Jessica Benmen Spring 2015 Temple Rome

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (To Spend a Semester in Rome)

As I approach my month-iversary with Italy, the newness is finally wearing off and  I’m starting to feel more at home in the country. Having said that, there are still a few things that seem pretty strange about my Roman life. So, fueled by my inner Buzzfeed addict, I have compiled this listicle for your enjoyment:

Things we have in the US that don’t exist in Italy:

-Starbucks: If you’re anything like me circa junior year of high school, the prospect of a Starbucks-less life is pretty terrifying. No need to fear, though—the general consensus seems to be that there are no Starbucks stores here because they wouldn’t be able to compete with the personal, intimate experiences offered by the local coffee shops in Italy. The fact that every coffee drink I’ve had in Rome is tons better than any Starbucks drink I’ve ever encountered probably also has something to do with it.

IMG_3153
Hit me with your best shot…of espresso! #badpuns

-Netflix: As a recent Gilmore Girls addict, getting the Netflix error page for the first time was kind of like taking a bullet. Luckily, all is not lost. Many schools (including Temple) offer access to a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) that basically tricks your computer into thinking it’s in the U.S. Other solutions to this issue include going outside and enjoying one of the most spectacular cities in the world.

-Traffic Laws: I know this one sounds ridiculous, but as I’ve yet to experience any evidence to the contrary, I’m not totally convinced there are traffic laws here. Red lights and lane dividers seem to be interpreted as a suggestion, cars park anywhere they please (in the middle of the sidewalk is not off limits), and I once saw a car back up into another without eliciting any concern from either driver. Pedestrians are also recommended to pointedly make eye contact with approaching cars when crossing the street, presumably to guilt drivers into not hitting them. As I said—existence status: questionable.

Things we have in Italy that don’t exist in the US:

-Amazing food: I don’t even like pizza at home, but I can’t get enough of it here. Same goes for pasta, and don’t get me started on Italian pastries (this week I’m obsessed with the ciambella, or doughnut). In fact, the only flavor that rivals my carb obsession might just be the delicious fresh produce I use in my salads. Honestly, the food is so good here that I almost don’t miss Chipotle. Almost.

-Beautiful buildings/piazzas/views around every corner: The pictures speak for themselves on this one. I mean really, where else can you turn a corner and see this:

Rome just being casually gorgeous
Rome just being casually gorgeous

-Locals who don’t hate tourists: This might be specific to my experience as a New Yorker, but where I come from, we categorically hate tourists; they’re always in our way, halting in the middle of the sidewalks to stare at billboards, stopping us to ask for directions, and otherwise interrupting our very important and busy lives. In Italy, though, it’s something else entirely. Venders love to ask you about where you’re from, locals are happy to help with directions, and I’ve actually been stopped several times by excited Italians who want to tell me about the historical significance of various sites and buildings. It’s a really nice change of pace.

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