Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Gelato Tally

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Il Gelato di San Crispino

I know the High Renaissance churches and ancient remains that I’ve been studying in my classes are important and I’ve been trying to place these monuments within the context of the city, but, if I’m going to be honest, no unifying Roman factor has been as important to me as gelato.  My aim to create a perfectly accurate hierarchy of gelato flavors and locations has taken precedent over many things throughout the past month.  I feel as if I’ve tackled a lot of ground, but there is definitely more fieldwork to be done.  My findings thus far:

Old Bridge Gelateria

Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo, 5

Old Bridge is known among most of the Temple students here because it’s only a short walk away from the residence.  The crowd surrounding the shop (actually, it’s little more than a counter) was an initial signal of greatness.  The gelato is beyond tasty here.  I’ve only had a few of the flavors, but my friends can attest for the others; I’ve yet to find someone who has met an Old Bridge gelato flavor they didn’t like.  The servers are young and friendly and good people with which to practice your Italian.  And once you’ve gotten your treat, you can easily stroll to nearby St. Peter’s Square-a must-see at night!

Il Gelato di San Crispino

Piazza della Maddalena, 3

This gem is right off the Piazza della Rotonda, or the site of the Pantheon.  I read about San Crispino in my guide book, and when I stumbled upon it the other day, I couldn’t resist trying it.  One word: debilitating.  I had white peach and hazelnut and the combination was so refreshing and delicious.  In comparison to other places, San Crispino is a little pricey, but I contend that it’s a necessary stop on any legitimate gelato tour.

Gelateria Millenium

Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, 2a

Millenium is also a gelateria near the residence, but I feel like it’s less appreciated in comparison to Old Bridge.  I dare to say that the gelato is better here!  There are also more flavors and it is a much shorter walk, so I’m definitely Team Millenium.  The surrounding piazza is lively at night and every flavor I try becomes my new favorite.  I especially recommend their frutti di bosco, or a blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry mixture.

These have been my favorite gelato spots thus far.  I feel as if I will be able to teach a “Gelato 101” course before I leave Rome, and I might have to buy a new wardrobe to accommodate my growing addiction.  I’m seeing (and eating my way through) the city, one gelateria at a time!

Finding my Roots in Italy

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One of my biggest goals in studying abroad this semester in Rome, was to visit the town where my grandfather was born and either find someone who knew him or find a distant relative of mine. Being centrally located in Italy’s largest city makes it very accessible to travel throughout the country (a major plus!). Last weekend I got the chance to travel to the Marche region of Italy to visit some family friends in the town of San Benedetto and see the childhood home of my grandfather outside the city of Ascoli Piceno.

My friend Grace and I left Rome Friday morning and arrived in San Benedetto, a beach town on the Adriatic coast, by mid-afternoon. My uncle has relation in San Benedetto, and we arranged to meet up this weekend. My uncle’s cousin Valentina is my age and spent time in America this past summer, so I knew her before arriving. She and her family got us set up in a bed and breakfast (also owned by relation to my uncle!) near their home and really helped us a great deal throughout the weekend.

The view from our bed and breakfast

We we spent Saturday morning lounging along the Adriatic, then in the afternoon set out to explore the town in which my grandfather is from. I came to Italy with a photo of his home and the name of the man living there now. I had no idea what to expect out of this weekend, but what ended up happening was truly amazing.

My grandfather was born in outside of Ascoli Piceno in a small town called Santa Maria a Corte. When I say small..I mean small! The little town consisted of only about 15 homes, a church, and a small square. We parked and approached the first two men we saw sitting on a bench. Valentina’s father, Leone, asked them in Italian, “Do you happen to know a Mario Cagnetti? He used to live here and now his granddaughter is back from America to find his old house.” The men looked shocked, then answered yes! Just that had me excited, the fact that they knew my grandfather was so cool! Leone then proceeded to show them the picture of my grandfather’s house that I had brought with me, and the older of the two men looked at it and said, “That’s my house, and I’m in that picture!” Now I was in shock..the first person I come in contact with in this little town is Domenico, the man that now lives in my grandfather’s home and who was a friend of my grandfather before he moved to America. He was so excited and little shocked himself. He walked us through the town and we ended up in front of my grandfather’s old house.

