Monthly Archives: January 2017

Mia Famiglia a Roma!

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This past Friday was an especially eventful day for me here in Italy! My day started off with  an excursion with my Roman Art History class to the beautiful town of Tivoli. Not only did I get to learn about the rich history and exciting architecture of Tivoli, I got the opportunity to visit the site where one of my favorite movies of all time was filmed: The Lizzie McGuire Movie. I would be lying if I denied that Lizzie McGuire was part of my inspiration to come to Rome and I’m pretty positive her Italian adventure was what made me fall in love with Italy at such a young age. I mean who doesn’t want to ride on the back of a moped with a handsome Italian man and become an international pop star? This may not have happened to me in Italy (yet), but I did get to walk through the jaw dropping Villa d’Este, also known as the Tivoli Gardens. You might remember Lizzie and Paolo having a romantic chat under one of the waterfalls in this garden in the film. My jaw dropped when we entered the incredible garden; I had never seen anything like it. It was HUGE. I was surrounded by greenery and astounding fountains everywhere I looked. I may not have met my Paolo there, but still, I can’t complain.

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When I got home to Rome that night, I was greeted by my brother! My brother works at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia teaching English. He decided to take his week off in between semesters to come visit me in Rome and I couldn’t wait to see him! Since he works outside of the country, I had not seen him since the summer, so a reunion was long overdue. And what better place than Rome! You should know that my brother has been to probably over 30 countries at this point in his life, but never Italy. HA! Beat him to that one. While I have only been in Rome a few weeks and am by no means an expert on the city yet, I was looking forward to showing my brother around my new home for the semester. Of course, we had to visit all of the must-see spots in Rome, so we took a trip to the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon.

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One thing my brother and I share in common: we LOVE food! We’ve already been trying plenty of delicious food here in Rome. We had all kinds of pasta, sampled plenty of meats and cheeses (there is no ham in Saudi Arabia so my brother couldn’t wait to get some good prosciutto), pizza, gelato, and a delicious dessert with rhum baba! It is basically a rum sponge cake paired with hazelnut icecream, chocolate, and whipped cream, so essentially heaven to your tastebuds.

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We also went out for one of my favorite Italian specialties, aperitivo. Aperitivo is like Italian happy hour. You pay one time, usually around 10 euro, and you get a drink and an unlimited buffet of delicious foods! Make sure you choose your restaurant for aperitivo wisely. Some restaurants and bars offer only small snacks like nuts and chips, while others have an entire spread that you can turn into dinner! It also gives a chance to try some new tasty cocktails.

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Having my brother visit me in Rome for the week has been great and we still have a few days left together to explore the city. Although I may no longer be in the city of brotherly love, I am feeling the brotherly love here in Rome!

 

Totally in Love with Todi

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     The moment I landed on Italian soil, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Traveling to Italy has been a dream for me since I was a little boy and that dream has finally become a reality. This first week in Italy has been full of pure joy, uncomfortable situations, absolute awe, culture shock, and beauty. Our orientation week was packed full of events including a tiramisu extravaganza, a visit from the US Embassy in Rome, a scavenger hunt and walking tour around the city, and of course free time to explore. However, my favorite part of orientation week was visiting the gorgeous town of Todi.

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     Todi is a tiny Medieval hill town in Umbria, Italy. We visited this past Saturday and had the opportunity to look inside the incredible cathedrals, wander the cobblestone streets, take in the astounding hill top view, and of course, grab a cappuccino. It is important to note that you should never order a cappuccino after lunch. Order a cappuccino at 8pm and Italians will look at you like you are crazy. Also, you should know that if you order a latte, you won’t get what you expect. Order a latte, and you will just end up with a cup of steamed milk. If you want what we consider a latte in the United States, then order a caffe latte. After some trial and error, I have finally learned how to properly order coffee in Italy.

So finally after enjoying my cappuccino in Todi and seeing the sights, we took a short bus ride to Titignano, where I discovered an even more beautiful view. We arrived at our destination in Titignano, a gorgeous castle where we would soon enjoy the meal of a lifetime. As we ate our antipasti, I was in complete awe of the view from the hilltop. It was beautifully green as far as the eye could see with a winding river coursing through the various mountains. No picture does it justice. Finally, we were ready to go inside and begin the rest of our meal.

