Monthly Archives: January 2014

That One Day We “Technically” Spent Out of the Country…

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In my last blog I mentioned how it’s sometimes hard to remember that you are at school with all of the outside opportunities the city offers. What I should have told you is that Temple Rome does an excellent job of helping you have as much free time as possible by not having classes on Friday! By free time I mean they offer a million different activities outside of school that allow you to really experience Rome in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

On Friday we went to the University of Rome with one of our favorite tour guides (and University of Rome alumni), Gianni to see just how different academics are in Italy compared to the United States. In Italian colleges you choose when you are ready to take the final! This may seem really cool, but if you’re any bit of a procrastinator you should be thankful you go to school in America!

On Saturday me, my roommate Joanna, and friend Kate set out for the Vatican. We knew we wouldn’t be able to get through -or appreciate- the whole thing in one day, but we had to try, and anyway, we really only had one MUST DO. Make it to the top of the Vatican for sunset.

We left our apartment at 10:30 a.m. and within 10 minutes of walking we were at the walls of Vatican City. I felt like we had VIP treatment when we crossed through the doors in to what was technically a different country. We expected to stand in some sort of line to buy tickets and go through security, but nope, right to the front. I think the trick to our success was going the last Saturday of the month. If we had gone on Sunday (the last one of the month) it would have meant free admission, but what is €16 (€8 if you’ve got a student card) when you have to wait in line for hours?

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I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the Sistine Chapel. It’s sad that I don’t have any pictures of the ceiling to post, but if you were even touching your camera you had at least two guards yelling that pictures were strictly prohibited. After the Sistine Chapel we pretty much had to make beeline to St. Peter’s Basilica.

YES! YES! YES! After what seemed like hundreds of very tightly packed stairs we finally made it to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica! And if you got the chance to read my fist blog, you’ll know I’m all about those aerial views. See that white building that kind of sticks out against the rest of Rome’s skyline? Yep, that’s the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument from my first post, looks kind of puny from up here, doesn’t it?

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After sunset we made our way back down into St. Peter’s Basilica and just marveled at the size and beauty of the church. We had seen enough artwork that day to make my head spin, but I got particularly excited when we came across the Pietà. Going to Catholic school for nine years this was one of the pieces that we studied that always stuck out to me.

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We had finally decided to call it a day after St. Peter’s Basilica. We needed time to absorb everything we had just seen… and go through the hundreds of pictures taken in that day alone!

Even though traveling to surrounding counties is tempting while you’re abroad, it’s crucial to remember where you’re studying. There is so much history in Italy, and even in Rome alone, that you could spend every weekend in this city during your stay and still not see it all!

Ancient City Rome

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Normally the start of a new semester means settling into a routine. Once you memorize your class schedule, meet your professors and classmates, buy books, scan the syllabus, and the like, your day becomes more or less habitual. Every day you wake up at this time, walk the same route to campus, report to this classroom, and grab lunch here. But classes in Temple Rome are far from the regular classroom drill. First of all, I only have classes on Monday through Wednesday, so I have a four-day weekend every week! No classes are even offered on Fridays, so everyone at least has three days each week to fulfill any travel plans. But this isn’t to say that having a short week is any less challenging than having a full week back at main campus; my courses are loaded with information and almost all include excursions of some kind! One of my classes, History of Art in Rome, is twice a-day…a site visit in the morning and a lecture at night. So every week, our classroom is in a different part of the city! This Tuesday, our first site visit was to the Roman Forum, which can be reached very easily via the Metropolitana di Roma (subway). Rome only has two metro lines: A and B, so it’s very simple to use. It’s similar to SEPTA in Philly (they’re even the same colors, orange and blue). Construction for the new C line has been ongoing due to its location underground, running right through the ancient part of the city. Archaeological investigations have to take place before the construction can continue, so it’s a long process every time an excavation needs to be conducted. Talk about clash between old and new! Rome is trying to advance as a modern city, but still trying to preserve its ancient roots. I noticed this after stepping off the Colosseo stop from the B line. After coming up the steps, the Colosseum was towering right in front of me! It wasn’t guarded off at all, or set aside like a tourist attraction. Buildings, restaurants, houses, etc. were all built around it as if it were still in use today.

View of the Temple of Saturn standing right below it.

View of the Temple of Saturn standing right below it.

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The rostra from which orators addressed the people.

