery.  We saw lots of young kids playing soccer in the park and our professor said that the kids were on strike from school because the government had cut funding.  How awesome is that?!  (The kids on strike, not the cut of funding)

The gallery visit was very relaxing because there were barely any visitors. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.   One of the paintings we saw was Caravaggio’s Flagellation. After our visit  we went to the other side of Naples and took an elevated tram to the top of the hills to visit Certosa di San Martino which was an old monk monastery turned into a museum.  The view of the Naples bay and Mount Vesuvius was spectacular.

Afterward we went to the hotel, got checked in and had an hour of free time before dinner.  The whole class decided to go out with our professor because we knew she knew where to get the best food for an affordable price.  I ended up getting a pasta dish with sausage, mushrooms, and a provolone cheese sauce.  It was tasty; however, I hate cheesy sauces so it was a challenge to keep down.  I had to keep psyching myself  into thinking it wasn’t cheese.  The sour dough bread was helpful in accomplishing this task, haha.  Then we went back to the hotel and I walked around the streets for a bit with some other students before we went back to get a nights rest.

On Saturday morning we had to be up and ready by 9am which included eating our free breakfast in the hotel.  It was a yummy breakfast and filled me up for the morning.  At 9am, we put our suitcases in the bus and walked around the center of Naples, stopping at important sites for our lectures.  The places we went were Duomo (Cathedral) of San Gennaro with the Chapel of the Treasury with frescoes by Lanfranco (1643) and Domenichino (1631-41), Ribera Museum to see San Gennaro Escaping the Fiery Furnace, and Pio Monto della Misericordia to see Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy.

We then got a break from lecture and were treated to a tour of Spaccanapoli.  This area is home to a long narrow street that splits Naples in half, and we had some free time to walk around the little shops.  I bought a keychain and magnet because those are things I collect back home and I haven’t bought anything for myself (besides food) since being here.  After shopping we had lunch at a restaurant that served true Neapolitan pizza named “Sorbillo”.  It was the best pizza I’ve had since being in Italy.  It was the thin-crusted, delicious pizza that I thought I would find more easily in Rome.  I had a traditional margarita plain cheese one, and it was yummy!

After lunch we continued our walking tour which included a museum called Cappella San Severo which housed Giuseppe San Martino’s famous statue Veiled Christ.  The museum also had two preserved skeleton figures with their nervous system intact.  It was the creepiest thing ever and they were super strict about not taking pictures.  I wish I could’ve though because it was so freaky.  We ended our lecture at the Galleria di Palazzo Zavalla’s Stygian which is a bank during the week in Naples.  We saw our third and last Caravaggio of the trip here, called Martyrdom of Saint Ursula and it is thought to be Caravaggio’s last work before he died.

We ended lecture with about an hour to spare before the bus was scheduled to pick us up and take us home, so we walked around and got a great harbor view of Mount Vesuvius and also walked around the shops.  They were even hosting a Race for the Cure event for breast cancer in one of the main piazza’s.

The bus ride home was relaxing and we got back to Rome in the evening, around 9:30pm.  Now I just have to continue to push through this week which is full of mid-terms and then I will be heading off to London and Paris for fall break next week!  I cannot wait!  Ciao for now!

It’s Not All Bad…


As an American student studying abroad in Rome, living in the Eternal City for almost four months and having the opportunity to travel throughout Europe on any given weekend, it is really hard to be in a bad mood.  Let’s just cut to the chase and say that we are living the life out here at Temple Rome.

I probably looked liked like I needed to be admitted to a psych ward this morning while riding the tram to school.  I was laughing out loud, thinking about just how fortunate all of us here at Temple Rome are to have the opportunity for this most incredible experience.  Never again will we be in our early 20s, in college, with our friends (some old, most new), living abroad (most of us for the first time) in such an ancient and fascinating city, with the entire world at our feet.  A bit too sentimental, perhaps, but seriously, this semester rocks.  I can’t help but to feel lucky, grateful, and above all, truly blessed.


Ok, so what if this is a construction sign in Italy. You know what it looks like this guy is really doing...

