Monthly Archives: March 2016

Buona Pasqua Indeed

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I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. As you all might know, this past Sunday was Easter. Easter at my house is not usually a huge event, but always a family affair. I have spent the last few Easters away from home, but I was curious to see how Easter in a foreign country would feel. After having experienced this past weekend, I can say that it was awesome.

The entire day felt like a continuous celebration, which, according to the Christian tradition, is what Easter is supposed to feel like. One of my favorite things about college in general is that you are immersed in an environment with lots of different types of people, people coming from all walks of life and various different faiths. Part of what I love about being in this environment is that it challenges you not only to hear from others, but also to further develop your own personal beliefs. At the risk of getting too personal or breaking a code of political correctness, I will freely admit that I identify as Christian, so I was excited to celebrate the religious significance behind this holiday. In my time abroad, I have found that Rome has been a nurturing environment for my faith; I have been more free from the normal distractions of home, and more focused on continuing to develop my faith, which has been great.

So, Easter. I began the day by attending St. Paul’s Within the Walls, the first non- Catholic church to be built in Rome. The church itself is gorgeous, with beautiful mosaics and a newly renovated garden. During the church service, a true sense of community was reflected by the attendees, and there was even a moment where the Reverend was dancing while serving communion! All in all, a great time. On my walk home from the church service, I stopped in a little piazza near the Residence. Right in front of me, another church service was letting out. I stopped to take it all in: everyone was smiling, the pastor was greeting people and shaking hands, and you could hear echoes of “Buona Pasqua!” (which means “Happy Easter!”) on all sides. It was one of the moments where the sun is shining just right and the sky is so wonderfully blue, that you look around and realize absolutely nothing could be wrong. I know that when I look back on my time in Rome, that moment will be among one of my favorites.

The day continued with more celebrating. I had two different sets of friends visiting this past weekend, and I hadn’t seen one of these friends since high school, so the reunion was even more special. We made brunch in my kitchen, and later walked around the Vatican (which, by the way, was crowded but beautiful on Sunday!). Our day concluded with a potluck dinner in the rooftop garden of the Residence. This may have been the best thing, to see so many people gathered around one table, and everyone passing each dish around. And of course, we had plenty of cake and brownies for dessert! All in all, a perfect day.

As I reflect on what this Easter meant to me, I can safely say that I really felt the spirit of this holiday, in a more powerful and tangible way than I normally do in the U.S. On Easter, and the couple days leading up to Easter, every interaction I had with an Italian ended with “Buona Pasqua,” so it was so easy to see what this holiday means to Italian culture. Holidays away from home can feel weird, but it’s really all about what you make of them, and I can look back on this past Sunday fondly. Really and truly, a Buona Pasqua indeed.

Buona Pasqua from Roma

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_DSC0180Eastertime in Rome is really special. Very crowded with tourists, but it is beautiful nonetheless. The trees are growing buds, purple and yellow flowers are blooming and the weather is really starting to warm up. People are wearing pastel colors, a nice change from black, and are carrying dove shaped cakes. Along with these cakes, the Italians dine on artichokes and lamb for their Easter meal, while the children find out what surprises are inside their chocolate eggs.

Most students attending Temple Rome’s school live in the residence in the Prati neighborhood, a thirty minute walk to campus and a five minute walk to Vatican City. The Prati neighborhood was especially busy with tourists dining in between views of St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican museum. I attempted to avoid the area, but was able to pass through Vatican City on my walks to and from Trastevere without too much trouble. Many students were able to attend the Easter mass presented by Pope Francesco early that morning.

On Good Friday, I ventured over to the Colosseum to see the Stations of the Cross service later in the evening. People from around the world gathered by the ancient ruins to listen to the prayers and closing statement by the pope. I recommend going because this ceremony is stunning; the night sky and Colosseum make a beautiful backdrop for the candle light cross and the papal tent. It was a vision I will always remember. That, and the memory of a nun racing aggressively to grab the metro seat next to me afterwards. No mercy. Reminds me of my past Catholic school days.