Standing in front of my grandfather's home, with the current owners, Domenico & Gina

I took a few pictures, and his wife, Gina, came outside. He told her what was going on and she was also ecstatic! Mind you, I was heavily relying on Valentina and her father’s translations to understand all of this conversation. Gina brought out some drinks and pulled up chairs for us all to sit outside. It was the most surreal moment of my life- sitting in front of my grandfather’s old home having a drink with the people who now live there. I would have given anything for the rest of my family to have been there with me!

We headed out and headed into the larger city of Ascoli Picerno, in which my grandfather used to work before he moved to the United States. It was a beautiful, more modern city than I imagined. I took lots of pictures to bring back for my grandfather, and bought plenty of postcards to send home to my family. I was the first of his grandchildren to get back to the town were he was born, so this was definitely a huge moment for my family, and one of the most important and meaningful weekends of my life.

Site Visits

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The MACRO

Going to school in Rome provides so many opportunities to see exactly what we are learning about.  Luckily, I’m in two classes that have weekly site visits: High Renaissance and Art and Culture of Rome.  Sometimes when I’m trying to find a site at 9am, it’s hard to remember just how lucky I am, but it really is a great way to learn the class material and become more familiar with Rome.

One of my favorite places that I’ve been with a class thus far is the Montemartini museum. This is the site of Rome’s first power plant, and the building now holds excess material from the Capitoline collection.  It was really interesting to see the industrial parts of the power plant juxtaposed with the ancient works of art.  My professor, Jan Gadeyne, definitely gave a thorough overview of the collection that I definitely would not have gleaned from an individual visit.  Additionally, I’m not even sure if I would have made it to this museum on my own, so I’m glad I was able to go with a class.

This week, with my High Renaissance art history class, I visited the church of Santa Maria del Popolo.  This is a church right near school, but I never knew that it was so historical and full of such important works of art.  My professor, Paolo Carloni, even secured us access to visit behind the altar and see the Bramante choir no longer accessible to the public.  It was great to visit a site so close to school, that I see everyday, and learn about its significance.

Inspired by all of my recent class visits, I ventured on my own excursion today to the MACRO, or the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome.  It was even free entry today, because of something called the European Heritage Days.  The building was ultra-modern and full of interesting angles and color contrasts.  The art was contemporary and the different exhibits made me feel like I was in the MOMA in New York.  It was really refreshing to see modern art, after being confronted with so many ancient artifacts and churches over the past few weeks.  The building seemed so out of place in the quiet Roman neighborhood, surrounded by traditional apartment buildings, but it somehow worked.  It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and it was also nice to visit a museum at my own pace without having to worry about listening to my professor or taking notes.

Hadrian’s Villa and the Baths of Caracalla

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Last Friday, I went to Hadrian’s Villa through Temple Rome.  Professor Huber lead the trip, which finished with a visit to the town of Tivoli east of Rome.  On the way there, and while walking, Professor Huber told us about the history and stories behind what we were going to see.

Hadrrian’s Villa is where the Emperor Hadrian preferred to spend his time and rule the empire.  He didn’t get along well with the Senate because he had leading Senators assassinated so he could come into power.  Instead, Hadrian constructed this elaborate complex outside of Rome where he could escape from the pressures of the city.  The villa was filled with gardens, walkways, fountains, a theater, and banquet halls.  It was located in an area that was lush with forests and wildlife.  His villa was close enough to Rome that he could have easy correspondence with the capital, but far enough that he could feel more comfortable there.

The trip through Temple University was an excelelnt way to see something that I might not have seen otherwise.  More students should sign up for the trips through Temple University, so that Temple will have enough people to pay for the buses.  The trip to Viterbo this week was cancelled due to lack of enrolment, which made me sad because I had wanted to go.  Luckily, I have friends from Temple here who found a train we can take to see some of the things that were part of the trip.  Aparently more students study abroad here in the Spring rather than the Fall.  Unfortuneately, this means that some events that required a minimum number of participants haven’t been able to happen.

