Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Final Countdown

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My flight is approaching faster than I would like it to, but it hasn’t really hit me yet. I’ve tried as hard as possible not to think about getting on my final metro and bus rides to the train station and airport, respectively, but alas the time has come. As I slowly pack my bags and finish up my last assignments, I’m trying to catch every last glimpse of this beautiful city that I can.

This past week certainly went by faster than the others. As a participant in the pilot 4-week program, a lot of course content was very experimental in the use of the city of Rome as our classroom. This very aspect, however, of going out and seeing the sights and events we were discussing, is what made it so unique and interesting. There’s no experience like discussing the sociopolitical implications of the Vatican after having actually visited the museums as a class. Needless to say, I’ve had an extremely enjoyable time in the course. While Mosaics is traditionally seen as a course which is classroom heavy and writing intensive, experiencing it here in Rome didn’t make it seem like that at all. Of course we had our weekly assignments and a final project which included a reflection paper, but that was all dwarfed by the amazing class excursions we got to go on. Notably, this past week we visited the EUR district – Benito Mussolini’s take on contemporary Roman architecture in the mid 20th century – as well as the magnificent Galleria Borghese, an art gallery with priceless, exquisite paintings and sculptures. The class had an extra depth of engagement in our professor’s use of current events as they related to the course material. We discussed the pending election extensively, as well as educational rights issues gripping America today. On my own I got to visit Sicily and Bologna with my roommate. The Sicilian cities had a rustic Italian charm to them unperturbed by pop culture, and Bologna had a medieval flare which was intriguing to say the least.

My project in the course focused on the use of science and power in the construction of Western civilization especially with respect to the Roman Empire. Working on this project and having Rome as my backdrop was an experience unlike any I’ve ever had. In fact, after giving my final presentation, it’s tough for me to think of a time when I’ve felt more comfortable, knowledgeable, and excited to present on a topic which I knew almost nothing about just 2 weeks ago. After the presentations concluded, I decided to go out for one last panino (sandwich) and pizza at the cafes right across the block from campus for a quick, cheap lunch before heading home for a well deserved break. I found myself taking more time than I usually do to get home, however, in an effort to appreciate every tree lining the blocks and every old building that appeared in my sight.

With my flight Saturday, the name of the game now is to pack as well as possible and make sure I’m all set to head back. I’m hoping to be able to have one more Aperitivo (appetizer buffet) and gelato before I have my final night’s sleep in my apartment, and I definitely plan on savoring every moment of it. My final goodnight to this beautiful city and country will certainly be bittersweet. As much as I miss home and am looking forward to going back to my family, nothing can take away from the indescribable experience I’ve had in Rome these past 4 weeks.

Schoolwork and Adjustments

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As my 3rd week comes to a close, it’s tough not to reflect on the time I’ve spent in Rome up to this point. Since my program is only 4 weeks, a lot of work and experiences are condensed into a short amount of time, and considering this is the first year of implementation, many aspects are experimental. However, with proper planning and determination, any time of adjustment can be made easier.

My class, Honors Mosaics II, typically meets in the classroom for a few hours once a week (Wednesday) for in-class discussions on our texts. We generally read one book or major text per week and write notes and discussion posts about them. Furthermore, on Tuesday and Thursday, the whole class goes to a unique site in Rome which pertains to the text for that week. For instance, we visited The Vatican this past week in anticipation of reading Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, which we then discussed in class this past Wednesday. In this way, not only do we get to delve deep into the locations and texts, but we also get to explore every major part of Rome as a class, with all entrance fees and transportation passes included in the course fee. As a result, I get ample time on the weekends to travel outside of Rome to other Italian cities. Having visited Florence, Pisa, Milan, and Venice with my parents when they visited this past weekend, I certainly packed in a lot into a short amount of time. Nonetheless, the experience of touring all over the northern half of the country was amazing, and I even got to incorporate my travels in my class discussions!

