Monthly Archives: May 2013

Ciao da Roma!

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I have just begun my 6-week adventure studying and living abroad in Rome, Italy for the summer! In the few days I have spent here, I can already tell that Rome and Italy are incredible places. Seeing this is my first post, allow me to begin by introducing myself. My name is Laura Detter and I am a rising junior at Temple University studying international business and political science. Upon entering college, I knew that I would definitely study abroad somewhere at some point in my collegiate career, and here I am in Rome!

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Before I took off from Philadelphia my experience with the Italian culture was limited to information from the internet, books, friends and my study of Latin in high school. I honestly was not sure what to expect when I touched down in the Eternal City and became completely immersed in the Italian culture. Was I going to be able to survive knowing very little Italian? Was the city going to be as amazing and magical as everyone talked it up to be? Was I only going to eat carbohydrates for the next 6 weeks? While the answers to these questions may take a little longer to formulate (I’ve only been here for five days!), I can already tell that my time in Rome will be more than I expected.

As a part of our three-day orientation to the program, we visited Todi, a small hilltop town 2-hours north of Rome in Central Italy.

We stepped of the bus at 10a.m., hiked up a few hills and finally made it to this medieval town in the morning fog.

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The town was still quiet, except for a market in the center square that was selling everything from flowers and herbs to clay owls and lemon plants.

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We were provided with a map, but like most eager travelers we figured we would just explore (and that was the best decision!) We walked through Todi’s narrow, stone streets and alley ways and stumbled across this beautiful lookout on one side of the town!

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The view of the Italian hills and homes dispersed over the landscape was incredible! I could have just sat on this ledge for hours.

It was humbling to sit here and realize that for thousands of years people have lived and traveled to this town. When the United States citizens think of history it only dates back to 1776 and the birth of our nation, but to think that this town was home to people in the 7th Century BC is unbelievable.

We had the opportunity to spend only 2 hours in Todi before we moved on to our 14-course, ALL hand-made Italian meal, typically served at a traditional Italian wedding banquet. The food was mouth-watering.

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Along with our meals, the hosts served four different types of wine for different phases of the meal. First, white wine was served with the antipastos (like appetizers) and then red wine was served with the main courses. Finally, we had desert wine to dunk our almond cookies in and champagne to make a toast for an amazing next six weeks.

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Here’s to the “dolce vida.”

As the Roman Days Dwindle…

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I still am in complete shock over how close to the end we are. This semester for sure flew and it still hasn’t quite hit me how this is the last full week of classes before final critiques. But for you all’s sake, I’ll save most of the sentimental comments for my last and final post next week.

IMG_7168For the first half of our sketchbook class, we began to hang several of our drawing on the wall in order to get ready for the big art show that is at the end of the semester.

IMG_7172After we were done getting ready for the show, our teacher took us up to Villa Borghese to sketch for our last class. We stopped up on overhang in the park that overlooks Piazza del Popolo to draw for around an hour. It was great because I got to sit on the ledge and just look out over the whole city during this time!

IMG_7175Some decided to stand rather than dare sit on the edge, but either way, we all got to finally draw a piazza so familiar to us.

IMG_7187The day before our Italian oral final, our teacher took us out by the river to practice speaking to each other while also enjoying the beautiful day. At the end of this, we took this big group picture of both of her classes.

IMG_7269At the end of the semester is the huge Temple Rome art show. Each art class would get a wall to display their work on and it resulted in taking up almost the entire building! It was so cool to see what kind of work Rome inspired each person to make using so many different mediums. Here in this picture you can see the paintings done by my watercolor class.

IMG_7278Here is a picture of my friend Katie and her absolutely amazing self portrait that she painted. Many of the artwork was composed small, but for this particular painting class they were instructed to go large-scale.

IMG_7288After the gallery, most of us headed out afterwards to a bar. As you can see there were tons of us walking down the streets and for a second, with everyone walking like this, I felt like I was back on the streets of North Philly.

IMG_7306Visited the Spanish Steps one last time with my friend. It’s truly amazing how much more crowded everything is now that it’s no longer winter and tourist season is beginning.

IMG_7312This is Rome Baptist Church, which has totally become part of my Rome home this semester. I met so many other study abroad students here from other programs that I really enjoyed hanging out with as well in my free time!