I had pep in my step (did I just say that?) as I stepped off the tram and popped my umbrella open for the short walk to school.  In the States, a rainy day is the most terrible, horrible, God-awful day, but here in Rome, well, it’s still Rome.  Even rainy days are glorious days!  Walking up the block in my nice new flats and taking in the greatness of the day, I took a nice big step… into a giant pile… of dog poop.  And other than being suddenly self-conscious and more mortified than angry, it suddenly hit me.  What stinks?

It’s too easy to gush about how wonderful this place is.  My vocabulary here consists of the words, awesome, incredible, amazing, or unbelievable, and an occasional Holy crap! almost every time I turn a new corner.  But what is it about studying or living abroad that’s annoying, inconvenient, frustrating or just plain bad?  You’ve been dying to know, haven’t you?

I spent some time this morning having a discussion with a group of Temple Rome students, polling them to find out what they think.  Here’s what we came up with (don’t get too excited, the list isn’t very long).

Ten Downsides to Living a Charmed Life in Rome

1. Watch out for that… ewww! The sidewalks here in Rome are almost like minefields, the IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) being dog poop. It’s almost as if there is no law that requires cleaning up after your dog in Rome (though there certainly is!).  One of us will step in dog poop, and everybody will inevitably point and laugh.  I was once a pointer and laugher.  Then this morning I was the one with poop on my shoe.  Not so funny anymore.

2. Bella figur-whaaa? In Italian, the term bella figura means “the beautiful figure,” but in actuality, it means leave your favorite sweatpants and ragged old t-shirt at home.  Bella figura refers to your self-image; if you present yourself well, it shows that you respect yourself, and thus others will respect you, too.  Really, this just means you’d better not leave your house (even if it’s just to run to the store for five minutes) without looking your absolute best, or you’re guaranteed to attract a few stares.  And gentlemen, don’t think this doesn’t apply to you too!

3. 1 euro, 2 euro, 3 euro, 4… 5 euro, 6 euro, 7 euro, POOR… This horribly unoriginal rhyme I recite to myself is the sad state of my bank account.  Not only is it annoying that we jingle everywhere we go from euro coins, but it’s also easy to forget that one euro definitely does not equal one dollar.  It’s a rather harsh reminder every time I log in to check my bank statement.

4. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you with your face buried in my armpit. Did you say you were claustrophobic? Ahh, good old Termini metro station on any given day of the week.  Do you enjoy your own little bubble of space?  Yeah, well you’d better leave that at home with your sweatpants if you plan on taking the metro in Rome.  The amount of people that move through the Termini metro station and pile into and out of those cars is a wonder all in itself.  Do yourself a favor and do a deodorant check before leaving your place.  You don’t want to be that guy…  

5. To eat for a week or to dance my butt off into all hours of the night… that is the question. I am still trying to figure out how Italians do it.  First, it is customary of Italians not to eat dinner until about 10 p.m., and they don’t typically go out until right around midnight.  And cover charges for clubs are incredibly pricey, and though they typically include your first drink, don’t plan on having any leftover euro to eat if all you want to do is dance.

6. Look left, look right, look left again, then proceed… is what my Dad taught me to do at stop signs when I was learning how to drive. Definitely useful when crossing the streets here in Rome, but you’d better look left, look right, and look left again about five to ten more times.  The traffic is insane in Rome, and the idea of yielding to pedestrians does not exist for Italian drivers.  A word to the wise: watch out for those Vespa’s.

7. Wawa wahhhhh… thanks to technology, we really have no reason to suffer from homesickness.  Skype allows us to catch up with Mommy and Daddy and make kissey faces and baby noises to the dog with just the click of a button.  But I think Wawa withdrawal is becoming rampant across the Temple Rome campus to the point where it may be frightening what some of us here would do for a 24 oz. cup of coffee and an Italian shorti.

8. Honk that thing one more time and I swear… If there was a limit for the number of times one can honk his horn on a daily basis, Italians definitely abuse it.  After living here for over a month it is becoming more like white noise, but the sound of honking horns is incessant everywhere you go, every single day, at all times of the day.

9. I might be an ignorant American, but I still know how to count! You go to your favorite panino shop for a sandwich in between classes, and you order the same thing every day.  Yesterday you paid 2.50 euro, and today Giuseppe wants to charge you 2.85, and you’re like, “Hey Giuseppe, I might not be fluent in Italian, but you can bet my Italian teacher taught me how to count!  So long as you wave your hands around like a lunatic, you can get your point across, even in Inglese.