This past Sunday, I invited friends to join me at the Baths of Caracalla, where I did homework for my Advanced Drawing class at Temple.  These are the remains of an ancient roman public bath complex.  You really have to stand there and see these huge walls and pilasters, but even they are just a part of what the whole structure once was.  It once had a gigantic dome that dwarfed the Pantheon.  Now, just the lower structures are left standing.  In some parts, the mosaic floor is perfectly preserved.  Chunks of floor depict black and white mosaics of fish, gods, and sea monsters.

I was thinking as I was looking at these ruins, that there must have been a very first day that a huge chunk of the dome fell down.  When the Roman Empire collapsed, these huge structures including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were simply no longer maintained.  They became abandoned buildings, like any abandoned hotel or warehouse in North Philadelphia.  They were open to vandals, kids, shepherds, and climbers.  And one day, a huge chunk of this great massive dome must have fallen.  Perhaps half the dome fell all at one from stress and fracturing, or maybe the majority of it.  Maybe someone was nearby when it happened.  I imagine that there was a time when older citizens remembered when the baths were used, but the younger generation did not have any memory of this.  Because these structures were not maintained, the debris of time such as dirt and leaves collected in them and built up.  Slowly, the ground level rose around these structures and buried them.  The current ruins of the Roman Forum were once a level sheep and cow pasture.  Now, these structures have been excavated from the ground that rose around them like water, and people pay euros to see them.

Monks on the Metro and Other Surprising Things About Rome

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Manmade Hill of Amphorae

After two and a half weeks in Rome, I feel as if I’ve gotten the hang of some things (getting my shower to produce hot water, mastering the order of a perfect sandwich at the local alimentari, etc.), but I’ve also encountered some surprising things as well.  I guess it does makes sense that monks would have a need for the subway, but I never anticipated such a scene.  Some other surprises:

The Heat: I’m not especially surprised that it’s hot out, but I often feel as if I’m the only person that sweats in this entire country.  So many men wear suits and jackets in this heat and seem totally fine.  I’m in constant awe of their ability to go through the day’s activities without fainting.

Italian Fashion: Besides the aforementioned men in suits, there are fewer well-dressed people here than I expected.  I thought Italy was supposed to be fashion forward.  In actuality, they just discovered Abercrombie and Fitch and they LOVE it.  Light jeans, cartoon characters, and blatant disregard for the no-white-after-Labor Day rule are in vogue here.

American Music: Before coming here, I expected to hear a lot of new and interesting Italian music playing in restaurants and stores.  Instead I hear only American music all the time!  One particular song seems to follow me wherever I go: Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.”  I was vaguely familiar with this song in the states this summer, but now I’m addicted, mostly because it seems to play on an endless loop.  From the intro video during orientation to a park bathroom this past weekend, I cannot escape this tune.  I am sorry to report that “Moves Like Jagger,” in lieu of an authentic Italian song, will always be my soundtrack to this city.

Abrasive Locals: Let me qualify this by first noting that most of the people I have encountered here have been very friendly and eager to help, even in such frustrating incidents as when I can’t think of the Italian way to say “large gelato.”  The unfriendly Romans, however, are very unfriendly.  Italians have no concept of passive-aggressiveness.  If you cross the street when they’re approaching on their Vespas, they’ll let you know that they’re mad.  If you stand too close to them while they’re at the ATM, they won’t let you hear the end of it.  And if they’ve been waiting too long for the bus, your best option is to feign deafness to avoid being subject to their tirade.

The History: I knew Rome was full of history, but being here really solidifies this feeling.  Every corner of this city contains something culturally important.  To the average onlooker, a hill in the neighborhood of Testaccio might look like any other one, when in actuality it is a manmade hill composed of ancient amphorae, or ancient clay vessels.  For every obscure fact about Rome that I know, there are about a thousand facts I don’t know.  One semester is definitely not long enough to learn even a little bit of the history that this city holds.  For this discovery alone, all the other surprises somehow become bearable.

Do as those Romans Do!