IMG_7313While hanging out with my one friend on her last day, we went near the Capitoline building and got gelato. I chose strawberry, mango, and mixed berry, which was a winning combination if I say so myself! We ended up climbing to the top of the ‘Wedding Cake’ (this big white building that the Italians are apparently embarrassed by) and ate our gelato while looking out over the view of Rome.

Just another normal week drawing at the Colosseum

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IMG_7037For sketchbook class this week we had the privilege of being on site around the Colosseum area! On this beautiful day we first began drawing this famous arch!

IMG_7038As we were sitting near the Colosseum I was still in shock, even after so many months here, that I was actually just chilling in such a timeless area sketching!

IMG_7039Something our teacher had us focus on was capturing the famous Roman umbrella pine trees that are such a common site now to us! Over the past few months I have come to grow quite fond of these unique trees and I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss them when I leave.

IMG_7043We got to take on the Colosseum lastly, but taking it from a slightly different angle than normal, incorporating the park in the foreground. I would say this drawing was quite bittersweet as I realized that this would be the last onsite drawing I would get to do here in Rome for sketchbook class, but for sure we were going out with a bang!

IMG_7094Long talked about since we first arrived in Rome, this past Wednesday marked the night of the “Jam Session” show. Basically this was a much more lively and upbeat version of a talent show for any Temple Rome student to participate in as well as some local Italians.

IMG_7096Super pumped and excited for this show, I sat with some people from my Italian class as we laughed and just enjoyed what was being presented in front of us!

IMG_7099Ahhhh Gianni! He was the hysterical host of our show, as shown wearing a crazy wig here in this picture. Gianni has always led many events here at Temple Rome and has been an enthusiastic guide for us all this semester! It was only right to have him host one of the main events that marks the end of this journey.

IMG_7124Our Italian teacher made us all attempt to sing “Grazie Roma” during the talent show while a slideshow of us fellow students experiencing this great city played in the background. Our teacher made us get up in front everyone for this because it was directed towards our Dean as a thank you for all the years he has put into Temple Rome, since he was leaving after this semester.

IMG_7141One night this past weekend I was sitting in my room painting and all of a sudden I heard all these banging loud noises coming from outside. Startled, I ran out to see what it was and was pleasantly surprised to see a firework show happening right over the hill!

IMG_7163Oh the theme of my weekend unfortunately: watercolor paintings and more painting. My finals for my watercolor class were due on Monday and I had to complete two fairly large compositions in under a week. Needless to say, nothing better than Twix and my iPod to get me through it all! J

Yeah, Right

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Photo credit.

You didn’t really think I’d leave you without a goodbye playlist did you? O, ye of little faith. You have so much to learn. I may be lazy, but I’m not completely heartless.

Check out the tracklist below and listen to the whole darn thing here.

The Opener- The Courteeners

Beginners Theme Suite

Dicono di Me- Cesare Cremonini

Kiss- Melanie Laurent

Rome- Phoenix

Guaranteed- Into The Wild

People Get Ready- The Frames

Los Amantes Del Circulo Polar- La Oreja de Van Gogh

Grazie Roma: Thoughts On Leaving

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I’ve procrastinated doing this for a number of reasons:

1) I didn’t really have time to pen the usual Pulitzer Prize for Journalism-worthy entry you’ve all come to expect from me since the past week has been a mashup of goodbye parties, final exams, and last-minute souvenir dashes all over the city.

2) I wanted to make sure I could write about my experiences after leaving the country so I could fully reflect on what it’s like to have actually left, since a huge part of the study abroad experience is not just about getting to Rome, but about re-adjusting to mortal life once more.

3) I’m simultaneously super lazy and bad at goodbyes- it’s an ITALIAN QUALITY OKAY?!? I’M TRYING TO KEEP IT GENUINE OVER HERE.

I was planning on writing some emotional stuff on how this was the best semester of my life, I made the best friends I ever met on this trip, how am I supposed to live without cornettos now, amerika suxxxx, don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened, blah blah blah, but let’s be honest- there are about 23,456 Facebook statuses and entries on this godforsaken blog who have said the same thing, and much more eloquently. So in lieu of becoming the next Face of Study Abroad, I figured I would do something a little more old school. In most school programs, say, an internship, one of the most insufferable requirements in order to receive full credit for completing the program is to write a fifty-thousand page paper on what you’ve learned from your experience. You couldn’t pay me enough to write fifty thousand pages about what I’ve learned during my travels, but you could pay me enough to write about five, and that’s what I’ll be doing from now on.

Let’s get this over with.