10. “Crab cakes and football… that’s what Maryland does!” At the end of the day, we’re Americans, and sometimes you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  The bars, Scholars Lounge and the Abbey Theater are both conveniently open until 3 a.m. and we love them for showing American football games on Sunday’s, but man are we missing out on our Monday Night Football.  While you’re all enjoying at home, the six hour time difference leaves us tucked in, in our beds, anxious to check the stats of our teams first thing Tuesday morning.

So besides the occasional stinker on the metro, having to watch where your walking (both for dog poop and for those crazy Italian drivers) and having to wait another month and a half for a Wawa hoagie, our discussion about the annoying, the inconvenient, the frustrating and the just plain bad about studying and living abroad in Rome ultimately led us back to just that… we are studying abroad and living in Rome.  It could certainly always be worse.  So with that, I guess I’m right back to where I started…

It’s definitely not all bad.  Better yet, this semester rocks!

Hanging Out in Caravaggio’s Old Hood – Naples Trip


If you’re going to study art history, then Italy is definitely the place to come. After being here for a month and a half (I know, time is flying by) and seeing most works of art in person through on site visits during class, I don’t ever want to look at a projected slide in a dark classroom ever again!! This past weekend my High Baroque Art History class made our way to Naples for a weekend excursion to see some art and eat good food. Early Friday morning we got on the bus at 7 am and arrived at the Capodimonte Museum (museum on top of the hill) in Naples at 10 am. This beautiful Neopolitan red castle sat in the middle of a large park packed with kids of all ages running around playing soccer. We toured the museum for about three hours seeing various Caravaggio paintings and Caravaggisti artists (artists that followed in Caravaggios footsteps after he died) that represent the Baroque period in art.

After the Capodimonte Museum we walked to the tram that goes to the top part of Naples where you can look out with an entire view of the city and Mount Vesuvius. Right on this hill sits the Certosa di San Martino which used to be a Monastery and is now a museum. We met back at the bus at 6pm and headed to our hotel where we unpacked and then met up for dinner at a local Neopolitan restaurant at 7:30 pm. Hands down the best meal that I’ve eaten while I’ve been in Italy. Fried seaweed started off my meal followed by a shellfish of the sea dish; clams, mussels, razor clams, calamari, and shrimp over pasta. For just 6 euro I had one of the best meals of my life. Tired from a full day of touring and walking around Naples, we made our way back to the hotel after dinner for a good night’s sleep to prepare for Saturday’s long excursion.

Saturday was spent in the historic center of Naples viewing artistic monuments. We went to the Duomo of San Gennaro which houses frescoes by Lanfranco, Domenichino, and Ribera. Afterwards we made our way over to see one of Caravaggios masterpieces, Seven Acts of Mercy, in the Pio Monte della Misericordia. Although this trip was specifically for viewing the works of art, we did get some free time before lunch. During my free time I bought an Italian Horn bracelet, an ancient symbol that protects against the evil eye superstition. Lunch was next! We went to what is said to be the best pizza place in Naples, Sorbillo. After lunch our professor gave a walking tour of Spaccanapoli, the ancient quarter with a long narrow street splitting Naples in half. On this street we stopped at many churches along the way to view Baroque art, and lastly we stopped at the Galleria di Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano to view Caravaggios last work of art, Martyrdom of Saint Ursula. This piece was originally bought as a Caravaggisti painting, meaning that it had much less value. After some art historians researched the piece and the story behind it, it was indeed found that it was an original Caravaggio painting, and his last work at that.

Overall the trip was a great success. It prepared me for the midterm by seeing all the pieces in person, showed me Naples, and gave me the two best meals in Italy so far.

Statue of Shells

Capodimonte Museum

Pre-Midterm Happenings.


Time keeps ticking here in Rome and I personally feel like it’s going by faster and faster.  Although most of my days recently have been consumed with going to classes and then working on midterm projects and studying, I have still managed to get a couple extra events into my week.

Temple Rome organized a wine tasting event for the student body.  It was an extremely informative and interesting evening where a wine expert came to the school to talk about many facets of wine.  Some topics included were how to properly smell the wine, where and how it’s made, how the wine ages, and how sparkling wine is manufactured.  Each student was able to taste samples of three different wines.  It was a nice break to a week full of pre-midterm anxieties.