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Ciao from Roma! I’m Mackenzie Krott, a junior at Temple University spending my fall semester in the beautiful Eternal City. Two weeks have quickly flown by since I landed in Rome, and I am slowly starting to get adjusted to this wonderful new city and culture. Since this is my first time out of the country, I came into this experience open-minded, eager, and excited to dive into the Roman lifestyle. Myself, along with the other Temple Rome students have been so lucky to be a part of a program that offers us so many opportunities. As written about in previous posts, the Temple Rome staff has done a great job in getting us accustomed to life in Rome and beyond. Things like the day trip to medieval town of Todi followed by a 12-course meal at the estate of Titignano, The University of Rome tour, culture discussions, and a cooking demonstration have really helped to ease our transitions.

Temple Rome students walking into the Medieval hilltown of Todi

Not too bad of a background, huh? Todi was beautiful!

As the title of my post suggests, the most important thing I’ve learned here so far is to truly live like a Roman. I received some great advice from the study abroad staff at the orientation that was held over the summer at Temple, and that advice was to simply watch how the people around you are acting and then try to do the same. I’ve been trying to do that over the past two weeks, and although I’ve had a few tricky and/or embarrassing moments, it’s really been helping. I’m hoping that this imitation of the people around me will start turning into natural, unforced actions that will lead me to live and act like a true Roman. Another thing that I have realized here is that a little bit of Italian and A LOT of manners go a very long way with the people of Rome. Whether it be in a market, bus, or museum, if you show that you are willing to try and speak Italian, most people will respond very positively to you.

My best example of this comes from my first experience walking into a tiny grocery store, on my first day in Rome. Myself and some of my roommates ventured down the street near the residence to a little corner grocery store, just three hours after arriving in Rome. Besides the shuttle ride from the airport, this was my absolute first interaction with Italians. We needed a few cleaning supplies and food to get us through the day, which sounds so simple. We found ourselves standing around, not knowing which products were what, not knowing what kind of meat we should order, and clearly not understanding what any of the local Romans were saying around us. I was overwhelmed to say the least. I stumbled through enough words to order some prosciutto, mozzarella, and bread, said “grazie” and “ciao” way too many times, then quickly exited. Not only was I embarrassed, but I felt like I was so rude not being able to communicate. The two men working were very nice, and didn’t seem offended, but I knew that I needed to improve. The following day I went back  the store alone and had quite a different experiment. The two men greeted me and one said in broken English, “Hi!  You came back! Did you like the prosciutto?” I almost fell over! They were happy that I came back! I proceeded to apologize for my poor Italian and explained to them that I just arrived and am excited to learn the language.  The same man replied, “You don’t apologize, this is my job and I love it. You tried your best!” And then went on to suggest his favorite prosciutto for me to try. I left feeling so relieved and happy knowing that they weren’t offended by my broken Italian and am determined to go back into that store on my last day in Rome and tell them in Italian how happy they made me feel that day and that I appreciated their kindness so much.

So for now, I will continue getting adjusted to life in Rome, and will hopefully have more positive experiences to share in the future! Ciao for now!

Temple University Wall Walk

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The Wall Walk is a tradition at Temple Rome, lead by Professor Jan Gadeyne, follows the Remains of the Aurelian Walls that once encompassed the entire city.  The original wall dates back to the Romans, and some parts of the Roman wall exist today.  Much of the wall is made of restorations done by various Popes, and alterations made to the wall that allow modern streets to run through it.  The trek is about a 13 mile adventure.

Jan Gadeyne created the Wall Walk for a few reasons.  One is that it is a good way to get a sense of where different parts of the city are.  Another is to show us that the city of Rome is much bigger now than its size in ancient Rome.  95% of Roman citizens live outside of the walls, according to Professor Gadeyne.  He wanted to specifically walk on the outside edge of the walls, so that we could see the city beyond the tourist area within.  The goal was to show us that Rome is more than the big tourist sites and apartment’s passed down through families in the wealthier parts of town.  Rome is also a city of smaller residential houses, Italian university students, steep hills, and history that most visitors overlook.

The Wall Walk started at San Giovanni, and we walked counter-clockwise around the wall.  I was surprised to find that nearly 50 students showed up for the walk.  More people were up for the adventure than I had thought.  Dean Strommen said that Professor Gadeyne used to lead NATO troops around the wall, but they decided it was too taxing for them and stopped that exercise.  I think he may have been joking but you can never tell what is exaggerated here in Italy and what is not.  The pace was brisk, but with stops all along the way as Professor Gadeyne told us about not only the history of the ancient wall, but also about the area around it.

