Monthly Archives: January 2015

Are you there, Wi-Fi? It’s me, Jessica.

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All in all, the residence is a pretty convenient place to be as a Temple Rome student. It’s not exactly in the center of the city, but the immediate neighborhood has everything you need. For example: my foremost basic need is coffee, so I’m lucky that there is a bar (café) right downstairs and across the street. They make a mean cappuccino, didn’t judge me too much when I asked for double espresso, and the men who work there even speak some English (emphasis on the “some”—one day I asked them, “What do you call this in Italian,” pointing to a pastry. “Call?” he said, and very generously offered me the telephone).

Next door is a tobacchi shop where you can get passes for the bus and metro, candy, notebooks, and a wide variety of pipes, if you’re into that sort of thing. Across the street is a restaurant and a sweet shop, the latter of which I’ve been trying to avoid in a (probably futile) attempt to not become obese by the time I come home (I’ve decided that between me and my suitcase, only one of us is allowed to be overweight on our return flight).

If you venture out a few minutes further you’ll find the Carrefour market for all your grocery shopping needs. It’s pretty much your average American supermarket, the one main difference being that it is crucial that you weigh your produce before getting on line to pay, as you cannot do it at the register (my roommates and I learned this the hard way when we forgot to weigh some oranges—the cashier got up and did it himself, delaying the check out process by about 5-7 minutes, and consequently earning us the most positively scathing looks I’ve ever seen from the formidable line of Italians behind us). There are also a few restaurants and minimarkets nearby, which have all proven to be very helpful throughout the many instances of our late night snack cravings. On a related note, the most useful Italian sentence I’ve learned so far has been: “Scusi, voglio comprare questi dolci”; translation: “Excuse me, I would like to buy these pastries.” Trust me, this is valuable knowledge.

Doesn't get much better than this

It doesn’t get much better than this

A few blocks away is the Cipro metro station, which is pretty easy to navigate if you have any experience with subways whatsoever—coming from the New York subway system, the two line Italian metro is a breeze. There are also a few bus stops nearby, and a cabstand.

Easily the gem of the 10-minute walking radius around Temple is the Mercato Trionfale, one of the largest markets in Italy. Open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., there is a huge selection of items for sale. Most impressive is the market’s selection of food, from fresh produce to eggs to meat to cheese, but you can also find anything from home and kitchen supplies to clothing and shoes. It can be a little overwhelming as a clueless American in a sea of determined Italians, but the delicious dates and clementines I picked up on my first trip made it completely worthwhile.

Il Mercato Trionfale

Il Mercato Trionfale

The only real complaint to be made about life in the residence is the immensely temperamental Wi-Fi, which is moderate at best. In all fairness, I was warned about this well in advance, so it’s mostly just disconcerting to realize how reliant on Internet access I normally am. In a way, though, it’s proven to be a hidden gift—with no one to talk to but each other, my roommates and I have gotten really close. Keep posted for more of our misadventures and late night snacking escapades!

The Ah-Ha Moment

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I have officially been in Rome for eleven days, and wow how those days have flown by. It finally just hit me yesterday while I was sitting in my Italian I class: I am actually in Rome. I am going to be here for the next three months of my life. I am attempting to learn Italian. I am completely surrounded by people that I barely know. You would think that I would have conceptualized this roughly nine days ago, but for some reason, it took me a while to have my ah-ha moment.

The ah-ha moment was a little scary to be honest. At first, I felt the fear of being so culturally ignorant to everything that is going on around me. I do not want to have to ask every person in the grocery store for the next three months if they speak English, but I know little to no Italian words that could get across the question “what is the difference between the milk in the pink container and the milk in the green one.” I worry that the outfits I pick out in the morning do not make me look Italian enough. When ordering food at a restaurant I have no idea the proper way to go about ordering and paying for it.  To put it simply, I do not know much of anything when it comes to being Italian.

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Do I look Italian enough, yet?

After my moment of being a Debbie-downer, I realized how far I have come in just a week and a half. In the past 264 hours, I have met over 100 people, learned to make tiramisu, figured out how to introduce myself in Italian, walked well over fifty miles, eaten the best lasagna the world has to offer, casually stumbled upon the Roman Forum and the Coliseum, eaten a twelve course meal, used an Italian water fountain, said ciao maybe two-thousand times (okay, probably a gross exaggeration, but it sure feels like it), tried five different kinds of gelato, taken too many pictures to count, visited my first Italian club, planned my first weekend trip somewhere outside of Rome, walked from the residence to the school all by myself without getting lost, memorized the Italian words for numbers zero through ten, and successfully completed my first week of classes.

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The Coliseum at its finest!

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Just a casual stumble upon of the Roman Forum.

It turns out a lot can be fit into eleven days, but I can only imagine what can be accomplished in the three months that I am in Rome. I guess we will have to wait and see!

Andiamo!

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Andiamo!” cried Giovanna, the Italian professor leading my group on a walking tour of the Temple Rome neighborhood. “Let’s go!”

And so we went, poking around in the area while learning about the most important part of life in Italy—food.

