Monthly Archives: April 2016

Living the Life: Two Different Perspectives

Standard
_DSC0079

Touring the Etruscan Museum

The opportunity to study abroad should not be taken lightly, overlooked or under considered. Traveling and living in a different country allows insight to a unique culture and viewpoint on life. I was fortunate enough to travel out of the country a few times when I was young and it really opened my perspective. That feeling of discovery was contagious for me. I realized that there is so much more that happens in one city, state, country; there is a whole world out there that differs completely from what we think we know.

 

Being in Rome these past few months has been magical. I have gotten a realistic glimpse into the Italian lifestyle and have even bettered my understanding of what it is like living in America. The distance away from the States enabled me to reflect on the American culture and what expectations are held for the youth there versus Italy. In an ethics class, the students attempted to differentiate the aspects of the societal American dream with the European dream. I decided to discuss some of the main differences because they helped me to really recognize how the two cultures vary in opinions of success.

Beginning with the American dream, there is more than just the idea of a house with a white picket fence. We tend to be goal orientated in the sense of material items; be it an expensive car, clothing and stuff, we equate success to buying nice things. The idea of more is better is prevalent. More hours and more money need to be made to attain these materials. Americans work hard, they are known for their commitment to their careers. The manta “work hard, play hard” describes Americans pretty well in my opinion.

_DSC0244

People playing in Aqueduct Park

On the other side of the spectrum, Italians tend to be very laid back. I learned the word “domani” fairly quickly–it means tomorrow. Many Italians like to put off work, and get it done another day. Although this may not be the most efficient outlook, it appears to save stress and late hours. What motivates Italians is not necessarily material items and gaining more objects. It is the ability to spend time with family and friends; leisure time is very important to them. Meals are a laborious effort that are eaten over the span of hours with loved ones. Picnicking with friends on nice days becomes a weekend routine. Time is spent relaxing more than working I have noticed during my time here.

 

One lifestyle is not better than the other. Both have positive and negative outcomes. One is fast and one is slow. Living abroad and traveling has bettered my understanding of the different ways of life. I am not quick to judge, but to compare and contrast what I see based on my own perceived lifestyle in the United States. An interesting example is that in the U.S., someone who lives in their parents’ home well after graduation is often labeled a “loser,” but most Italians stay at home until they get married. It may not be what Americans are used to, but seems like a great way to save money on rent.

Celebrating Milestones Abroad

Standard

This past weekend I turned 21!!!! What a time to be alive!! As most American students know, turning 21 is a big deal. However, turning 21 in Europe is not nearly as big as a deal, since turning 18 is the big milestone. I’m certainly not afraid (nor ashamed) to admit that when choosing when I wanted to study abroad, I was a little apprehensive about spring study abroad, because I thought my birthday wouldn’t be as fun as it could be in the U.S. Turning 21 is a big deal, and it deserves to be celebrated! It’s a big milestone, and you only get to turn 21 once, so you want to do it right. And I know that more students than will admit it are apprehensive about an abroad-birthday. So, here I am to ease your fears.

First tip: be open to new things and a new type of plan. If I had been in the U.S., I know that my birthday would have been fun, but it would have followed a pretty stereotypical pattern. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I had to remember that celebrating in Italy could be even more special. With a birthday spent abroad, you get to conceptualize things as a fun weekend vacation that you wouldn’t have gotten to take in the States. For my birthday weekend, I travelled to Cinque Terre with my roommate, friend, and fellow blogger Isabella. Cinque Terre is a set of five towns on the coast of Italy. I highly suggest that you lookup pictures so you can see just how gorgeous this place is. Seriously amazing. There are honestly no words (or pictures) to do it justice.

