Monthly Archives: January 2016

Better Late than Never

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View from behind the Residence

 

A wise friend once told me, “Expect the unexpected, but prepare for everything.” What a bewildering statement I thought–how can I possibly do both of those things at once? Well, I think I understand his advisement now. After ringing in the new year, I became terribly ill. I spent the first three weeks of January in bed and on the couch, leaving only for medical reasons. I feared that my opportunity for study abroad would have to be cancelled and I would be stuck in central PA off for the semester. I soon prepared for the worst… I felt awful. After I just about gave up all my Roman hopes for this spring, the unexpected happened: I recovered.

After missing orientation week and the first week of classes at Temple Rome, I just made the deadline to get my *healthy* self to Rome. I kept the study abroad offices in Philadelphia updated on my health and whereabouts, and they informed Temple Rome. So when I shared my great recovery news, I was instantly receiving warm emails from the Temple Rome student coordinating staff. It was too easy. I was instructed what to do once I landed in Italy, who my roommates were (surely they assumed I was a no show) and my professors were contacted on my behalf about my absence. I had nothing to worry about besides beating the great northeast snow storm that loomed around the same time as my departing flight.

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My first dinner in Rome

I am surely disappointed to miss the orientation events–believe me I was excited for the trip to Todi and learning how to make the beloved tiramisu. I knew coming late would make me culturally behind my classmates, who had two weeks of roaming around Italy and experiences already made. I spent my time reading books and blogs to catch up. Since food is an interest of mine, reading Elizabeth Minchilli’s book “Eating Rome” was a pleasure (I also recommend reading her blog). She shared tips on Italian food

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Spanish Steps at sunset

culture that varied from the U.S. including how a bar in Italy is actually a coffee shop and when you order your caffeinated beverage be sure to keep your receipt. When shopping at open markets, do not pick up the produce but point to what you want… also this not the time to bargain. Unlike in the states, Italians don’t eat their meals on the go besides for three things: pizza bianca, panino (sandwich) or gelato.

 

With a little research and help from roommates, my first weekend in Rome consisted of multiple walking tours around Residenza Candia and Temple Rome. I experienced the great food, fast drivers and the charm of Rome. Not to mention the fantastic gelato. I don’t care if I am wearing a winter coat and chilled, gelato is always amazing. Although I haven’t been here long, I have already seen the classic tourist spots: the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. I look forward to spending the semester here and discovering the hidden gems of the eternal city.

Be Still and Celebrate

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Anyone who has seen me recently knows that the past two weeks have been filled with an enormous amount of stress and anxiety. This may seem like a rather dark way to begin my first blog post, but there is a happy ending, I promise! But first, some context. About six days before I was supposed to leave for Rome, I found out that my passport and visa had been lost in the mail. Cue panic. For the next few days, my mom and I travelled around New Jersey (where I go to school) on what felt like a wild goose chase. We went from post office to post office, attempting to recover the missing passport. After no success, we decided to accept the fact that I would not be leaving for Rome on time.

After we accepted the situation, what followed can only be described as absolute grace. During the time I spent trying to obtain a new passport and visa, I was shown such incredible support and kindness from everyone around me. Everyone who was involved in the process—friends, family, officials, and administrators—made the entire process so easy. I was able to get a new passport in 5 hours, a new visa in a day, and a new plane ticket in 30 minutes. In addition, my professors from school were extremely gracious and flexible in allowing me to rearrange my work schedule. At my school, we take our fall semester finals after break, so on top of figuring out how to leave the country, I was also figuring out how to pass my classes… I wasn’t lying when I said these past two weeks were stressful!!

When I think about all that happened before I could make it to Rome, I understand that it needed to happen, and in a way, was a small blessing in disguise. Of course, it wasn’t fun to pay for all the last-minute changes and expedited fees, etc., but there is something to be said for being completely broken down. I feel like everything that could go wrong went wrong, and I became stronger for it. I was completely broken down to a place of humility, where I had to accept things one day, heck even one minute, at a time, and that is a very interesting position to be in. But as such, I truly believe that all this crazy happened for the sake of reminding me to slow down and be still. I was so caught up in the stress of things that I hadn’t even processed the fact that I was going to be living in Rome. Rome! I hadn’t stopped to pause, admire, and be thankful about that. I have been given this opportunity to immerse myself fully in another culture, and I wasn’t celebrating that, which is crazy, because there is so much to celebrate!!

And now I’m here! I’ve made it, at last. I may have missed Orientation Week, but that just meant that I was to dive headfirst right into things. Knowing absolutely no Italian, I have spent the last week blubbering my way around, butchering almost every word, and accidentally letting my Spanish vocabulary slip through at times. But, I am confident that things can only go up from here. I had my first Italian class this week, and just now, I successfully ordered a glass of wine in Italian: “Un bicchiere di vino bianco”! To be fair, I guess that might be one of the easier phrases to say, but we’ll just celebrate this tiny success for now…

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Beautiful view on my walk home

As the first week of classes comes to an end, I can only look back and smile about what has happened this week. In just a matter of a few days, I have visited the Umbrian countryside, learned to navigate the bus system, made my way through an Italian grocery store, and accidentally purchased (and used) bath soap that I thought was lotion. So far, no complaints— except, I still keep getting lost trying to find the Colosseum!! That’ll be next week’s mission. But for now, I am content, and remembering to be still and celebrate.

Roman Holiday

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As Temple University’s President Theobald once said, “Temple Owls take charge of every opportunity,” and this statement has really resonated with me through my commitment to study abroad in Rome. I will admit, I am unsure of my future and am often indecisive. Coming into college, I did not know my major, but I knew one thing: I wanted to study abroad. Without a doubt in my mind, I knew I wanted to take the opportunity to broaden my educational and personal experiences in a foreign land.