Pope cookiesAlthough I did not make it to the Papal Mass on Easter, I had a lovely Sunday with friends. We traveled to the edge of Testaccio to enjoy the sunshine in an orange grove park that overlooks Rome–beautiful views of the city, and plenty of greenspace to layout a blanket and enjoy the day. Following that, I prepared a dish to bring to a potluck I coordinated with friends. Potlucks are the best way to enjoy a meal with a large group of people (there were about fourteen of us). Plenty of pasta, veggies, wine and desserts to share. Someone even fittingly brought cookies with the Pope’s face on them.

Being away from family and familiar traditions on Easter (or any holiday) can be difficult, but celebrating in Rome was very special for me. I loved how the city seemed to slow down and brighten up on this holy week, and how rare an opportunity it is to be in such a gorgeous city for any holiday. Perhaps later on in life I will be able to celebrate Easter in Rome again, visit Vatican City and partake in another large potluck with friends. Buona Pasqua- Happy Easter- from Roma._DSC0162

 

Chasing the Sunset

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This weekend is Daylight Savings Time, which I am very excited about!! Yes, it is unfortunate to lose an hour of sleep, but we are gaining an hour of sunlight! Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of “chasing the sunset.” What does that even mean, really? How can one “chase” the sunset? I think everyone has their own definition of that phrase, but for me, it has meant seizing all of the day that I can. When your time in a certain place is limited, you want to see everything you can while you are there. Often, this means that you are working against the clock, which by nature’s standards, is the sunset. So for me, “chasing the sunset” means I am trying to fit in all I can before there is no more light to guide me—essentially, before there is no more light to illuminate the city. Of course, Rome is beautiful at night, but there are certain things you miss when you no longer have daylight: the structure and outline of buildings, ability to enter certain museums (because visiting hours are over), and of course, the feeling that the time in the day is endless.

As we get closer to having only one month left in this magical place, “chasing the sunset” has also taken a more metaphorical meaning for me. A while ago, I wrote a blog post about having been in Rome for a full month, but now that it has been over 2 full months, I feel completely different. It is an interesting place to be in, sort of like an in-between; I feel like many of us are caught between different emotions. There is a part of us that is excited to know we will be reunited with friends and family soon, a part of us that has forgotten that we cannot stay in Rome forever, and a part of us that is in denial about having only a little more than a month left. I know that I am definitely experiencing all these feelings, but I am also feeling a new surge of excitement and energy. We are at the point in the semester when end-of-semester papers and projects are beginning to pick up, which is a bit tiring and overwhelming, but I am feeling really good about what is happening here in Rome. As you all know (since I wrote about it), I definitely had my own struggles with homesickness, but I am in a place of feeling very comfortable here in Rome. Life feels normal, and I don’t feel like a tourist. Yes, I still blubber my way in Italian, but I am getting better each day. My roommates have become some of my favorite people, people I am excited to come home to each day. I can sit in Villa Borghese and feel like I belong here, which is not something I could have said a month ago.

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Working in Villa Borghese

So, back to this idea of chasing the sunset. We have about a month left, and I want to fill it with everything I can. I am feeling very “YOLO” at the moment, you know that whole “you only live once” thing? Of course, it is a very classic reaction to the anxiety I am feeling about having to leave, but I’m going to embrace it. I am going to let this excitement for Rome shape the rest of my time here; in every spare moment I have, I want to make the city more my home than it already is. This means spending more time in my favorite places, but also seeing parts of the city I haven’t already. It means remembering that opportunities like this do not come around every day, and therefore not a single day should be wasted. A couple days ago, one of my good friends reminded me that we shouldn’t take a single day here for granted. Especially in the wake of what has happened in Brussels, this sentiment has taken on a completely new meaning for me. As unfortunate as it is, we cannot be guaranteed that in the coming years it will be safe for us to travel anywhere we want to, and therefore, we should hold tight to what we have now.

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Spring is beautiful!!

Before we know it (as unfortunate as it is to admit) the sun will set on our time here in Rome, and we will be back home, in our respective homes, schools, and cities. I want to look back on this last month here knowing I did everything possible to live authentically, joyously, and contently in Rome. I am smiling now, thinking about all the good that has happened thus far, and all the good that is to come. Grazie, Roma, for the past two months.

Happy Happy Happy agendaless weekend in Rome

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This past weekend can only be described as absolute bliss. I was a little worried that having my family gone would mean I would feel homesick all weekend, but as we know, Rome is a very big city, with plenty of distractions! As such, I approached this weekend with absolutely no plans, and no agenda of what I “had to get done.” I let my feet take me where they could, and the rest was history.