Second tip: take your birthday as a time to pause and be thankful. Being outside of Rome, Isabella and I had the opportunity to reflect on what this semester has been, and how we want to finish up our last couple weeks. If you study abroad in Rome, I recommend that you take at least one weekend (even if it’s not your birthday) to change your scenery. Cinque Terre is made up of mountains, harbors, beaches, and the sea— such a difference from Rome! Changing up our scenery gave us time to reconnect with our surroundings, and returning to Rome was awesome, because it felt like we were truly returning ‘home.’ All throughout the weekend, I got to exist in a space free of distractions, and I could reflect on this past year, on my time abroad, and on what I want this next year to be. Take the time you need to put work aside and focus on fully engaging in each moment. Enjoy wherever you are, even if it’s in Rome; you don’t need to leave Rome to celebrate your milestone birthday!

Third tip: treat yourself. Milestone birthdays are a big deal for a reason. They mark a huge celebration of where you have been, and where you are yet to go. Remember that a birthday abroad should be treated with just as much regard (if not more) as it would be in America. So live it up! Order an extra scoop of gelato, buy the fancy wine, or visit that cool place you’ve always wanted to. Enjoy every moment, reminding yourself that you’ve been afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should not be passed up.

So, what I’ve learned from this past weekend: birthdays abroad probably won’t turn out the way they would have in America, but the good thing is that they will turn out better.  Yes, I missed having all my college roommates and friends to celebrate with me, but I got to celebrate with all the great new friends I’ve made here. Instead of focusing on having one big nighttime celebration, I spread the party out over the course of a few days. We hiked, laid at the beach, ate amazing seafood, and visited an authentic Italian vineyard. And to end the weekend, my friends and I gathered for cake and card games on the rooftop garden at the Residence. All in all, a fantastic weekend. Milestones abroad can seem intimidating, but I promise you, if you let yourself be open to the new experience, it’ll be great. So happy to have turned 21 here in Italy.

IMG_0848

Small Classes

Standard

As classes here at Temple Rome wind down, I have found myself getting a bit nostalgic for all the amazing moments that have happened in my classes this past semester. The classroom has always been a special place for me; it’s typically in a classroom where I feel most comfortable, and have an enormous amount of fun. Okay, so maybe I’m a bit nerdy and a little weird, but if that’s how I feel in a classroom, then I guess it makes sense that I want to be a teacher! One of my favorite things about Temple Rome has been the small class sizes, and it’s something I will come to miss.

The largest class I’m in has about 20 people, and the smallest has 6. This may seem like a big range, but I love it. In all of my classes, I have come to learn everyone’s name, which is different from a big lecture you may have back home, and we all have all learned a bit more about each other. My political science class, a special seminar called ‘Race, Immigration, and Identity in Italy’ has seven people, and we meet twice a week. Since we are a seminar class, each class is a discussion, rather than a lecture. In addition, for each class, we take turns rotating which student will lead the discussion. I have come to grow so fond of this practice, because it’s cool to see all the different types of learning/presenting styles, and I’ve enjoyed learning how to prepare myself for leading an effective discussion.

Last week, my ‘Race, Immigration, and Identity’ class went to Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele to have discussion outside. We study the immigrant experience in Rome, and Piazza Vittorio was a great place to meet because it correlated with the book we read for that week and located right by Termini train station, which is a popular hub and meeting place for immigrants. We sat outside and had class, and it was one of those “everything is great” moments. I looked around and loved hearing everyone contribute their ideas, and when we finished, our professor looked at us and said, “Okay, mangiare,” which means “to eat” in Italian. We all agreed in excitement and headed out.

IMG_1069

Luckily for us, one of our classmates had eaten at an Indian restaurant nearby, so we headed over there. It was such a treat to get to eat a a type of food I haven’t had in a while; don’t get me wrong, of course Italian food is great, but it’s good to mix things up every now and then!! After we all ordered and received our food, we dug in. For two of our classmates, it was their first time eating Indian food (ever), so we made sure to pass plenty of naan and mango lassi over to them. I loved sitting around the table with all my classmates and professor; the conversation went beyond academics, and instead, we all sat and took genuine interest in each other’s lives. And our professor even talked about how he’s sad that we will be leaving soon!