Another opportunity I have been blessed with here was the chance to volunteer at a local Soup Kitchen.  My friend Betsy and I signed up through the school and set aside a Friday evening to help serve the hungry.  Our evening started with traveling to the center of Rome which is called Termini.  The soup kitchen was located about a ten minute walk from there within a gated hostel for the homeless.  When we got there we were not sure what we were going to be doing but the Italian volunteers greeted us with open arms, and I could tell they enjoyed our willingness to help.  We began by preparing the cafeteria-like room for dinner.  Our first task was to fill pitchers of water for each table.  After that we had to dry the trays that were coming out of the dish room.  After these pre-dinner activities, Betsy and I were then assigned to our duties for the dinner meal.  Betsy was sent to the food line where she was responsible for dishing out the different meats while I was asked to stand outside of the entrance and organize the crowd of people coming for dinner.  Since this soup kitchen was part of a hostel, the residents of the hostel were able to come in whenever they wanted and go directly in.  However, they also accept homeless people from the outside on a first come first serve basis.  This is where my job came into play.  Each homeless person had to line up outside and must register with the soup kitchen by proving their social status (paperwork like a license).  To prevent the people from overcrowding the cafeteria, I had to let 5-8 people through at a time and keep the line flow at a regular pace.  I don’t speak or understand much Italian, but I was still able to communicate and talk with some of the poverty stricken people.  It was heartbreaking to see some of them with little kids or even all by themselves.  However, they were some of the nicest people I have met so far here in Rome.  Sometimes all I had to do was make eye contact with someone and I felt like I connected with them on a personal level.  As people exited, they would personally thank me and smile which made me feel like my time of volunteering was well worth it.

I am so glad that I made the time in my ever-so-busy schedule to take part in this volunteer experience.  It gave me a new insight on life and changed me for the better by enabling me to see a side of Rome I would’ve otherwise overlooked.

Oktoberfest? Road Trip!


My Bucket List is volumes long.  My family (and probably a couple of doctors) might say I have ADHD, but I like to call my inability to sit still pure excitement for life.  Among things such as skydiving, running a marathon, seeing the Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower (both the later I am crossing off during my semester abroad) is going to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.

A huge castle on a hill we passed on our way through Northern Italy.

Not only was I able to attend the 200th anniversary of “The Weisn” as they call it in Munich, but I was able to do it with my younger sister Jaclyn and a dozen great friends.  We flew from Rome to Venice and my friend picked us up in a BMW (that’s right, a Beamer) he rented for the weekend to drive from Venice through Nothern Italy, through Austria and finally into Munich; a total of five hours and one hell of a road trip.

A beautiful view from the hill of a small Austrian town.

I am lucky enough to have traveled to Colorado more than a dozen times, and every time I’ve visited, the Rocky Mountains always seemed to blow me away.  Now, the Dolomite Mountains that run through Italy might be comparable to the Rockies, but how do you compare the Rockies to the Alps?  Jaclyn and I were also under the impression that driving on the Autobahn would be this wild and crazy experience, but instead we sat in traffic, so we put good ol’ Lady Garmin (as I like to call the navigation) to the test, and let her take us on a detour through back roads in the hills of these small Austrian towns.

When you study abroad, your life is suddenly like a movie.  I could never have dreamed of seeing such amazing views, while riding in a Beamer, on the way to Oktoberfest.  We pulled over several times to stop for pictures and to frolic in the fields (really, we hoped and skipped around like maniacs).

My sister Jaclyn and I outside the entrance of Oktoberfest.

Next up in our Oktoberfest adventure was the arrival to our four-star hotel in this quiet little neighborhood in Munich, just a few metro stops away from where Oktoberfest was taking place.  Hotel Am Moosfeld was beautiful, and we met some really great people (a ton of Italians) there as well.  Breakfast was included in our stay, so we woke up each morning and ate like royalty before heading out for the festivities.

Piling out of the metro along with thousands of people, my sister and I had no idea that Oktoberfest is essentially an international carnival.  Sure, we thought there’d be a ride or two and maybe some cool German funnel-cake-like-thing, but we never imagined the number of rides and different food and drink and souvenir stands and beer tents and just the massiveness of Oktoberfest.  We were speechless, so we did what any Oktoberfest-er would do, and we made our way to a beer tent for a stein of German beer.