On Friday, I began by visiting the Colosseum. I know it may seem odd that I’ve been in Rome for all this time and still hadn’t seen the inside of the Colosseum, but it was true, I had only seen it from the outside. After visiting, I can safely say that if you ever want to be reminded of how small you are, go inside the Colosseum. I spent my whole visit in awe, and I couldn’t believe I was there. The tour starts on the second level of the Colosseum, but “second level” in no way indicates being close to the top. When you look up and see just how tall this structure actually is, it’s incredible. I was looking around, taking in the architecture, the grandeur, and the preservation. I looked at all the other visitors and tried to imagine us as spectators, just your everyday Roman citizens attending the games that were held in the Colosseum. History definitely came alive, and I had flashbacks to the countless classes where I have studied and discussed the Colosseum. And finally to be getting to see this, well, that was awesome.

After visiting the Colosseum, I chose a direction and just started walking. Like I said earlier, I didn’t have any plans, so it was amazing to feel a sense of freedom as I was exploring Rome. One of our first days here, Hope, the Temple Rome Student Life Coordinator, told us that the best way to get to know Rome was by simply getting lost; I would definitely agree with her, but I would also supplement her statement with the classic quote that “not all who wander are lost.” I had no direction, no goal, yet I still felt like what I was doing had purpose. I didn’t care about getting to a specific place, because Rome, and all it has to offer, was the destination. While I walked, I got to see several new types of architecture, housing structures, churches, and community parks I hadn’t seen before, and that was exactly what I wanted. When I got back to the Residence that night, I was exhausted, but a good exhausted, because I feel like I had taken advantage of everything the day had to offer.

Saturday was a bit more mellow, filled with homework and grocery shopping, but still wonderful and peaceful. Sunday, however, I think was one of the best days I’ve had here in Rome. To begin, Sunday marked the official first day of Spring, and the beauty of this new season is so evident here in Rome! The trees are starting to bloom, the sun is shining, and just about everything is green. Being in all this beauty feels like a fairytale, and I am loving every minute of it. One of my roommates and I began our day by visiting the Porta Portese Market, which is in between the Trastevere and Testaccio neighborhoods. Porto Portese is described as a “mammoth of a flea market,” and that it is! I’m pretty sure it extends for at least mile, and vendors are lined up down the entire block. We strolled through the market, and it was such a peacefully-chaotic experience, if that makes sense. On all sides you hear shouting; vendors are inviting customers to their stands, prices are being negotiated, and music is playing all around. In a way, it was kind of like a fun block party, with a large gathering of so many different types of people. If you are in Rome on a Sunday morning, definitely go to Porta Portese!

After Porta Portese, my roommate and I strolled along the Tiber River, making our way down to Trastevere, then the Historic District. Along the way, we even got to see a church group celebrating Palm Sunday by reenacting Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. After this, we made our way to Trajan’s Market, one of the most well-preserved ruins in Rome. For such an intact structure, it is weird that Trajan’s Market is not as popular of a tourist destination, but I still loved it. Just like with the Colosseum, I got to connect Rome’s history to its present-day, and when you’re standing on such a historic site, it’s hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed.

All in all, a wonderful weekend. If you study in Rome, definitely make sure you have a couple weekends where you have absolutely nothing to do; that way, the weekend is like a blank canvas, and you get to see what sort of masterpiece you create!

The Time to Travel

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What a whirlwind it has been. Being in Rome has allowed for a lot of travel because it is so central in Europe. I recommend spending the majority of your time in Rome, but this study abroad opportunity also permits students to easily travel on the weekends and during spring break. My past spring breaks consisted of coming home for the week and visiting with friends; never have I travelled anywhere exciting until when I was in Europe. I spent my break in different cities in Spain and many colleagues hopped around multiple countries.

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Touring beautiful Seville, Spain

The ability to travel around Europe is a huge perk of study abroad in Rome–when else will you be able to travel to so many other countries and cities during your youth or even life? Personally, traveling for me is the opportunity to better understand a country’s culture and history. It is a way to put my perspective outside of what I have always known, to see how others live their lives and what values are prioritized by people of different nations. Traveling is about opening my mind to what I originally viewed as the unknown, to become familiar with ways of life I had only made assumptions about.