Like everywhere in Rome, the wall is a constant reminder of both the past and present, and an example of the differences and similarities between the two.  For example, we passed The Baker’s Tomb, which is an ancient Roman Tomb dating to about 50-20 years B.C.E.  The tomb was strategically positioned near one of the only entrances to the inner city.  Jan Gadeyne said the tomb acted like an ancient advertisement.  The baker who died decorated his tomb with images of the baking process.  Those entering the city might have looked at the tomb and made a mental note of the family name and apparent excellent baking, which would draw customers to the Baker’s family business.  I was amazed at how this ancient tomb acted like a modern-day billboard (which are actually pretty rare to see in Rome).

The citizens of Rome have had an ever-changing relationship with the wall.  At one time it was needed for protection from invaders.  Later it became a nuisance to travel in the expanding city, and large holes were cut into the wall to allow streets to run through.  Even still today, while Professor Gadeyne loves the history of the wall, he acknowledges that the wall often divides the city and that people don’t always have a beneficial relationship to the wall.  He noted one area where some urban planning in the city has done some good in that respect.  Where there was once a wide busy road running along the wall, there is now a park with pedestrian pathways, water fountains, grass, and shade from the ancient wall.  I had stumbled upon this part of the city just the day before, and only now just realized what that large wall was.  People walk their dogs, talk, read, and relax in this area.  Now the citizens are drawn to the wall where there was once just a road and impasse that kept people away.

We ended the walk by completing the circle.  The whole trip too about 8 hours.  We all got a free pop (or soda if you prefer) at a cafe in San Giovanni.  I was actually not too tired after the walk.  I’ve been walking here a lot and have built up stamina I suppose.  I highly suggest the Wall Walk for incoming students to the Temple Rome program.  I wouldn’t have seen the things I did any other way, or learned so much about the local history.  I saw so many things along the way, I couldn’t even begin to describe them.  From the toilets from the Middle Ages, to the politically charged graffiti, to the Sunday flea markets, to the views of the sprawling city, the Wall Walk was well worth the time and effort.  Prof. Gadeyne is an amazing teacher and leader.  Friends who are taking his courses say they love them, because every day they tour is like a mini Wall Walk full of experience and information.

When in Rome, take the initiative to explore the city, not just following the same beaten paths.

One Broad Abroad: A Semester at Temple Rome

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View of Rome from Monteverde

Ciao from Roma!  My name is Emily Brill and I’m a junior from the University of Pennsylvania studying in Rome for the semester.  The other Temple Rome students and I have called the Eternal City home for the past two weeks and we’ve already covered a lot of ground.  I’ll recap a couple of the highlights so far.

Todi(e) For:  Last weekend, we traveled to the hilltown of Todi as an end to our orientation.  We boarded the bus (presto!) and arrived to the medieval town in the region of Umbria around 10:30.  We explored the sleepy town and I tried my first Italian cappuccino.  I learned that it’s déclassé to drink cappuccino in Italy in the afternoon, but luckily it was still the morning when I got mine.  After exploring more of Todi, we arrived at this beautiful castle (!) in Titignano for a HUGE lunch.  There was pizzete, crostini, prosciutto, risotto, pasta, boar, chicken, lamb, potatoes, white wine, red wine, dessert wine, etc!  The tiramisu was the best I’ve ever tasted, and they cut it right from the pan, so I know it was homemade.  The castle doubles as a hotel, and I hope my future Italian husband will find the location as fit for a wedding ceremony as I do.  The castle, town, and breathtaking views looked like the pictures in the pages of a fairytale.  It was the ideal way to spend my last day of summer.

Sapienza:  On Friday, I took a tour of Sapienza, the largest university in Europe (150,000 studenti!).  Gianni, the Temple Rome program coordinator and an alumnus of Sapienza, led the tour.  There are a lot of differences between the American college system and the Italian college system.  Firstly, a public university costs around 1500 euros a year with private universities costing around 7000 euros a year.  Even with the crummy exchange rate, this is hard for Americans to fathom.  Also, it is normal for students not to show up to class and just independently study for the big oral exams given at the end of each course.  It sounds stressful, but if you fail, you can just sign up to take the test again and again until you pass!  One especially interesting part we saw was housed in the basement of one of the buildings.  It is a “museum” with replicas of many famous statues that serve as study material for the art history students.  If the real version isn’t in Rome, they can go to the museum and study the fake version before their exams.