In just a few months, we have built a community, and I’m excited to stay friends with the people I’ve met here in Rome. Since I don’t go to Temple back home, staying in touch will obviously be a bit more difficult, but if we can make it in Rome, we can make it anywhere! I’m starting to get excited to see where everyone’s senior years will bring them, and I’ve already started planning for my reunion trips up to Temple Main Campus. Thank goodness for the small classes I’ve been a part of— I really will miss learning and living in Rome with these people!!

Cultural Differences

Standard

Living in a different country has been a huge learning experience. Initially, one of the first things I noticed about Italy is the cultural differences I encountered that had me doing double takes. Now that my time of studying abroad in Rome is a few weeks shy from completion, I may return acting more Italian than American.

The first thing to capture my attention is the speed and agility Romans apply to just driving around town. Vespas and small cars whipping past and cutting each other off, honking, hand gestures and more speed. The fact that I haven’t seen an accident is very surprising. The fact I haven’t been hit by one of these manic drivers is a miracle. In the beginning of the semester, crossing the street was as scary as crossing the ocean by flight, feeling like you are unsure of making the right decision. But it is all about commitment. Especially in the sense of a Roman pedestrian; always check both ways before crossing, make eye contact with the driver and commit to crossing the street. They may not slow down for you, but they’ll stop (hopefully). The driving is entertaining to watch, the running through red lights and random parking spots is what really raises an American eyebrow.

Ironically, while Italians are fast drivers, they love to take their time with everything else. Walking is slow, dining is slow, the wifi is unbelievably slow. Italians like to take their time, enjoy each the present moment and put off their worries until tomorrow. I am learning this is a lifestyle I can stand behind.

The people are kind, loud and interactive. They aren’t as keen to smile at strangers, but they like to stare. It is a more common practice here than in the states. It’s not odd; Italians are curious about what everyone is wearing. Especially because they get dressed up just for an evening stroll. They like to put their best foot forward, especially if it’s in a Ferragamo heel.

Crossing the street can be challenging, but just walking down the sidewalk is a game to see who can get away with not moving to the side. Personal space means a totally different thing to Italians and Americans–this was something I had difficulty understanding. I was frustrated that men wouldn’t step to the side when I was passing them in close quarters or people on the metro are seemingly closer than needed. Although I am used to this European sense of personal space now, I am looking forward to a little more room in the U.S.

Another interesting thing to note for students interested in dating an Italian: the men are believed to be more aggressive and the women initially more standoff-ish. Just keep that in mind when mingling with Italians after class. Overall, it’s a fun learning game distinguishing the cultural differences and adapting to them. Even if you’re used to more personal space or prefer your men less flirtatious, it is rewarding to be immersed in a foreign culture and learn the ropes. Rome has a great way of teaching you life outside the class room.

Weekends Well Done in Rome

Standard

No matter where you are or what you are doing, almost anyone can agree that they are looking forward to the weekend. Especially students. It’s a time to either take a break from your studies or catch up on work, opportunities to socialize or do your own thing, sleep in or explore. With Rome as our oyster, the chances to have a good time are endless.

_DSC0229This weekend I took it upon myself to do new things in the Eternal City. I saw new places, ate new foods and spent time with different people. With the countdown to the end of semester in full effect, I feel the pressure to make the most of every moment abroad and balance my time working on classwork and summer applications. The art of balancing in study abroad is real, so plan your time efficiently.

Having Fridays off is a blessing, an extra free day to help you balance out your work and fun. I had the pleasure of spending the majority of my Friday with friends walking through piazzas and Villa Borghese, people watching in Campo di Fiori and dining at a pizzeria. Saturday, I restocked at Trionfale market, a big indoor market with lots of different types of food vendors. I am proud to say that the vendors I try to continuously go to are recognizing me and throwing in some extra produce. I feel like famiglia. A tip for budgeting: buy your produce, bread and wine at the market. So much cheaper, fresher and not to mention entertaining to meander your way through the Italian shopping process.

Another great way to experience cultural foods and people is through events and festivals. I attended a tiramisu festival outside of central Rome and had a good time exploring the area and sampling different versions of tiramisu. Finding these opportunities is a fun way to learn more about modern Roman culture. Luckily, Temple staff have a lot of insight on events and places to visit, so ask them ideas on how to spend free time.