As thrilling and enlightening as traveling is, it is exhausting. Really exhausting. I have learned a lesson with the amount of travel I am doing in the month of March: space out your travel plans. Due to Spring Break, a class excursion and plans with friends, my weekends in March are all spent on the go in different countries. As much as I love the Monday to Thursday class schedule, which allows for course excursions and travel on the weekends (another huge perk of Temple’s study abroad programs), that time is fully needed for rest, recuperation and exploring Rome. Class excursions and personal travel plans leave little down time to catch up on work and sleep, so be sure to not plan everything back to back. I am in the middle of a fantastically tiring travel spree. I have spent the majority of my time in Rome and am looking forward to staying there for the upcoming weekends.

I am learning from my travel experiences now, and I know I will constantly be learning from my different travel experiences throughout my life; no trip is the same. Here are some quick considerations for those planning to travel while studying abroad:

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Amsterdam, Netherlands. Enjoyed their bike and coffee shop culture.

 

  • Plan ahead for your trips and travel/sleeping arrangements to save money, also be aware of any class excursions and holiday times. Attending class excursions are mandatory to pass the class.
  • Try to check in and print out tickets for transportation before you leave; wifi in Italy is never consistent. Don’t be stressed to find your tickets through all your emails minutes before you board.
  • Stay in hostels and AirBnBs to save money. Try to choose places that are near the center of the city or public transportation. Be sure to check reviews online! In Amsterdam, I stayed on a campground thirty minutes outside of the city. As fun as it was to be in the wilderness, traveling was more time consuming and I had to better prioritize my time.
  • Choose carefully who you go with–it can make or break a trip. Travel with people who have similar interests, are responsible and are positive/easy to be around.
  • If someone pays for a trip in whole or covers some of your costs, be sure to write down the amounts to be sure what is owed. Without keeping track, it can get a little messy.

Traveling while studying abroad is a lot of fun, but it is still a balancing act with school. Be sure to not get overwhelmed and lose sight of why you are here: to gain college credits and knowledge. Spend weekends in Rome as well; that is when you have far more time to explore the Eternal City and really get to know this amazing place you are studying in.

The Robinsons Take Rome

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For the past week, my family has been here in Italy!! They got here last Wednesday and are leaving today (Friday), so their visit was about 10 days in total. It’s been a whirlwind of a week and half, as we have travelled throughout Italy and all over Rome. It’s been an amazingly fun week, but an exhausting one, too.

It wasn’t until my family got here that I realized how excited I was for them to experience Italy. I of course am no expert on Italy, or Rome for that matter, but it was exciting knowing that they were kind of on “my turf,” that they were visiting the place I currently call home. I wanted them to experience everything possible, and as such, I have been on turbo-tour-guide mode all week. I have been making schedules, timing out visits, and making reservations this way and that. We made it to almost all the items I had on my list for them, but throughout the past 10 days I have been reminded that when it comes to schedules, my family doesn’t always exactly stay on track. It was tough to accept at first, but I had to learn (as I am learning everyday) to put my control-freak tendencies aside. Plus, when you travel, it’s typically when you deviate from the “schedule” that you make the best memories.

In the course of 10 days, my family visited Venice, Florence, Naples, Pompeii, and Rome. They were troopers, and I am proud of them. Traveling for an extended amount of time is no walk in the park; our bodies go into a continuous state of motion, and true rest can be hard to find. It was fun to see which cities each of my family members responded to; for example, my dad absolutely loved Venice, while my mom says she could go back and live in Florence for a month. Knowing my family, it was cool to see how each of their personalities were reflected by a particular city. I can safely say, though, that we had an amazing time in each city, and each city holds a unique memory for us. In Florence, we loved walking through leather shops, trying on bags, shoes, and jackets. In Venice, we learned to be at peace with the seas, surrendering all control we had over our transportation. And in Rome, well, we ate pasta. Lots of it.

As I’m writing this, my family is preparing to get on their plane in a few hours. It is bittersweet watching them pack, because I am going to miss having them here with me, but I know they are taking home some wonderful new memories (and lots of new Italian clothes). I will miss taking them on pizza and gelato tours throughout Rome, and I will miss watching them navigate public transportation (in Houston, where we’re from, public transportation is not a thing!). I will miss taking them to a new bakery each morning, and I will miss joking with my sister as we stood in line for museums and tours.