We met our professor outside the stop and then headed over to the Roman Forum next to the Colosseum, which was amazing. It was 12 euros to enter the forum, but this included entry into the Colosseum as well. The forum is a plaza of ancient government ruins, which served as the center of Roman public life as far back as Rome’s inception with King Romulus, and continued for centuries as the communal center around which Rome developed until the fall of the empire. Today, the forum is only architectural fragments, but it is still amazing what has survived over the centuries. The Temple of Saturn, for example, can be identified by its portico pillars and partial frieze, that stand high above the forum at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. You can stand right underneath the temple (close enough to touch), which my art teacher recommended we all do. From this view, you really got a better perspective of how tall the temple actually was. It was amazing to be able to walk through and touch the stones that the first people of ancient Rome did as well. My teacher even pointed out a game etched into stone steps that children would play for entertainment while perhaps waiting between public speeches. This site visit was definitely a great way to begin the class, and all my classes at Temple Rome, because it gave me a visualization of the ancient city at its beginnings. I look forward to progressing through its history!

Talking About Classes in the Piazza del Popolo!

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Because my last blog was written on the floor of my apartment I figured I would switch things up a bit. The trick is to write in Word and then upload the blog at school when you actually have internet! Being in the heart of Italy it was hard to pick just one place, but ladies and gentlemen… I come to you now from the Piazza del Popolo!! I’ve started a list of places to write my blog, and I’m thinking maybe the Trevi Fountain next time 😉

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Here is a picture of the entrance to the Piazza del Popolo taken by my friend, Kate Donatiello (expect to see many more of her awesome photos in upcoming posts!)

I find myself more often than not just standing on a sidewalk looking up at all of the beautiful architecture. I know I stick out to the Italians like a sore thumb, so hey, why not embrace it? I don’t want to miss anything while I’m here just because I want to “look cool.”

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Now a picture from inside the Piazza del Popolo (which translates to the “People’s Square” in Italian.) I actually took this one with my photography class, the goal was to use a longer shutter speed to capture movement (note how the girl walking is a little blurry, that’s the point!)

Anyway, on to my adventures in Rome.

Classes finally started, and I have to say I definitely underestimated the work. In a perfect world where this was more of a four month vacation rather than school all of my professors would make classes “optional” and as for test? Please, there would be no tests. Everyone would get A’s and B’s. Sadly this isn’t the case. And to anyone who wants to study abroad, know that the class work is the same as it is in the States. I would even say school is a little bit harder here, not because of the work, but with all of the opportunities to travel and explore, it’s hard sometimes to bring yourself to the reality that you are here for school.

But speaking of traveling, this past week the schools computer lab has been filled with students booking planes, trains, and hostels to over a dozen different destinations. Being able to book transportation and a place to stay (and doing it all for the cheapest price without getting scammed!) is something that I think everyone should learn how to do before they graduate college. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment that comes with a trip when you know that you were the one who orchestrating it all and it all came together so nicely.

Being a business major it’s sometimes tough to take classes that are just “for fun.” Two of the five classes I’m taking are Photography and Pop Culture of Modern Italy. I figured what better place to a photography class than Rome? Not only will I learn how to take a good photograph, but I will be able to go home and maybe do the city a little justice when I show all of my friends and family the pictures I’ve taken.

And Pop Culture of Modern Italy? I’ve already mentioned that I don’t exactly fool anyone when it comes to being American. Maybe if this class can’t make me Italian I can at least impress them what I know.

I’ll end this blog with one more piece of advice for anyone thinking about studying abroad in Rome. Bring an umbrella! Bring rain boots! Bring two pairs of rain boots! What I’m trying to get at is that it rains in Rome, a lot. I’ll show you one last picture (I promise) of the Piazza del Popolo, but it’s just to prove my point. When I was sitting in the square writing, this literally showed up out of nowhere. It’s not only important to bring an umbrella with you when you come to Rome, but carry it with you in your backpack wherever you go, trust me!

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Jan 21

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I’ve been in Rome for almost one week now and I’m still trying to shake off the feeling of hesitation I feel when doing…practically anything.  From crossing the street to buying groceries, I’ve realized that anything and everything is fair game to become a new experience.  It’s kind of crazy.

This, while exciting at times, obviously results in a lot of trial and error.  On the first day of orientation, two of my roommates and I decided to take a detour on the way to the university around the Vatican (I can’t believe I can say that – Vatican City is less than a mile away from the Residence Medaglie D’oro, Temple Rome student housing).  Vatican City is a landlocked sovereign city-state within the city of Rome, housing the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums.  Unfortunately by the time we arrived there on the day of our detour, the main square was blocked off by “polizia” for what I believe was the Catechesis of the Holy Father.  People of all ages and nationalities packed the square inside and out.  Vendors selling flags bearing the pope, flowers, and noisemakers persistently shoved their wares in our faces.  We were totally unfazed, paying more attention to the growl that was beginning to sound in our stomachs.