_DSC0259

This weekend was also the Rome Marathon, which kept the city busy with blocked off traffic and extra pedestrians. I mistakenly forgot that public transportation would be affected and woke up early to wait 40 minutes for a bus that never showed up. I recommend using apps like Moovit to navigate public transportation more easily. It’s easy to make an alternate plan for things to do in Rome, so I rounded up my roommates and took advantage of the gorgeous spring day. We ventured to Aqueduct Park, about a 30 minute ride by *working* metro. Many Italians go there to relax in the sun with family and friends, they bring food and games and enjoy the day together. We walked around, laid out blankets and played cards. Days like this leave permanent memories of my time in Rome. This experience has been one fantastic blur of new and exciting moments, but when I can slow down and appreciate what all is in front of me I can fully understand what a great opportunity it is to study abroad.

Roomates in Rome

Standard

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it already, but back home, I have 5 roommates. We’ve been together since freshman year, and although we technically do not all live under the same roof anymore, we still call ourselves roommates. Those girls are my people; we do just about everything together, so being apart from them this semester has been a learning experience!! Two of my roommates, though, are studying abroad in the UK, so luckily, we are in just about the same time zone–which has made communication a lot easier! After our program ends, I am planning on visiting them at their respective study abroad locations, but this past weekend, one of my roommates surprised me with a last-minute trip to Rome!!

Ali, my roommate, came up to Rome for a day and a half, and at first I was worried that this wouldn’t be enough time, but I was proved wrong. Luckily, Ali has been to Rome before, so I didn’t feel pressured to “show her Rome in a day,” which, believe me, is nearly impossible and involves more walking than you could imagine. We decided to keep the sight-seeing to a minimum, and instead focused more on walking the winding, narrow roads of Rome. To be honest, though, I think that just walking around Rome counts as sight-seeing in and of itself. In Rome, the landscape can change in an instant: you can turn one corner and see beautiful vines on the side of a building, and the next corner you might see an example of Fascist architecture from the early 20th century. It’s always changing, and that’s what I love about this city!!

Having people come visit is always fun, because I want to show them all my favorite spots, and take them to fun restaurants (plus, you have an excuse for buying gelato twice a day!). What I didn’t realize, though, is how it would feel to have Ali here in Rome with me. When I picked her up from her hotel, the instant we saw each other, we ran over to each other and had the best reunion hug ever. I immediately felt such relief and a comfort I didn’t realize I was missing. Ali, being the extremely caring and involved roommate that she is, immediately looked at me and said, “Okay, start from the beginning. Tell me everything.” And so our weekend began like that. We swapped stories from each of our respective programs, and we shared all the ways in which we are growing, what we are currently learning, and all the things we are working through. That night, we ate traditional Italian pasta dishes, cacio e pepe and spaghetti carbonara, and everything felt right in the world.

IMG_0577

I loved having Ali here in Rome because I got to share a piece of my new home with someone I love very much. Just a short day and a half made up for entire semester apart. It was good to be able to revert back into our normal girl talk, and to see all the positive ways in which Ali’s study abroad program has changed her. As I was talking to Ali, I could recognize the positive changes in myself, too. Having Ali here also made me excited to think about how we are going to take what we’ve learned abroad back home with us. When you’re abroad, you’re living in an isolated space, where the typical distractions from home are not present. But now that our time in Rome is winding down, I am starting to prepare myself for returning to life in the U.S. It will certainly be interesting, but I feel good knowing that what I’ve learned here will stick with me forever.

The Problem with Tracking

Standard

Throughout my semester here in Rome, I have been thinking about the concept of ‘tracking.’ Tracking can take on a variety of different definitions, depending on the context or situation, but for me, ‘tracking’ has meant keeping my “life plan” on its course. I want to be a teacher, and before coming to Rome, I always said that I would finish up college, spend about 2 years out of school doing various fellowships, etc, go to grad school, then start teaching. And it’s ironic, because I would always claim that I was someone who “didn’t have her life planned out,” but being here in Rome has shown me that yes, I was someone who did. I might not have planned the specifics, but I had the blueprint laid out in front of me, and all I had to do was sit back as the proposed sketch came to life.