She brought us first to an alimentari, basically an Italian deli, full of a wide selection of meats and cheeses, as well as various candies, pastries, and a small pizza selection (this is Italy, after all). It was here that I got my first taste of the metric system; cold cuts were measured in kilograms, not pounds. Luckily, the conversion is pretty straightforward—you get a little over two pounds per kilogram.

Then we headed to the bar next door, which is deceptively the Italian term for a café (if you’re looking for some vino, head to a pub). As a known caffeine addict, this was a particularly important stop, and I learned some important lessons about coffee culture in Italy.

First of all, what we Americans recognize as coffee doesn’t really exist in Italy. If you walk into an Italian bar and order a caffé, you’ll be served a shot of espresso (and if you’re lucky, there’ll be a cup of heavy cream on the counter, to sweeten your drink). Luckily, there are other options for the faint of heart who aren’t quite prepared to take their espresso straight. For example, many Italians start their mornings with a breakfast pastry and cappuccino, which is frothy, sweet, and much smaller than any Starbucks-sized drink. Later in the day you can go for a caffé latte, which is what we just call a latte in the US (pro tip: in Italian, “latte” means milk, so if you ask for a latte—and your server doesn’t take pity on you poor, uninformed American—you’ll just get a glass of milk). Finally, you drink your coffee in the bar—coffee to go is decidedly un-Italian. You do have options, though; you can take your drink al banco, or at the bar, generally meaning you throw back your shot of espresso while standing at the counter, or you might prefer al tavolo, sitting down at a table. Be warned: many food establishments charge extra if you decide to sit!

A typical Italian breakfast: un cappuccino e un cornetto con nutella

A typical Italian breakfast: un cappuccino e un cornetto con nutella

Next we passed by a pizzeria, and learned some more important vocab. While some pizza does come pre-sliced, some also gets cut to your personal specifications in the restaurant. As they’re measuring your slice, you can direct them to cut the piece di piu, larger, or more likely di meno, smaller (as Giovanna explained, pushy restaurant workers tend to attempt to convince you to buy as large a slice as possible).

In front of a gelato shop a few storefronts later we were told to be wary of shops displaying mountains of gelato in their windows—good gelato is always covered or away.

The Piazza del Popolo

The Piazza del Popolo

Finally we made it to the historic center of Rome. Passing through the Porta del Popolo, the northern gate of the Aurelian walls, we entered the Piazza del Popolo. With an impressive obelisk in the center, two gorgeous churches behind it, and beautiful statues of Neptune and Rome on either side, the view was breathtaking. Walking farther down the Tridente, or the three streets branching out of the Piazza into the greater city, we witnessed the funny peculiarity of contemporary Rome: old juxtaposed with new. Beautiful old buildings, painted in the yellows, oranges, and light pinks that are so characteristic of the city, housed big retail branches below on their main levels (H&M, Foot Locker, etc.).

Piazza del Popolo: the view from above

Piazza del Popolo: the view from above

All in all: Rome is extraordinary, orientation has been a fantastic blur, and I can’t wait for classes to start on Monday!

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Airport

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Meeting over one hundred people, living in an entirely new country, speaking little to no Italian, and having three new roommates were the least of my worries when it came to studying abroad in Italy. When I was getting ready to leave the US, the part of my semester abroad that rattled my brain the most was navigating the airport on my own. I wish someone would have just sat me down and helped me through the entire process, so here is my attempt of doing that for you. I would like to present to you the do’s and don’ts of airports:

DON’T: Wing it

DO: Know the order of what you have to do at the airport

  • Check in: Check in around three hours early. During check in, you will need your passport to be easily accessible. Your main luggage will be weighed, and then they will take it from you to put it on the plane. They will then give you your boarding passes, be sure not to lose them!
  • Security: This step can take a while depending on how long the line is at that point in time. In the US, you will need to take your shoes off and put them in a bin. Then go through your carry-ons and get out any big pieces of technology and your bag of liquids and then put them in the bins.
  • Special note: Put your laptop in a separate bin from everything else (I learned that the hard way)
  • Find your Gate: In most airports, the gate number is on your boarding pass; however, in some airports, you need to check your gate number on a sign that lists all of the flights. Once you find your gate, you can relax, shop around the terminal, or grab a bite to eat.

Don’t: Be Shy.

Do: Chat with people

During each aspect of the airport process, I talked to random people around me (And I mean EVERY aspect). Check in? Asked someone if it was their first time going abroad. Security? Bonded with someone because we both were yelled at about not putting our laptops in a separate bin. At my gate? Yup, I talked with a woman for almost three hours about our lives. For me, this is not out of the ordinary. Anyone who knows me understands that I am quite the talker. It did not have to be about anything serious: small talk worked well enough. By talking to other people, I was able to hear a lot of interesting stories, and it helped calm my overwhelming nerves. Many of the people that I met had previous traveling experience and gave me priceless tips and tricks about various countries that I wanted to visit.