The Wall Walk: Jan Gadeyne, one of the professors here, started a tradition known as the Wall Walk that he leads every semester.  This is a complete tour of Aurelian Wall, a series of walls built around the entire city of Rome that were used as protection beginning in 271 A.D.  You won’t find this tour anywhere else (perhaps for good reason) as it’s roughly 13 miles long.  For some reason, I felt as if this was something I should do.  One good(ish) night’s sleep, a huge water bottle, and twelve euros worth of daytime snacks later, I found myself near the San Giovanni metro stop at 8:30 in the morning ready to begin.  I wouldn’t call the tour fun, but it was definitely a thorough introduction to the city.  We covered a lot of ground and saw many different sections, including San Lorenzo, Trastevere, and Testaccio, to name a few.  My favorite part was near the area of Monteverde.  This neighborhood lies on a hill and to the west and features spectacular views of the historic center of Rome.  I’m definitely returning to this spot (by bus) when I’m less fatigued.  After nearly eight hours of feeling like a weary nomad, we returned to the spot where we started.  I’m glad I experienced a totally new way of seeing this city and learned a lot of interesting tidbits I would have never otherwise known.  I also have a new soft spot for my previously unappreciated bed, which I occupied for the fourteen hours following the walk.

These have been a few of my favorite adventures from the past two weeks and I’m so excited to make and share more of my experiences in Rome, Italy, and Europe.  A presto!

Missing Home in Rome: 5 Ways How to Enjoy Rome from the Get-Go

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Ciao! I’m Nate Schrader and studied in Temple Rome ’08. I’ve used a bunch of my Rome experiences to write for our TravelProducts.com blog, but this post isn’t about which travel adapter you need to prevent your laptop from exploding (I can help with that too). This blog is for the students about overcoming those feelings of homesickness so you get the most out of your Rome experience right away. After the awesome orientation activities end and the excitement fades just a bit, here are a few easy ways to avoid missing home and make the most out of the next three months.

  1. Get off Facebook!!! You came to study in Rome, right? Not spend your days in the Residencia! Facebook can be great for creating a Rome group to organize group trips and find people interested in going to that next museum or hill town, but looking at college friends’ pictures of what’s going on back home will only make you miss it more. Send your messages, “Friend” some Temple Rome students, and go explore!
  2. Explore together. Being the fall semester, no one has studied in Rome and seen everything yet. And just like you, they want to see the Spanish Steps, the Trevois Fountain, venture to Trestevere, and find the beach off the train. Pick something to do, ask a few people, and learn about Rome while making friendships along the way.
  3. Vent. You might not know anyone well yet, but most times others are going through the same troubles you are. They have close family back home, boyfriends/girlfriends, and best college friends and you can bet they miss them like crazy too. My advice: walk to Old Bridge gelato by the Vatican, vent on the way there, and when you finish your gelato talk only about how much fun you plan to have the next few weeks.
  4. Stay busy & Plan Ahead. You never know what can set off a memory to cause homesickness. The key is an activity requiring thought to distract your thoughts, so plan ahead if you think it’ll be a rough day. Ask a few people to go somewhere. Chances are, they’ll say yes or invite you to their plans.
  5. Talk to the locals. The sandwich shop and the pizza places off the Popolo subway stop have the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve met. Italians are such genuine people, you’re bound to leave with a smile on your face (not to mention you leave both places with food!).

Oh! And if all else fails, talk to Gianni! I could write a blog just on that guy and his enthusiasm and friendliness. He’s been with the program for awhile and knows what you’re going through. It’s absolutely impossible to chat with him and not laugh.

Bio: After graduating Wabash College and studying in Rome of ’08, Nate Schrader now writes about all things travel for TravelProducts.com. He really enjoys helping study abroad students and travel but also runs obstacle marathons and loves listening to live music.