If you have ever studied abroad, or if you do study abroad one day, you will find that one of the most commonly-said phrases from study abroad students is “I don’t know when I will have this chance again.” Normally, students are saying this in reference to travel, or living in another country, and asserting that this study abroad opportunity might in fact be the only time in their lives when this can happen. I do understand that scheduling can get tough, finances are not always predictable, and you never know where life will bring you, but I don’t think this is the main reason why students say this ‘I’ll never have the opportunity again” phrase. I believe we say this not because the opportunity will not be there again, but because we don’t allow ourselves this opportunity again. And it all goes back to ‘tracking.’

If there’s anything study abroad has reminded me, it’s of how young I am. I am currently only 20 years old, which really is not much at all. Before I came abroad, at a mere 20 years old, I had told myself what I needed to do in life, what paths I needed to take, and what sort of risks I could take. After being abroad, I’ve seen just how flawed this sort of mindset is. At 20 years old, I had essentially told myself that my life after Rome would be confined just to the U.S., that some sort of travel was inevitable, but truly taking part in another culture was not. I was one of those people that said “this might be my only opportunity.” There is a whole world out there, waiting for us to experience it, and I had essentially told myself “no.”

As I head into senior year, I am excited to see what the next chapter of my life will bring. When I begin my job search, I am going to make sure that I apply to jobs and fellowships that will take me out of the U.S. There is so much more to see, and so much more to explore. When we travel and truly immerse ourselves in another culture, I believe we become better people for it. In just a few short months in Rome, I have grown so much, and yes, there have been challenging moments, but it’s been incredible. And why wouldn’t you want that to keep happening? Of course, no one can know what their life will bring, so maybe Rome will be my one opportunity to live and travel like this. But, what I do know is that I am going to go back to the U.S. with a new mentality, one that is open to change and open to whatever life may bring. The world is a big big place, and I don’t want to make it any smaller than it needs to be!

Budgeting Tips for Rome

Standard

With each passing day in Rome, I feel like I learn more and more about how to live successfully in this city. So, for this post, I wanted to keep things more practical and discuss budgeting while in Rome. Studying abroad is such an amazing experience, and I want everyone to have this opportunity; I do know, though, that the thought of studying abroad, specifically affording a semester abroad, can seem daunting. But don’t let it overwhelm you! With careful planning, you can make it work!!
I myself am learning a LOT about what it means to effectively budget while here in Rome. If you read one of my first posts, you know that right before I came to Rome, my passport and visa got lost in the mail, and I had to pay lots of extra fees to get new copies, a new plane ticket, etc. Needless to say, that cut into a chunk of money I had saved up for Rome. But, instead of dwelling on the loss, I’ve just had to learn how to modify my spending habits. So, after over two months of living here (and with a bank account that has not hit zero yet), I feel qualified to share some tips and strategies I have learned. Of course, if you have any follow-up questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment box, and I will be sure to get back to you!
So, to begin: food. At my school back home, I normally have a meal plan, so my meals are taken care of for me. This, however, will not be the case in Rome. Unless you are in a homestay, Temple Rome students are responsible for all their meals. Some students choose to eat out for almost every meal, while others cook for each meal. It’s all about finding a balance, and seeing what works for you. I cook the majority of my meals, and then eat out once or twice on the weekends. I start by setting a weekly food budget, with a certain amount dedicated to groceries, and the remaining amount dedicated to eating out. I wrote a blog post on this a few weeks ago, but definitely, definitely buy your groceries at the market! It’s much cheaper, fresher, and the market has everything (literally, almost everything) you could need- from bananas, to trail mix, to saran wrap! Compared to the U.S., in Rome it is much easier to access fresh, healthy produce for cheap, so there’s no excuse not to make tasty meals!! I typically try to choose recipes that will last me throughout the week or that can be mixed up and used in a variety of dishes. That way, you get more bang for your buck.