1. I Can Travel and Not Freak out About It

At last count, I’ve been to Rome, Todi, Peruggia, Ravenna, Florence, Assisi, Venice, Anzio, Naples, Bologna Spain (Toledo, Castilla & Leon, Madrid), Germany, France and, surprise! Traveling really isn’t as terrifying or complicated as it looks. All it involves is showing up somewhere with a ticket and, like, scanning it. That’s it. For some reason I’d always thought that simply by leaving your home for more than 24 hours and screwing up your paperwork or something you could cause an international accident. Let’s be honest: knowing me, that wouldn’t really be much of a surprise. But as it turns out, if something goes wrong- you miss your plane, or get off on the wrong train station, or have a stupid spat with your friends- I can keep calm and carry on. Finding that particular trait of mine is a welcome relief indeed, seeing as my graduation date is looming closer and closer.

2. I Can Cook Something Half Edible And Not Kill Myself In The Process

This may have literally been the discovery of the century. If you are at all personally acquainted with me you know that, at least before I went on this program, my relationship with cooking was like my relationship with healthy living: nonexistent. But I found out that when driven by near starvation to slap some meat on a pan, turn up the flame, it magically COOKED ITSELF. It was so weird, guys. Food made itself simply by putting it over fire. Is anybody else aware of this witchcraft? It’s amazing! I’m pretty sure I cried.

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my master pollenta creation: made with egg, onion, and food

3. I Can Make Friends!!1!!

People like me! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I have no idea what I said to make them think I was a normal person but I appreciate the company of all these psychopaths I call my friends for the past months. I even snagged two of the best of them as roomates. They will probably be the hardest thing to leave behind, once I actually get around the fact that I’m headed home soon.

SHE LOVES ME I KNOW IT

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4. Being Unspeakably Rude Will Get Rid of Any Vendor That Harasses You

I honestly don’t understand why people didn’t get this. I’m pretty sure the real citizenship test in Italy was how you reacted when some guy came up to you peddling glow-in-the-dark dancing cheese graters or whatever. Americans make eye contact, and when you make eye contact, you’re doomed. The trick is to simply slash your arm out and say “Non, grazie” in a Miranda Priestly voice, and look at the ground. If they get especially annoying, you literally say “NO” in the darkest, most Gandalf-ey voice you can muster up. Pretend your favorite show was cancelled and it’s all this guy’s fault if you need help summoning the anger. Maybe even step on their foot as you walk past. It’s amazing how easy it is to be rude to somebody when you can’t understand what they’re saying to you.

Ignoring the problem never works. Exhibit A: Parks and Rec‘s Jean Ralphio

5. I’m Kind of a Grown-Up Now and That’s Disgusting

This is something I know people older than I are still trying to figure out. I don’t really understand how people grow up. I mean, I get that some events in your life speed up the process: your first breakup, your first apartment, your first nose hair, etc. Most people’s big “growing up phase” happens during college, but it was never that way for me. I never had a normal “welcome to college” phase, and what I knew about personal fiances, cooking, and “socially accepted hygiene” was on the same level as Ariel when she became a human in “The Little Mermaid”. I had never even had a roommate. Having to deal with all that stuff for the first time, in a foreign country, no less, was a little overwhelming at first.

Okay, very.

And I don’t really know what I expected from all this. I knew I wasn’t going to come home a completely different person, because that only happens in those Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books (whom everyone takes as philosophical truth even though their protagonists ALL MAGICALLY FIT INTO THE SAME THRIFT-SHOPPED LEVI’S. HELLO, SUSPENSION OF BELIEF MUCH? DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFICULT IT IS FOR ME TO FIT INTO THRIFT SHOP JEANS, AND I AM JUST ONE PERSON, WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT?), and to be honest, I was pretty happy with the sort of person I was to begin with. But I learned that when I’m on my own- really on my own, not like that pathetic girl with the incomprehensibly tiny waist in Les Mis- I’m doing okay. I can’t count the amount of times I surprised myself this semester, from the way I managed to pull off a “B” in Italian to figuring out the Paris metro, and from acing my first real research papers, to navigating my first bar with some sense of social grace. It all went off better than expected, to say the least. And if that’s what’s in the past, I can’t wait to see what’s coming up next.

So arrivederci Roma. You were ridiculous, rainy, and incomprehensible, but you were also so very wonderful. I’m sure I’ll miss you in a week or so, but for now the only thing my jetlagged, exhausted brain is interested in is copying this cat.