IMG_0253I am glad, though, that I got to show them the Rome that I experience on a day-to-day basis; they saw the Residence, visited Temple Rome’s campus, and climbed to my favorite lookout points in Villa Borghese. They got to see how I am making a life for myself in a new place and country. All in all, it’s been an amazing 10 days, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Since I go to college so far away from Texas, my time at home and with my family has become more limited, so I like to treasure every minute with them that I can. Having my family come to Italy was such a dream and a blessing, and our own little Roman holiday. I know this was a trip we will remember for a long time to come- and we have multiple selfies to prove it!

International Women’s Day

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March 6th was International Women’s Day! Technically, as I write this now, it is no longer International Women’s Day here in Rome. But, just because International Women’s Day is over does not mean we have to stop talking about it. This blog post may seem like a bit of a departure from my previous posts, but I feel this post is important. Here goes.

According to the United Nations, International Women’s Day is “a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” This year’s theme for the day was “Pledge for Parity,” which helps promote the “2030 Agenda” the UN set for achieving worldwide gender equality. To celebrate International Women’s Day in Rome, all state museums and archaeological sites were free for all female visitors. As you all can imagine, the list of museums to visit in Rome is endless, and the opportunity to visit one for free should not be missed! As such, after we finished our classes, two of my roommates and I decided to visit the MAXII Museum, which is the contemporary art and architecture museum.

When we first got to the museum I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, because I looked around and noticed that pretty much all the visitors were women. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones who got the memo about the free admission. After this initial sight, though, I felt a spirit of community in the building. It was kind of like a shared “head nod” could be exchanged between me and another female visitor, which would serve as both a salute and an embrace as we acknowledged and silently celebrated each other’s presence. I proceeded to the exhibits, and the number of female visitors only became more evident.

As a quick aside, I highly recommend the MAXII Museum; it is completely different from a typical Roman museum. Instead of showcasing displays from Antiquity, the MAXII contains exhibits which ask you to change your conceptions about what art “is,” and within the current exhibits at the MAXII, art and social justice intersect, which gives your visit a whole new meaning. Look below for pictures of some of the works and you’ll understand that this museum is anything but ordinary.

I think my favorite thing about the visit was seeing the range of girls and women who were present. I would look one direction and see a group of grandmothers looking on at one display, and then look another direction and see a mother explaining a photograph to her young daughters. Being abroad, I think one of my biggest flaws is that I often put up more walls/barriers than necessary. This time I don’t mean walls and barriers in the sense that I am shy, but that I forget that difference in language doesn’t mean difference in humanity. When you’re abroad, it can be easy to tell yourself that cultural differences somehow separate you from the people of the place you are visiting, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I unfortunately forget, and often need to be reminded, that at the very core of our being, we are all the same. At the very center of it all, we all breathe, love, care for, and live in the same way. I think one of my favorite things about living abroad is being reminded that cultural nuances are not as large as we sometimes imagine them to be.

So when I walked around the museum yesterday, I thought about all the women around me. I thought about how in the same way that gender equality is not present in the U.S., gender equality is not present in Italy. I thought about how women all around the world are fighting for their rights, and I thought about what it means: there is a need for an international holiday celebrating women. I thought about the fact that there seems to be a universal understanding that no matter where in the world we are, our bodies are not our own. That no matter where we are, there is an idea of possession. An idea that we owe, that something is due. I thought about the women who feel powerless and are quite literally crying out, yet are still muffled and voiceless at the same time. Even throughout the MAXII museum, a majority of the pieces I saw were created by men. Yes, there were female artists, which is amazing, but I found myself wishing there had been a fifty-fifty representation.

While we walked back from the museum, my roommates and I debriefed about all the different emotions we had felt throughout the day and throughout the museum. We took a moment to be thankful for the privileges and opportunities we have had, and a moment to think about the women who have not been as lucky as we have. To be honest, I am still trying to process everything. It was certainly a thought-provoking day, and although it is no longer March 6th, I am going to continue celebrating, sending an invisible head nod and a million hugs to all the women around me.