Second: travel. A great part about being abroad is that if you want to travel on weekends, you certainly can, and fortunately, being in Europe, other countries are close by, which means travel expenses are typically cheaper. If you want to travel but want to minimize travel costs, I recommend traveling within Italy!! Rome, while great, is certainly not the only thing Italy has to offer; this country is beautiful, with tons of places to explore. If you travel within Italy, train tickets are often pretty affordable, and the train companies will have special weekend offers quite often. I have loved getting to see different cities of Italy, and seeing how they differ from Rome. If you want to travel outside of Italy, I recommend booking those plane tickets in advance, that way you can snag the cheaper prices/better deals! Also, final travel tip: if you want to save money over spring break, visit places where the cost of living is cheaper than in Rome. For example, I went to Prague, Kraków, and Budapest, where the cost of food/housing was significantly cheaper than in Rome. It was awesome to save a little money on those things, so I could splurge on the activities I did there.
Essentially, I am learning that it is all about balance. You can indeed live happily in Rome while still staying cognizant about money. Learn to hunt for the deals: at the street markets, dig through the giant piles of clothes to find a cool new sweater for 3 euros; keep a re-usable water bottle and use the free water aqueducts located all around the city; and, you may laugh when reading this, but bring enough pairs of underwear to last at least 2-3 weeks, so you can spend less money on laundry! I’m not kidding, I think this is the number one tip almost every student will give you!! But, all jokes aside, it is completely possible to live in Rome for cheap and still have a great time. It is Rome, after all- just walking around is a good time. But, do remember to treat yo’ self every once in a while, because hey, we’re in Rome, and sometimes…a girl’s gotta have her gelato.IMG_0515

Ciao for now- comment below if you have any questions or tips to add!!

Bisogna Porsi Degli Obiettivi (You Have to Set Goals for Yourself)

Standard

Bisogna porsi degli obiettivi. Meaning you have to set goals for yourself. I surely had intentions in mind when I decided to study abroad in Rome. Although it wasn’t exactly to master the Italian language, nor try every single pasta dish imaginable, I created perceived goals of what I wanted to accomplish while spending the semester in the Eternal City. And surely most students who study abroad should.

I would like to share some of my goals I have for myself while living in Rome, studying and navigating the city. I purposely chose to take courses that met on site and had field trips, so I would visit places I wouldn’t have seen on my own. I wanted to see different museums and sites that weren’t on the tourist to-do list. I wanted to have a better understanding of what I was looking at and know what was going during the time of its development. I wanted to be better at directions and independently find my way. I also wanted to not only accept the feeling of being lost, but embrace it. It’s okay to take the long way to the destination or wander aimlessly.

Personally, the main purpose of why I did study abroad was a testing ground. I have always been interested in living abroad, so study abroad was the closest way to try out the experience. Living in a foreign city for a few months has given me the opportunity to understand what to expect if I decide to live somewhere in Europe later on. Traveling around Italy and other countries has shown me the possibilities of what life could be like away from the United States.

A few weeks ago, Temple Rome hosted an event in which students met with ex-patriots, people who grew up in America and now live in a different country. These expats are living and working in Rome and gave insights about what it is like to live abroad. Some points that stuck out to me addressed the types of jobs available for new expats and when to make the transition. Some of the expats noted it’s common for people to first start out teaching English at schools or nannying; they also said it’s easiest to commit to living abroad right after graduating college because people are already in a transitioning stage. They pointed out that not knowing the language does make it more difficult to go about everyday errands and communicating with people, but social media helped many make friends where they were located. Some of the expats admit living away from family and friends can be lonely at times, but being in a beautiful location is rewarding. And their loved ones from home love to visit them often.

Overall, this experience of study abroad is incomparable to anything else I have done in my life. Although I am unsure if I will end up living abroad or where I will do it, being in Rome these past weeks has been eye opening to history, culture and the world beyond what I previously knew. I recommend the experience of studying abroad to anyone who is capable of doing it. The opportunity to live in Rome is something I will cherish forever.