The most perfect weekend

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So for this post, instead of focusing on things from the week, I’m choosing to highlight the most amazing weekend from this semester yet! This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to an island of the coast of Italy, named Ventotene, with about 15 other Temple students. The trip was open to anyone in the program and was completely organized by my awesome teacher from my Italian class, so how could I not pass up this opportunity?!? Anyways, here are some pictures from the trip and hopefully by the end of this post I will have convinced you to also fall in love with this tiny island! 🙂

IMG_6597 In order to get to the island we took a train down to Formia and then began our 2 1/2 ferry ride. Here we are leaving the shore and getting to see this amazing site of the mountains, while we were also happily leaving the clouds back at mainland.

IMG_6621 My teacher leading the way off the ferry an into the quaint town. Something cool about Ventotene was how shops were built into the natural caves formed from erosion into the rock. It gave it all a very natural feel!

IMG_6633 The view from our room’s balcony. Let me tell you, waking up to seeing this out the porch door every morning was the perfect way to get up!

IMG_6763 I was sitting on a wall just enjoying the sun on my face and gazing out at the island of St. Stefano, where our group would be later traveling tomorrow!

IMG_6785 So the next morning we took two small dinghies over to the island of St. Stefano to explore and see the old vacant prison occupying the area.

IMG_6824 This prison was actually only shut down a few decades ago. It was so neat to be able to tour it and have a guide tell us all about the history, the escape attempts, and the usual procedures that took place here.

IMG_6830 Native to Ventotene, our guide had the maps to show us the building plans as the prison started out and how it changed as human rights and prison guidelines progressed throughout the years. Apparently the shape and structure was inspired by a theatre’s layout, so that the guards in the middle could hear everything going on. It was so interesting to learn all of this!

IMG_6909 After getting back from the island we all felt the need for total relaxation so we had a yoga session out on the lawn led by my Italian teacher.

IMG_6916 Saturday night we were blessed enough to be invited into the kitchen to get to help the cooks make the dinner for that night. On the menu were lentil soup, fried breaded mozzarella, a seafood pasta dish, and tiramisu. We split up into four groups and I had the opportunity to be apart of making the mozzarella dish. The best part is that I can now take the recipe back home with me and make it!

IMG_6957 The last day we were there I went out with two of the other girls to explore yet another part of the small island. Again I was blown away by cliffs and views surrounding us! The best part though, was looking down into the water and seeing how amazingly blue and clear it was!

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IMG_7022   The whole amazing group of ladies as well as my Italian teacher that went on the trip! This was taken on the ferry ride home, marking I would say one of the greatest weekends of the semester! I would go back to this tiny island again for sure and highly suggest the remote place for anyone in search of an adventure as well as relaxation!

Leave Us One Last Weekend

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Today marked the end of our academic semester at Temple Rome. On Sunday, we’re all heading in different directions. Most of us go back to the glorious USA, others jet off across the globe for a few more weeks of bliss, and I get to welcome my incredible family into Italy. Things are about to change in a million different ways; with that in mind, I know I need to take a breath before it all to write this down. I’m done with finals, officially a senior, and school’s out for summer. How did I end up right here?
It feels like my dad just dropped me off in the departures terminal at PHL. I had so many expectations for what this semester would bring into my life. Now, in the final days, I realize there’s no way I could have ever anticipated this. It was a mixture of total highs and complete lows that left no time for hesitating or looking back. I spent four months breathing fire. It’s hard to imagine what life is going to be like after all of this; some things we just can’t control. I feel like there’s been an entire lifetime between December and May. And holy sh*t, it was fun.
I assume at some point I’ll move on and grow out of hanging off the edge of every moment, but right now I just can’t seem to let it go. I have three days and four nights left to be with these people. I’ve gone through so many different emotions leading up to the end of this week. It’s scary to think I might never feel this free again; that this sensation could fade away and I’ll end up wishing for it back the rest of my life. But all things go and you have to have faith that the universe will unfold as it should. All I can do is make the absolute most of these final moments. I love this city and these kids too much to waste time feeling sad about leaving them behind. After all, the only good part of saying goodbye is the party right beforehand.
So tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, we’ll have a toast for this life that’s about to end.
my portrait by the amazing Erin Holberg!
My final project for sketchbook.
A charcoal of Olivia.
Kyle’s charcoal portrait of me!
What I have to look forward to in Philly.
This boy too!
And a whole lot of great people! And warm weather 🙂
See you on the other side.