To travel is to seek an opportunity that is diverse from our daily lives; travel allows the ability to broaden the mind through connecting with different cultures, history and people. Although most of Temple Study Abroad locations are incredibly tempting to pursue, Rome has always been on the top of my travel list. I am intrigued by the beautiful architecture and historic monuments, the seamlessly flowing language and of course the fantastic food. As you will see, food is often my main motive. But besides for the delicious pasta and gelato I will be enjoying, I love the laid back culture of Italy and look forward to having the local Romans help me with my not so flawless attempt at the Italian language.

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Books to help prepare me for my time in Rome

In my preparation for my Rome study abroad experience, I have read the Rome Temple U blog and made notes of places to visit, where to eat and culture differences that I will encounter. I refuse to feel like a tourist during my months abroad! I have been reading books and blogs to help get me acquainted with Italy. I have even completed my first course in the Italian language with a great professor, who intimidated his students the first day when he spoke only Italian until the last ten minutes of the class! I can now describe myself in Italian: Sono espansiva, socievole e allegra. Mi piace ballare e mangiare la pizza. Meaning I am outgoing, sociable and cheerful. I like to dance and eat pizza. I basically know the essentials such as asking for directions or ordering wine.

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Photo taken in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

I have brushed up on my photography skills, using Philadelphia as my backdrop as I anticipate all the gorgeous sites I will try to capture with my camera in Rome. I have signed up for a course in photography that I cannot wait for, with Rome as my subject it will be nearly impossible to take a bad photo! I even went on a wine tour to better understand the process of creating wine and how to properly appreciate the beverage. Perhaps owning an Italian winery will be in my future.

With all my preparation and excitement for my semester in Rome, it is hard to feel nervous with so much joy for my adventure. The next few months will be a journey of a lifetime for all students participating and I am incredibly happy to share my study abroad experience with all on Temple U Rome blog. Ciao for now!

Niente Paura (No Fear)… of teaching

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A guest blog post by Ebonee Johnson, Fall 2015 Rome student. Below, Ebonee shares her internship experience teaching art history and English to high school students in Italy.

Ebonee Johnson- Temple Rome, Italy Fall 2015, @TitignanoAfter any person finds out that I am an English major, there is always one question that follows, every time, without fail. “So, are you planning on being a teacher?” I usually answer with, “You know there are other things to do with an English degree, right?” And in response to their quizzical look in regards to my apparent disdain for teaching, I usually reply with, “Because. I don’t really like kids all that much.” I’ve never really had the patience and will to deal with children. Even while watching my nephews, I tend to insist that their parents hang around, just in case. So when the opportunity to teach English at Luciano Manara High School arose, I knew that I had to jump at it. The very thought of it made me a tad nervous and uncomfortable, and so, in an effort to embody the “step outside your box” attitude that brought me to Rome in the first place, I dove in head first.

The first couple of weeks, I remained relatively comfortable, yet shaky within my personal realm. I went to Manara, smiled at the children, read to them in English, and left. The students, to their credit, were welcoming yet standoffish concurrently; they never hesitated to smile back, most of the time with slight vacancy as I asked, “Questions? Domande?,” after reading a text.  Professoressa Testa, the art history teacher whose zeal and dedication to her craft and students had brought us there, quickly began to infer that she wanted and expected more of us; though I couldn’t quite figure out exactly what that something was. I wanted to improve, but I didn’t know how to make that happen.

Then, one day after class, several girls immediately surrounded Cayla (my fellow colleague) and I, and overwhelmed us with their excitement. They were about 15 years old, and they spoke and understood English better than the other students. We spoke of the Italian school system in comparison to the American one. They told us about the student demonstrations and occupations of the school that take place at least once a school year. “We’re always having money troubles. They take all the money from the art schools and give it to the science ones.” They told us how grateful they were that we had come, because they passionately wanted to learn and speak more English. Cayla and I left the classroom with huge smiles on our faces that day, though I do believe mine was a bit different from the one I had been sporting earlier in the semester. I was smitten.

The improvements that I wanted to implement seemed to start happening more organically, and I noticed a change in the students as well. I started to realize that their feelings toward me weren’t of coldness or distance, but of trepidation. They were trying to learn a new language, and were afraid of looking and sounding stupid. I would be inhuman if I couldn’t relate to that. I had been asking my Italian professor for  various phrases to utilize while in the classroom since the beginning of the semester, but I started to ask him how to say things like, “Don’t be afraid,” and, ”Always try,” in Italian. One day I said to my students, “Non parlo Italiano, ma provo. Ma sempre provo.”* Little by little, they began to open up. After reading a text, there were fewer puzzled stares and more raised hands. And whenever the students seemed to be stumped, I tried my best to empower them and get more innovative, rather than simply providing the answers. I broke down sentences and told them to analyze the context clues, and even resorted to chalkboard drawings, much to my chagrin, as I’ve never been a gifted artist. They snickered at my embarrassment, and I found myself genuinely happy that they might actually be learning something.

The moment I realized that smiling at the students wasn’t enough, that I needed to genuinely connect with them and open myself up to them so that they might reciprocate, was the moment I truly began teaching. It was the moment that I actually understood that, though children can make me lose my patience, they’re really just confused, scared and flawed little people. And adults are just confused, scared and flawed bigger people, so we have something in common. This past semester, however, I was delighted to help them walk through life with a bit more confidence. I’m still not certain that I will pursue a career in teaching, but I definitely know that any future conversations about me majoring in English will take on a whole new narrative.