About 6 million people attend Oktoberfest over the three weekends it takes place.

It’s not as easy getting into a beer tent and getting a beer as one would think, but we figured it out rather quickly.  And unless everyone at Oktoberfest from around the world also has ADHD, everyone there seemed to share the same excitement for life as I, and I would say that was my favorite aspect of the whole event.  We met people from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, the UK, Australia and the United States.  Here I am an American at Oktoberfest in Germany, trying to use what little Italian I know, ending up speaking English to people from all over the world.  It was overwhelming how many people spoke English, and how many foreigners love practicing it with Americans.

Sunday was spent exploring Munich, an amazingly beautiful city.

We spent the second half of the day on Friday and the entire day Saturday at Oktoberfest, so that by Sunday morning we forced ourselves out of bed early enough for our last breakfast at our luxurious hotel and in time to spend the entire day walking around Munich.  There is something surreal about traveling, especially in foreign countries.  In talking with my friends about how fortunate we are to have the ability to have weekends like the one at Oktoberfest, I think my sister said it best when she said, “I am so young and I feel as if it almost isn’t fair; some people live their entire lives and never get to see and do things like this.”

My sister Jaclyn in a field with the Alps behind her in a small town in Austria.

I enjoyed every minute of walking around Munich and getting to explore another European city other than Rome.  And I’ll admit, among the many volumes of my Bucket List, going to Oktoberfest was pretty high on the list.  We kept asking each other, “How do you explain just how amazing this weekend has been so that someone actually comprehends how amazing it has truly been?”  The pictures don’t really do it justice, and such words don’t exist in my vocabulary, but I’d go so far as to say this past weekend was one of the best weekends of my life.  Does that help?

Jaclyn and I feel lucky as sisters to be able to share this study abroad experience.

Oktoberfest, another item on Sarah’s Bucket List… Check!

MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma


Joao Louro "Dark Places"

Aaron Young "Slippery When Wet"

Next stop on the contemporary art museum list is MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma. Similar to MAXXI, the first appearance of MACRO is a facade much like the the facades on the rest of the street. MACRO was built over the site of the old brewing factories of Peroni. Although it has the normal facade like MAXXI, unlike MAXXI, MACRO is currently working on a new entrance which will show off its contemporary architecture by French architect, Odile Decq, and invite visitors into the museum in the way a contemporary museum should. They are also working on a huge roof sculpture garden which I will have to visit when it is completed in five or so years. The collection of the museums is again like MAXXI, all Italian based artists from the 1960’s and on. The collection is mostly on loan or temporary with some permanent works. Walking into MACRO there is a staircase leading up to see the works, and you must enter a separate room to see any exhibit. I like the set up of this because it forces the visitor to read the text about the specific exhibition before entering the room.

We started off the visit with an exhibition by Aaron Young called “Slippery When Wet”. He is a young artist who is experimental with his use of video art in different urban cities. Making our way  through MACRO, we looked at Arte Povera artists such as Mario Ceroli and Pino Pascali. One room that stood out to me the most was an exhibition dedicated to the construction and process of works for various famous artists. The room was called “A Roma La Nostra Era Avanguardia”. Various photographs of the processes of works were mounted on the walls of this exhibition space, but the best part were three huge sections of drawers filled with letters, newspaper articles, and instructions from artists. Handwritten and typed letters from Christo and Andy Warhol were addressed to their assistants with requests for hotels in Rome and instructions on materials needed for works. Seeing these personal, and for the most part unseen, documents was a great way to understand the process that artists went through to get shows put together. Every time I opened a new drawer, there they were, these letters from Dominicis, Warhol, Pollock, Christo, etc. right in front of me to read and experience. I eventually had to pull myself away from the room and say goodbye. There was also an exhibition titled “My Dark Places” by Portuguese (yay!) artist, Joao Louro. This was a solo exhibition that looked into the critical interpretation of reality, as the press release puts it, “a world in which nothing is at it seems, a universe where the short-circuit of vision and language creates original expressive pathways”.

I look forward to visiting MACRO in the future when the new addition, entrance, and roof garden are finished. What I can look forward to this week is a class lecture by artist Francesco Simeti, and tomorrow, a visit to the MACRO Future and Fotografia Festival Internazionale di Roma.