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Living and Breathing History

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Sorry it’s been a while!! As you may have read from Isabella’s blog, we are officially on spring break!! What a crazy week it has been. But first, let’s recap midterms.

One of my favorite things about Temple Rome is the small class sizes. The biggest class I’m in has about 20 people, and then the smallest I’m in have about 5 or 6 people. With this being said, it becomes a lot easier for classes to feel more personal, and you are able to feel a sense of community. One class I’m in, called “Gender in Late Antiquity,” is taught by Temple professor Dr. Karen Hersch. Dr. Hersch is an outstanding professor who truly cares about each of her students, and as such, she really worked hard to ease the stress of our midterms week. Since our class has only 6 people in it, we were able to meet for a midterm review session at her Rome apartment. Over coffee and tea we prepared for our midterm, and then afterwards, cooked a meal together. It was amazing to take time out of a crazy week simply to gather together and enjoy a home-cooked meal. We each were in charge of a specific task, whether it was cooking the pasta, making the salad, or perfecting the sauce. (And of course, we also had some delicious Italian pastries for dessert!) We then gathered around the table together, swapping funny stories and going back for seconds and thirds. I feel grateful to Dr. Hersch for reminding us to step away from the stress and enjoy the present moment.

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dinner with our class

After midterms ended, it was time to shift gears to spring break. My spring break itinerary includes Budapest, Hungary, Kraków, Poland, and Prague, Czech Republic. The beauty of European travel is that everything is so close together, so I feel very fortunate that I was able to travel to 3 different countries without it being outrageously expensive! I have always wanted to see Eastern Europe, and this week felt like the perfect opportunity. So far I have been to Budapest and Kraków, and I just arrived in Prague. It’s been an incredible experience so far, and each city is so beautifully and wonderfully different. In Budapest, I enjoyed the historic thermal baths, and in Kraków I found myself overwhelmed by the history of the city. In Kraków, I got to visit the Podgórze Ghetto, which was established during World War II. I cannot even begin to describe what it meant to see fragments of the ghetto wall, to stand on the main road, and to see the plaza where many Jews congregated. I also visited Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp during the Holocaust. This, of course, was moving beyond words.

What I am learning from my travels abroad is that there is something to be said for the feeling that you are actually taking part in history. You can read about these places all you want, but when you actually visit them, it all hits you. I keep thinking about the idea of space, and how the meaning and significance of a space can change with time; for example, the Podgórze district is now merely that—a district—and Auschwitz is no longer a concentration camp, but a museum. But that does not take away from what these spaces signify; we cannot forget the footsteps that came before ours, the bodies that were present before ours, and the spirit that still remains. Rather, we must celebrate and remember it all, knowing that in some way, our stories are now connected. From my travels, I am developing a greater connection to the world around me, and for that, I am grateful.

I am excited to see what comes from Prague, but I will also be excited to return to Rome. Not only is 10 days of non-stop traveling exhausting, but it also makes you remember the things you miss from home (in this case, Rome). I find myself missing the familiarity of Italian language daily, and I am missing late-night kitchen hangouts with my roommates. Returning to Rome will mean returning to a sense of comfort, but for the time being, I am going to enjoy the rest of my trip!! Na shledanou! (that’s Czech for “goodbye!”)

Surviving Midterms and Spring Break Planning

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The semester is officially half over. It is a tough realization to make, but midterms have passed and spring break is in full swing. After going through the most stressful part of the semester so far, I thought I should share a few pointers for students who will later plan to study abroad. In my collegiate experience, I have learned that waiting until the last minute in any situation only makes it more difficult. Keep that in mind for doing assignments, applying for a program or internship and making travel plans.

Professors recognize that they are competing for students’ time when it comes to teaching semesters associated with study abroad. Not only are students here to learn, they are here to travel and explore Rome. With that said, professors are still teaching and expect us to contribute in class and do our assignments. I have noticed that classes here are far more laid back in the sense that homework may consist of weekly readings and an occasional paper, while tests aren’t often given. This may seem like a sweet escape from more tedious semesters back home, but students are responsible to keeping up with the work along the way, and let’s not forget about midterms. Reality has swept back in to remind students they are still enrolled in college courses. It is still a balancing act between school, “you” time and exploring the city.