Don’t: Be reluctant to seek help

Do: Ask questions

The airport can be extremely daunting and confusing. One way to make it a little less mystifying is to ask people questions. Ask where terminal 5, gate A10 is located. Ask if the bathrooms are to the left or the right. Ask if you need to take out your earrings to go through the metal detector. A lot of frequent travelers will know the answers, but you can also ask someone who works there—they know practically everything about the place.

There are hundreds of do’s and don’ts that I could go over, but I would say that those three would probably be the most helpful. Hopefully they can calm the nerves of all you future travelers!

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The Wait is Over

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Applications, nervousness, confidence, acceptances, excitement, apprehension, and more excitement: that can pretty much sum up my preparation to study abroad, but for those of you who were not with me every step of the way to experience those emotions as I did, I will explain further.

Of course this story starts with applications, and yes that is applicationS – with an ‘s’. Not only did I apply for the study abroad program itself, but I applied for a scholarship from Temple University and the Gilman scholarship to hopefully help fund my trip abroad.

Then the nervousness started to sink in: were my essays good enough? Did I spell my name correctly on the application? I have been spelling my name for twenty years, but I am sure that this would be the one time since first grade that I would mess that up. The amount of ridiculous questions that overtook the space in my mind was endless.

The nerves transformed into a form of confidence that I did not expect.  Of course, the thought of my potentially misspelled name was in the back of my head, but the realization occurred that there’s nothing I can do about it; if I put my name down as Tars Brenner, so be it. Maybe they would accept her into the program, but only time could tell. The waiting game drove me crazy, especially because my level of patience is comparable to that of a nine year old; however, I knew hours were put into my essays, and I was confident in my writing.

After weeks of awaiting a response, I read the word ‘approved’ from Temple Rome. From first site of that spectacular a-word, excitement took over. I was ready to board a plane to Europe that second. Thoughts of authentic pasta, moonlit walks, and beautiful art were all I could think of, even days after my acceptance.

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(It turns out that I spelled my name correctly!)

Unfortunately, the excitement wore off and surely enough, apprehension became the overarching emotion. Three months away from family and friends sounded like an astronomical amount of time, especially because I have four nieces and nephews in the states that are growing and changing every day, and a majority of my friends will still be together doing a bunch of fun things; if you can’t tell, the fear of missing out was definitely a factor in my anxiety about being away.

Luckily, I have the most supportive group of family and friends that a girl could ask for. Never once did they doubt my ability to gracefully handle my semester away. Constantly they remind me that they will still be in the states waiting to hear all the amazing stories that I will have when I get off the plane. Of course I still have apprehensions, and I am nervous, but I am so incredibly excited for this chance of a lifetime.

Goodbye United States and hello Rome!

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This Is What Dreams Are Made Of…

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T-minus one week, and the last minute scrambling has commenced. My final American haircut has been scheduled, a new suitcase has been purchased, and I’ve finally finished unpacking from college so I can start packing for Rome. By this point I’ve pretty much gotten used to listening to everyone I’ve ever met gush about how unbelievable Rome is, and I’m largely in agreement, seeing as how I can barely believe it myself. As my little sister goes through my closet, trying to convince me to leave various dresses and sweaters behind, it’s finally starting to sink in—I’m going to Rome! And at any given second, this is a supremely wonderful/completely terrifying concept. Preparing for the trip has been interesting, to say the least.

When I was first thinking about study abroad, I decided that I wanted to find a program outside my university, to really get out of my comfort zone. Not being a Temple student, however, there were some extra steps I needed to take, sorting out finances and transfer credits and whatnot. Coming from outside Temple definitely required some extra coordinating on my part, but it was absolutely worth it.

Rationally speaking, I know I’m ready. I’ve conferred with half the professors in my department about my course schedule, I’ve done a Yelp search for all the gelato shops in walking distance of the student residence (there are 28), and there’s a newly stamped Visa in my passport, complete with a hideous picture of yours truly. The Catholic chaplain on campus showed me his Rome Facebook album (twice), my Italian professor has given me a crash course in vulgar Italian phrases (“If a boy tells you he wants to do that, leave and never speak to him again!”), and I’ve been brainstorming nicknames for my soon-to-be best friend, the Pope. In other words, I’ve covered all the necessary bases.

Emotionally speaking, however, I’m feeling slightly less confident. I only just learned Italian—what if I confuse my words, and accidentally say something dreadfully rude? And what if I forget something really important at home that I can’t replace in Italy? And what if everyone hates me AND I fail all my classes AND I spontaneously become both gluten and lactose intolerant, therefore never getting a chance to eat Italian pizza?! (Okay, I’m willing to concede that that last one might be a little far-fetched.)

All catastrophizing aside, I’m mostly preparing for the inevitable: stumbling upon my own personal Paolo, an Italian superstar, and discovering that I’m a blonde replica of his former girlfriend and singing partner, Isabella (if it happened in The Lizzie McGuire Movie it can happen to me, right?). On the off chance that doesn’t work out though, I’m not worried—I’m going to Rome! After all, this is what dreams are made of.

All packed up and ready to go! (well, almost)

All packed up and ready to go! (well, almost)