The first place we stepped inside to seek lunch was packed with Italians, serving up trays and trays of warm food cafeteria style.  A long extremely crowded line had formed, one with no room for three novice American students.  Intimidated we took a quick look around and a quick step backward.  “We’ll save that for when we’re a little more experienced,” we said.

Closer to the main square of the Vatican we found exactly what we needed, or so we thought.  A young Italian stood outside of a spacious looking café, and called out to grab our attention, “Bellas!”  We walked over and saw a menu repeated in five different languages for visitors to the city, the English writing extremely comforting.  Then the café waiter said the only two words he needed to to get us inside: “cappuccino” and “omelets.”  So the three of us sat down, ordered two cappuccinos, one latte, and two omelets.

Then the bill came: 80 EUROS – the equivalent of 108.21 U.S. dollars for a meal that would have cost us perhaps $15 at home.  Can you say rookie mistake?  Live and learn.  I can guarantee we will not be doing that again.

A few days later at orientation (could somebody have told us this sooner?), we were given a few helpful tips that I’ll share so you don’t make the same mistakes as us!!

1)   Don’t eat near the Vatican.  It’s full of places catering to tourists.

2)   That said, don’t go to places where the menu is displayed in more than one language.  This is also to attract tourists.

3)   Don’t listen to café owners who call to you on the street.  If their food and service is good enough this should be unnecessary.

4)   Don’t sit down at a restaurant if you are looking to save money.  They often charge an additional fee for the table.

5)   Do go to places where you see a lot of Italians!  Don’t be intimidated or worried that nobody will understand you.  Body language is international – and will save you 80 Euros.

Benvenuto a Roma!

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Tomorrow the 21st marks the first week since I landed at the Fiumicino Airport in Rome. And what a week it has been! It still has not hit me that I am actually living in Italy. It truly is surreal! Between the weeklong orientation schedule, starting with a pizza party upon the night of arrival, to the day trip in Umbria yesterday, and all the buzz of navigating a foreign city, the excitement of it all has kept everything from sinking in. These past six days have felt like a complete blur. So many questions have entered my mind since being here. Where do I go for groceries? I’m hungry, but what’s a good place to get lunch? Where do I buy a hair dryer? Even seemingly irrelevant questions like, “how do I cross the street?” have occurred to me. At first the answers to these were frustrating to find. There were definitely a few times I wished I didn’t feel and appear like an outsider. I was just anxious to understand Italian customs right away. But that just took a little time and I am quickly on my way to living like a true Roman.

I’d say that the six-hour time difference between Italy and the U.S. was the only hindrance to my adjustment. Almost every night of last week I had trouble falling asleep, and that sometimes kept me from enjoying some of the orientation events the next day. Even my roommate commented that she felt she couldn’t sleep because her brain was too busy translating between English and Italian. And thankfully both of us are Italian minors, so the transition to speaking Italian everyday was not as hard as it might have been for other students. Having five years of Italian under my belt has definitely taken me far already. I have the confidence to speak to locals and ask questions, which I was very surprised to see a lot of students do in English.

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Yesterday’s excursion to the medieval hill towns of Todi and Titignano in Umbria was absolutely stunning. It was nice to see the “campagna” side of Italy, and experience something other than the business of the city. We were told on the bus ride there that Todi was reported as one of the most desirable cities to live in the world. Before ascending up the winding narrow roads, we could see Todi in the distance resting atop the highest hill, bordered by a stone wall. It was very picturesque and definitely very medieval, as it was built that way to protect against invasions. We were also told, however, that Todi’s location was chosen because of an omen from an eagle, which is featured on the Todi coat of arms. Once on top, we were given a map and the freedom to explore the ancient city on our own. I have never in my life walked on stone streets and in churches that old. It was amazing. The city was built between the III and I century B.C.! We ventured through the small alleys and archways to the Piazza del Popolo, where the 11th century gothic Cathedral is located.

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DSCN3757At noon we were to meet back at the bus to head to Titignano for a traditional lunch at the Titignano castle. Once again, the views from atop were stunning. Since we were there until dusk, we also got a nice view of the sun setting over the river. There we were served a seven-course meal with locally made food and wine.

DSCN3761That lunch was the most fun I’ve had since being in Italy. I met a lot of people at our table, considering each sat about 25, and really enjoyed the fresh food. It was different eating over the course of four hours, instead of an hour or so at restaurants in America. Had to pace myself…dinners in Italy are a marathon, not a sprint!

