Monthly Archives: August 2016

Approaching Preparation for Rome

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As I’m preparing to leave for Rome, I’m starting to realize that preparation is simply decision making. In some ways, thinking of preparation this way makes it easy to stomach: it’s just one choice at a time. You decide to practice tirelessly for a performance or recital; you decide to study in the most effective way for a final exam; you decide to sit in silence as you brainstorm for your next big project. Preparing for a semester abroad in Rome means that I have a lot of decisions to make. How much stuff should I bring? Four pairs of leggings or three? How do I budget my time and money? I’ve come to realize that the most important question, the one I’m still thinking over in the shower, is what type of experience do I want to have? This is the essential question of every type of preparation: Do I want to do well during this performance? Do I want to ace this final? Do I want my next big project to be outside of the box?

Obviously, I can’t control everything about this trip; there is no magical button I can press to ensure that I have a great time, all the time. However, I can control my attitude, the people I surround myself with, and the chances I take. If I put myself out there and speak Italian, if I go shopping mostly at a market in a piazza rather than a supermarket—these choices will shape my experience. A “full experience” (whatever that means to you) will not just come to me. I must go out and seek it for myself. There’s legwork and risk in truly experiencing another culture. I could approach Italy with a surface-level amount of immersion and exposure, or I could really delve into its personality. Of course, it’s a lot easier to convince myself to take chances when I am sitting comfortably in my Pennsylvanian-Suburban bedroom; but this is the preparation everyone traveling to a new place should be going through.

In many ways, these types of decisions are more difficult to make than most because no one knows how things will turn out before they happen. Maybe on the plane, I will feel a sudden nervousness and sense of fear that will cause me to stay in my shell throughout the entire trip. Maybe I’ll find that I am braver than I thought. The scariest part about this decision is that whatever experience I have while abroad ultimately says something about me as a person, about my sense of adventure and spontaneity. While most decisions say something about you as a person, this one has a lot of gravity to it. My time in Rome will show me how I deal with change and unfamiliarity, how well I can handle being alone or lost and communicating with someone who doesn’t speak the same language I do.

I’m not saying that this trip will change my life. I’m saying that it could. And no matter what I choose, it will be different. No, not everything will be perfect. But, I’m making the choice to learn about Italy, Europe, and, hopefully, myself as well. I’m putting myself in the mental state to speak Italian and make mistakes, travel and navigate in an unfamiliar space, and confront Rome face-to-face.

Final Thoughts

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I’m back home! After an extremely early morning, delayed flight, excessive line at customs, and 3 hour train journey from New Jersey, it feels good to be back home with my family. I can’t help but think about my study abroad experience every single day. I find myself comparing each aspect of my life here to how it would’ve been back in Rome. The food is absolutely different, and it’s strange not having to translate everything before I speak. It’s even weird to see bigger cars, considering most cars in Italy were Smart Car size. Nevertheless, after finishing the experience of a lifetime, there are some major points that I think summarize not only the experience I had, but key facts I believe would be important for anyone to know before going on a month long study abroad journey to Italy (or any country for that matter).

Have a good credit/debit card – Keeping a debit card with you which has no ATM and no foreign transaction fees can be extremely useful. When my parents visited halfway through the program, my dad brought me a Charles Schwab Online Banking Debit Card which has no fees whatsoever, and is free and easy to acquire. It made getting cash stress free and easy!

Bring lots of snacks – Having snacks like bars and protein shakes was immensely useful on those mornings when I didn’t have time to grab my usual cornetto al ciocolatto (croissant filled with chocolate). It also helped keep me going through the day on long class excursions when we didn’t have time to stop for food.

Keep a strong bag and water bottle – I had a very large, sturdy water bottle which didn’t leak that I was able to fill up whenever I wanted at one of Rome’s many public water fountains. Since water at most restaurants in Italy wasn’t free, having my bottle with me wherever I went was extremely useful. Moreover, having a small but strong bag to keep some necessary items in (water, snacks, chargers, etc.) was invaluable to my survival around the country.

Backup your photos often – Most of us will use our phones as our main cameras, and as someone who doesn’t take pictures much even I took thousands of photos. I personally used OneDrive to automatically backup all the photos I took, but I know both iCloud and Google+ work really well also (and the latter is completely free). It was certainly relieving to be able to delete photos at the end of every day and having space to take hundreds more throughout the week.

Bring a reliable portable charger/battery pack – It’s 2016, and for many of us our phones are almost like lifelines (or at least mine is for me). I had a portable charger (read: battery pack) with me everywhere I went which carried one full charge for my phone. As I used my phone much more often in Italy than I do at home (directions, translations, transportation schedules, etc), I also found my phone dying faster than usual. My portable battery pack was a lifesaver many times, and the only thing I regret is not having one with a larger capacity!

Purchase cosmetics in advance – In Italy, things like soap, shampoo, and especially sun-screen are exponentially more expensive than they are in America, so being well prepared and having the right amount of these things is crucial. Moreover, most electronics are exponentially more expensive as well, so plan ahead!

I tried my best not to repeat tips that I gave in previous blog posts. Thinking back on the month I had, it’s certainly been one of the most memorable of my whole life. People are already having conversations with me about my trip. Unfortunately, when I tell them in return “you should study abroad!” most responses are in the realm of “I don’t have time” or “I don’t know how I could.” This has shown me that it is never to early to walk into Temple’s study abroad office, even if you’re 2% interested in studying abroad, and firing away any questions you have for the wonderful staff there. I’ve realized how truly privileged I am as a Temple student, having campuses in some of the most beautiful cities in the world (especially Rome). For anyone looking for the most fulfilling undergraduate experience, look no further than the Study Abroad Office and the opportunities they offer. I’m still beaming ear-to-ear just thinking about my experience. Thank you all for reading my blogs, I hope reading about my tips and experience helps you have a more enjoyable time with yours!