I have a few tips on how to better prepare for midterms so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. If the class requires books, buy them. Read them not the night before an exam, but on the train/plane when you are traveling. Most of the transportation’s Wifi is lacking, so have a book or class PowerPoint slides saved and available. It will pass time and keep you on track academically. As for Italian classes, practice with your friends and roommates. Everyone is learning mostly the same material, so speak the newest learned vocab with them. If you like to travel on the weekends, don’t save your homework for late Sunday night when you’re exhausted. Do it in between class or commit a night or two to get things done. Like I said, waiting until the last minute makes everything more challenging.

Speaking of waiting until the last minute, plan your spring break agenda before midterms week!!! Literally, it will save you so much stress if you book everything beforehand. If you book ahead, it is a lot cheaper too. Have a few ideas of where you want to go coming into your semester, and talk to friends who have similar travel interests. It is easier to travel with less people, so the whole squad of ten people may not be ideal. I would probably recommend traveling with one to three other people, just because it is simpler to book everything together and everyone can do what they want to do in each city. It is always possible to meet up with other friends in various cities and it’s great when friends who study abroad in a different country you’re visiting are around to give you tours. Be sure to print all your tickets at school before leaving and write down addresses where you’re staying!

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On the plane to Spain, ciao Rome!

Besides booking your travel plans and sleeping arrangements in advance, there are more ways to save some money. It’s halfway through the semester and most of us wonder where all our money went… Bring your student ID with you when going to museums and sightseeing, you’ll likely get in for free/discounted. Buy food at a supermarket to save money on some breakfasts and lunches. Prioritize what activities you want to do in each city, so you don’t spend all your money at once. As I know for Rome, avoid touristy traps to save money. Keep these factors in mind to feel stress free and enjoy your time.

 

Leaping Into The Unknown

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I am writing this blogpost on a very unusual day. Leap day. It doesn’t occur often, but it feels like everyone could use an extra day. I used this rare day to reflect on my experience so far in this program at Temple Rome and my time living in another country on the other side of the world. Although I had always been interested in pursuing a semester abroad, it is still a leap of faith to commit to the unknown.

When I realized I wanted to make Rome my home for the spring, I was excited to live right by so many famous monuments and enjoy authentic Italian food. I was intrigued by the culture, the people and the language. But I don’t really speak Italian and I didn’t really know who else would be in the program. There were a lot of uncertainties as it got closer to leaving. It was exciting applying for Temple Rome, but as the departure date neared I was starting to let the unknowns swim around my head. Weeks before I was to go, I got really sick. Doctors told me I wouldn’t be better in time; I had to consider taking the semester off and stay in central PA when all my friends would be gone. After all this planning, excitement and nerves I refused to accept the idea that I wouldn’t be going to Rome. The uncertainties that originally gave me anxiety became my motivation to take that leap of faith. And here I am now, writing to whoever is reading about my time in Rome, healthy and happy.

Don’t let the unknowns and questions hold you back if you are considering doing study abroad. No, flying alone isn’t scary. Yes, you’ll make friends. No, you won’t miss out on everything back home because you will be creating your own memories. Yes, take that leap and put yourself outside of your comfort zone. It is the best way to learn about yourself and the world around you.

Now that the semester is half over, I am shocked by how quickly the time has gone by. I have to remember to try to slow down, cherish more moments because the days all blur together in a beautiful frenzy. Study abroad has allowed me many fun chances that I would never have if I remained in the States. The independence to accomplish my own objectives, the inspiration to explore all the mysteries, the dream to return to a foreign city and live there longer than a few short weeks.

Studying abroad in Rome has so far been a thrilling experience and allowed me to unearth my drives and curiosities. I know how determined I can be and how lucky I am, from being able to join the program late to traveling around Europe, it motivates me to keep striving forward in this program and in my self-growth.

And then it finally happened. I have felt full on qualms of homesickness, something I was unsure would happen initially with so much exploring and excitement. As much as I miss my parents, my friends, my dog, my bed, so on, I remind myself of one inevitable truth: this study abroad program will be done in what will later feel like a blink of an eye. I will be back home with those that I have missed, and I will think back on this amazing opportunity I encountered and I will miss it ever so dearly. My goal is to remain in each and every moment and treasure it, continue to take that leap into the unknown.