Ciao Roma!

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….And I thought I walked a lot in Philadelphia. I haven’t even been here a week and already I can feel my calf muscles bulking up!

Ciao from Rome!

(This blog is being written on the floor of my apartment as close to the door as humanly possible because that is the only place where you can get decent wifi –other than the school)

The first few days in Rome were spent settling in, getting over jetlag, and making sure we could at least find our way to the school. But soon enough all we wanted to do was wonder around our new home and see exactly we would be living for the next three and a half months.

Once we felt somewhat settled in, my roommate and I set out in hopes of exploring the city. *Note we decided to do this by only looking at the map once before we left* We walked down Via del Corso, I guess you could say this is like Rome’s Broad Street, in hopes of hitting a few of Rome’s most popular places.

I had read a previous student’s blog saying that the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument was a must see, and after our trip there I couldn’t agree more! Nicknamed “the wedding cake” this building sticks out like a sore thumb against the Roman landscape. A lot of locals actually don’t like this building… they say it’s too “flashy.”

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Once we walked around the side of the monument we had the option to pay 7 Euros to take an elevator ride to the top. My advice to anyone who comes to Rome is DO IT, It is the best 7 Euros you will ever spend! The view overlooking the city of Rome is breathtaking and something you will definitely never forget.

Of course one of the other things we did while walking around Rome was get gelato! Not only is the chocolate flavor to die for, it’s one of the only snacks you will catch Italians actually eat while walking.

One of the many perks of studying abroad for an entire semester is being able to go back to the places you love as many times as you want to.

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After walking 4 miles just to get the Alter of the Fatherland (yet another name for the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument) we decided it was probably a good time to start heading back to TU Rome for one of our orientation events.

At this presentation Gianni and Dr. Ponce De Leon talked about the daily life in Rome and what to expect during our stay.

I was shocked to hear that Italians actually like Americans, like a lot! And they are just as fascinated by the large cities of the US as we are with large European ones. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me too much though, because even though it’s only been about a week since I’ve been in the city, I haven’t run into a local not willing to help, and this is coming from a girl who know very little no Italian.

Although it’s sad that this mini vacation before classes is coming to an end, I’m excited to meet all of my professors and settle into my routine as a foreign exchange student in Italy.

Sunday Fun Day and Good Food

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We are here!! at 8 in the morning....

We are here!! at 8 in the morning….

Window view of Todi

Window view of Todi

Some students hiked it up the hill to Todi while others took the lift

Some students hiked it up the hill to Todi while others took the lift

Students in Todi

Students in Todi

After a long bus ride and exploring Todi, we sat down for a much needed cappuccino break.

After a long bus ride and exploring Todi, we sat down for a much needed cappuccino break.

The 'after shot' of group photo. Students were exciting to start eating!

The ‘after shot’ of group photo. Students were exciting to start eating!

It was a bit windy in Titignano, as students looked out at the gorgeous view.

It was a bit windy in Titignano, as students looked out at the gorgeous view.

Little appetizers for hungry students. The pizza trays never even made it to the table.

Little appetizers for hungry students. The pizza trays never even made it to the table.

The banquet hall wasn't big enough for all the students to sit..

The banquet hall wasn’t big enough for all the students to sit..

The new dean was surprised with a huge cake to celebrate her 1st semester at Temple Rome

The new dean was surprised with a huge cake to celebrate her 1st semester at Temple Rome

First Week, First Pizza Party, First time for a lot of Things.

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It's  the Welcome Pizza Party! This won't be the last time students crowd in the student lounge

It’s the Welcome Pizza Party! This won’t be the last time students crowd in the student lounge

Gianni meeting some of the new students.

Gianni meeting some of the new students.

First night of the program and we had to see the Trevi Fountain.

First night of the program and we had to see the Trevi Fountain.

Students hanging out in the student lounge  getting to know each other.

Students hanging out in the student lounge getting to know each other.

These new students get a sneak peak about what's to come this semester. But they have no idea how much fun it will be!!

These new students get a sneak peak about what’s to come this semester. But they have no idea how much fun it will be!!

The new Temple Rome Dean starts her first orientation!

The new Temple Rome Dean starts her first orientation!

This master chef also sidelines as a Temple Rome professor =)

This master chef also sidelines as a Temple Rome professor =)

One-on-one lesson: Opening a wine bottle

One-on-one lesson: Opening a wine bottle

Students getting a lesson on Italian cooking

Students getting a lesson on Italian cooking

Even on the first week students are discovering Roma.

Even on the first week students are discovering Roma.