Rome on a Budget.


I’m here in Rome on a tight budget, and the words “free” and “cheap” have taken on a new meaning to me this semester.  I am a lot more aware of how much I am spending on things and whether I am getting/doing things I need to do versus what I want to do.  Even though I feel like I’ve only been spending my money on the necessary things like school supplies, food, and transportation…I am still seeing a dramatic decline in my bank account.  I guess losing about thirty cents on every euro I spend here really adds up quicker than I anticipated.  Due to my scarce funds, I have found things to do that are free or pretty close to it.

My first free thing that I love doing is Bible Study with a group of new friends every Wednesday night.  It’s a time for us all to get together and leave the stresses of school work behind us for a moment and come together in worship and prayer.  This is an unofficial group that has only met for two weeks so far but it is turning out to be a great success.  In fact, this past week we all met in Saint Peter’s Square in front of the Vatican.  It was a brisk fall evening and I loved having this atmosphere of love and acceptance while listening to church bells and water fountains in the background.

Temple Rome recently hosted an event called “Round Table with Italians” where they invited a diverse mix of local Italians to come talk with us students about life in Rome.  It was great to sit in and listen to the exchanges and stories between the many individuals that came out.  Afterwards, everyone was treated to an informal dessert reception where we could continue to socialize and mingle with each other.  I was lucky enough to start talking to one of the girls named Caterina, and she exchanged contact information with me and a few others that were talking with us.  Hopefully we will be able to keep in touch and possibly get together so she can show us the city through a different perspective.

The last Sunday of each month, many of Rome’s museums are open to the public for free.  However, there are some that are open every day for free, and I decided to take advantage of visiting one that I had heard about through a friend from home.  It’s called the Capuchan Bone Museum and it’s in a crypt of Santa Maria della Immaculata which is located a block from the Barberini metro stop.  When I got there I was amazed at what I was looking at.  Bones of old monks and friars were lined up in geometrical patterns throughout a corridor of the church.  It was a surreal experience to see perfectly preserved human bones, and I definitely recommend that people check it out when in Rome.

Finally, I always keep my eyes peeled for events that are happening around the area.  Luckily I spotted a gallery opening flyer for world famous artist Kiki Smith.  Many of the studio art majors and I decided to go and it turned out to be an amazing experience.  Not only were we able to enjoy seeing her artwork in a personal setting, but we were also treated to live entertainment and free drinks.  However, the cherry on top was getting to meet Kiki Smith herself!  She was so nice and extremely down to earth.  Although we didn’t talk long, she seemed really inspiring and motivational as she talked to us about how we are studying fine art in Rome.

So there you have it.  Those are just four different experiences I have had in Rome that have put no dent in my pocket whatsoever.  Well, they do say…”The best things in life are free!”

Doin’ as the Romans Do…


Five weeks into our Temple Rome study abroad adventure and I think everyone would agree we are all really beginning to feel at home here in the Eternal City.  Some of us know more of the Italian language then others, but each of us is now able to get by in holding a basic conversation, asking for or giving directions, ordering food and drinks or simply communicating in general.  Mastering the bus routes in Rome is a work in progress, but we’ve all taken the Metro enough times to know how to get ourselves from one place to the next, and I’d say we all have a pretty good idea of the layout of this city and an idea of where everything is, relatively speaking.

Celebrating several of our friend's birthdays at the Hard Rock cafe in Rome.

It happens several times a day that I’ll be walking somewhere or will have stopped to look at something and I take a step back to remind myself, Wow, I am in Rome! Not that I don’t love my life in my hometown Allentown, Pa. and in Philadelphia where I live year-round for school and work, but this is Rome.  There’s simply no comparison.  I was told before coming here that I might miss home.  I was told that I might go through periods of homesickness.  Sorry Mom and Dad, I’m simply too busy seeing and learning new things, traveling all over the place and having the time of my life to really miss y’all.  I feel fortunate, though, that I am able to share this study abroad experience with my younger sister Jaclyn.