As with any new place, there is a certain level of adjustment one needs to make to attain comfort. In Rome (and Italy in general), it is common for many stores and residences to not have A/C, so I find myself having to increasingly get by with fans. I did anticipate this, however, and prepared by living at home with no A/C the month before I flew in. What I had not anticipated as much, however, was how much I would have to plan for water. Since water isn’t free here, and in fact can be quite expensive at a restaurant or cafe, I find myself carrying a full water bottle with me everywhere I go. Thankfully, Temple Rome has a great water fountain in the building, and there are public fountains with clean water located all over the city. Surprisingly enough, the language adjustment – which many think to be the biggest one – was one I didn’t have much trouble with, partially because of my background in Spanish. While I don’t speak Italian well at all, Google Translate has helped in my endeavors to learn. In a pinch, I can use it to look up a phrase or ask a question, and as such I’ve quickly learned the most essential phrases (ex. where is, how much, how long).  It even gives me the option to save the Italian language offline for translations when I don’t have service! Of course, Google Maps has helped me tremendously as well, as it provides all necessary transit directions in every Italian city, and can also be saved offline.

As I approach my final week, there’s a strange bittersweet feeling slowly creeping into me. I’m definitely at a point where I miss being home in my familiar surroundings, but at the same time the reality that I’ll have to leave the wondrous adventure that is Rome is certainly disappointing. Fortunately, it’s nothing a good cup of gelato can’t solve! Our class this week will have visited the mysterious Catacombs of Callixtus, as well as the beautiful Museum of Villa Borghese. I’ll also be flying to Sicily this weekend with my roommate as well as visiting Bologna, so I still have some adventure ahead of me!

Journeys In and Outside the City

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In the short period of time I have in Rome, every event seems like it was forever ago, even though it may only have been a day or two. Every moment is a new memory, and every day is another adventure to be had. I’ve learned so much already about the culture, the people, and especially the food here that every new day excites me!

For our class’ first two field trips, we did a walking tour of the main historic center including the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain, followed by The Colosseum and Roman Forum. The Pantheon in particular is quite a marvelous sight. It’s one of the few monuments offering free entry in the city, and features the largest concrete dome in the world. All of the attractions were an amazing lesson in culture and history which predates most modern civilizations. One of the wonders of Rome is how well preserved many of the 2000+ year old buildings are, and it truly came through on our walks with the class.

After having had my first gelato in Rome 2 weeks ago at La Gelateria Romana (absolutely amazing by the way), I’ve tried so many new foods here. One of the best things this city does is Aperitivo, which loosely translates to appetizer, but it is much more than that. All you do is buy a drink which ranges from 6-10 Euro, and you get to enjoy an unlimited buffet of pizza, pasta, bread, and various sweets. Moreover, there’s many small bakeries and sandwich shops where you can get a Panino (sandwich) with anything you want for less than 3 Euros (there’s a fantastic one less than 2 blocks from campus)! Interestingly enough, the city is filled with halal eateries, mostly called “Istanbul Kebab,” which offer items similar to the halal trucks on Temple’s campus, so my cravings are never unfulfilled.

No study abroad program to Rome can be complete without travel around one of the world’s most beautiful countries, Italy. My roommate, Mike, and our friend Nikhil, embarked on a Journey to Naples this past Friday. There, we explored the magnificent cathedrals of Naples and toured the mysterious Galleria Barbonica. Nothing however, could beat the experience of eating at the number 1 rated pizzeria in the world, Da Michele. For just 4.50 Euros, we each got a massive pie, which was absolutely amazing. The following morning we visited Mt. Vesuvius, as well as the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii, all by train and bus. We capped off our trip to the south on Sunday with a visit to the Amalfi Coast by bus and boat, an unforgettable experience with scenic views out of this world. Then the next day we took a train to the medieval Tuscan town of Siena. It was nothing at all like Rome or Naples. There is an old, rustic feel to the town that really made it seemed trapped in the 15th century, and I felt a sense of calm as I walked down the narrow alleyways which were devoid of throngs of tourists.

I’ve realized so far that sleep is a secondary concern of mine on this trip. There is so much to see and do and time is such a luxury. My parents are actually visiting Italy right now so I am looking forward to this upcoming weekend with them. We shall be visiting Florence, Pisa, Milan, and Venice along with Rome so there will be lots to cover!