Jaclyn was (really) smart to look up to her big sister and decide to attend Temple University as well.  We are two of the luckiest girls in the world, not only to have the chance to study abroad, but also to be able to do it together.  We’ve fully been taking advantage of all the wonderful opportunities presented to us since we’ve arrived.  And it is as if this trip just keeps getting better.  Five weeks seems to have been long enough for the two of us to discover some of our favorite things about being in Rome, and though each day is a new and completely different day, there are some things that have become rather habitual (we prefer to use tradition).

These two capuccinos ranked pretty high on the "deliciousness" scale.

Take coffe, for instance.  Coffee is more of an art in Rome than just a quick drive through Dunkin’ on the way to work like we do in the States.  I’ll admit in my weakness that I have had cravings for my 24 oz. cup of Wawa every so often, and so there are few days in the week where Jaclyn and I don’t stop at a cafe (called a “Bar” in Rome) to grab a cappuccino to start the day.  We love always trying new places, and while we sit and sip our little cups of art, we spend a few minutes ranking our morning fix on a scale of “deliciousness” from one day to the next.

Grocery shopping has never been so much fun as it is in Rome.  On top of all the local markets in our neighborhood, there is a grocery store just a short tram ride away from our apartment.  We spend great lengths of time in the grocery store, walking up and down every isle, looking at each item, trying to decipher what it might be (since it’s all in Italian), then debating whether or not we think we can figure out how to make it and finally deciding to purchase the item and seeing how it goes!  We’ve made several incredible (and rather experimental) meals in the last weeks.

We can't get enough of all the fresh produce!

Sunday nights we like to head to either Scholars or the Abbey Theater to catch NFL football games.  We can’t help it, we’re Americans.  And Monday nights somehow turned into game night at the local pub just down the street from our apartment.  After a day of classes, we finish up our work, throw something together for dinner, have our friends come meet us at our apartment, and head down the street to a place called Killmoon Irish Pub for a round of our favorite Grimbergen beers and endless rounds of Bananagrams, a game much like scrabble, that Jaclyn and I brought from home.  We certainly opt for trying out new places whenever possible, but game night is something we love, and we’ll probably continue all the way through the semester.

Scholar's on Sunday's for Eagles football!

Italians generally eat dinner around 10 p.m., and they don’t typically go out until around 11:30 p.m. or even midnight.  Jaclyn hummed and hawed one night when I told her we were all planning on going to a club for a night of dancing, saying something about how she didn’t like to dance.  “You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” I told her, rather easily convincing her to come along.  4:00 in the morning and Jaclyn’s dancing in circles around all of us sitting on a curb rubbing our swollen feet while waiting to catch the night bus, saying that she wasn’t finished dancing yet!  The nightlife in Rome can be a ton of fun, but it is certainly exhausting.  I get the feeling Jaclyn might want to go dancing again soon.

At Musei Capitolini (The Capitoline Museums) for class.

I genuinely enjoy going to class.  Even to me that statement seems ludacris, but really, class in Rome is so much fun!  Four times a week I have an hour of Italian.  My Italian professor is the greatest, and the best part about the class is that we learn more of the language every day that we can then go out and practice with Italians!  In my other two classes we meet once a week for lecture, and once a week for a site visit.  So far, I have been to the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the National Museum of Rome, the Hendrik Christian Anderson Museum, the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, the Baths of Dioclecian, the Ara Pacis, the Mosoleum of Agustus, the Pantheon, and most recently the Capitoline Museums.  These are all places that I maybe would have gone to, but never would I have gotten such an in-depth and informative visit that we get from our professors, without having to pay a great deal of money to do it on my own.

Sunday Funday is a tradition we practice even at home.  There’s nothing better then waking up on a beautiful Sunday morning, rounding up your friends, and heading out for a great day.  Here in Rome, we like to page through guide books or take tips from other Italians to just go out and visit some place new!  This past weekend we hoped on a bus to the town of Tivoli to see Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa).  We really enjoyed seeing the town of Tivoli and we were blown away by the history and beauty of Emperor Hadrian’s lavish villa, even in its ruins.

Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa) in Tivoli for some weekend fun!

Time seems to be flying by and the days blend together, as if these past five weeks have been one super long really great day.  Jaclyn and I sat outside on our terrace last night, watching the sun set behind the Vatican, talking about how thankful we are to have had such an amazing time the past month, and even more thankful that we still have two and a half months left.  When in Rome… there’s nothing like just doin’ as the Romans do.