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     As I sat down, I knew I would have to pace myself for the many courses we were about to be served. We started off with tasty cheese and meats before moving on to pasta. Next was a scrumptious rice with my personal favorite vegetable, asparagus. Then we had our main course of meats including deer, lamb, and chicken. Each one was delicious and we also had incredible wines to enjoy with our meal because it isn’t a real Italian dinner without wine! I learned to start with white wine and then move on to red. Never go from red to white or switch back and forth. After the main course, came dessert which included tiramisu and biscotti. I will admit that this tiramisu was much better than the tiramisu I made during our tiramisu extravaganza at orientation. Paired with dessert was a dessert wine which was very sweet, but perfect to dip your biscotti in. I was completely stuffed, but all of the food and wine was so amazing that it was totally worth it. If you can’t tell, I’m very passionate about food and wine so this was a perfect way to spend one of my first days in Italy. Our meal was also topped off with an enormous cake celebrating Temple University Rome’s 50th anniversary and a shot of espresso. I think I’m slowly becoming a coffee addict.

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     After our meal, I walked outside again to find that the sun was setting over the mountain tops. This unbelievable view after probably the best meal of my life took my breath away. I stared out over the horizon and took it all in as I thought to myself what an incredible semester lies ahead in Italy.

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Leaving Home (Take Two)

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My first day of college was, by all means, a complete disaster.

I was miserable being away from home. Every few hours I would lock myself in a stall in the communal bathroom of my freshman dorm to cry and play Candy Crush on my phone. I missed New York, I missed my family. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or get to know my new surroundings, I wanted to go home. When I wasn’t crying, I was trying to figure out the soonest I could get there.

Turns out, I needn’t have worried. I quickly adapted to life in Philadelphia. I learned where to get food, how to use the subway, and even how to successfully order a cheesesteak without completely giving myself away as an out-of-towner. I began to like the city I once hated, and I stopped feeling like a stranger there. I am by no means like a local, but for most of the year, Philadelphia has become my home.

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A skyline view of Philly from the PMA- my favorite weekend place for some peace and quiet

And so with my confidence boosted by my ability to learn Philly in two short years, I decided to go even further- to Rome.

I was not ready.

Having forgotten my initial reaction to Philadelphia, the instant homesickness was a surprise.  The shock from that was probably worse than my culture shock. What am I doing missing home? I’m in Italy! There’s no time for homesickness when there’s museums to visit, ruins to see, and gelato to eat!

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Don’t worry- homesickness aside, I am seeing those sights!

I felt incredibly out of place, and I didn’t know what I was doing here. Why had I bothered to come, if I was just going to wish for home?

I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. On some level, I know that I’m here to go to school. I am here to learn, to practice my Italian, and to fulfill a decade-long dream of coming to Rome. For right now, I just don’t know my place here. But I have time.

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Getting lost is never fun, but finding streets like these can make you feel less bad about it

I can feel myself making progress, though. I’ve figured out the subway (or metro, as it’s called here), and two (of many) bus lines. I can make my way around the areas by school and the residence, I’m learning where to go to eat, and I’m seeing the sights. The nerves that would make a trip around the block feel like a marathon are lessening, and I’m beginning to feel comfortable. I can’t wait until I feel as at home on the streets of Rome as I do in Philadelphia or New York.

For now, though, I’m just taking each day as it comes. I’m appreciating every day that the trip to school gets easier, or every time I don’t need to check my map to find a place for dinner. I’m excited to see what this semester brings me, but I know there’s no rushing it. (According to most people, it will go fast enough as it is). And maybe by next week’s post, I’ll have made more progress in integrating into Roman life! Until then, ciao amici!

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And of course, sunsets like these make the homesickness sting a little less

Saying “Ciao!” to the City of Brotherly Love

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Over the past three years, Philadelphia and Temple University have truly become my home. As I prepare to leave for Rome, I am filled with excitement, but a part of me will still miss the charms of Philadelphia. I’ll miss walking through the beautiful Magic Gardens, finding a new piece of art every time. I’ll miss going to Reading Terminal Market to get a pastrami sandwich. I’ll miss walking through the Christmas Village, shopping for trinkets and eating delicious pretzels. I’ll miss those warm summer nights gazing up at the stars from a hammock in Spruce Street Harbor Park.

I have made sure to soak up as much of Philadelphia and Temple as I could before I depart for the Eternal City on January 9th. Part of that experience included going to possibly my last tailgate at a Temple football game. It was great to be surrounded by loved ones, full of Temple pride and cheering on our Owls! There is something special about looking out at the sea of cherry and white, singing the Temple fight song together that I will always remember.

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Another part of Temple I had to experience again before I leave was performing in a Temple Theaters main stage production. As a theatre major, I usually perform in one production each semester, and this fall I was ecstatic to be a part of the cast of Hairspray! The cast of Hairspray truly became like family. Not only did we spend countless hours together in rehearsal, and have a blast singing and dancing together, but every night we got on that stage, we had the joy of telling a story about love and acceptance. Sharing that story with the audience meant the world to us and it was especially needed now.

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I have also begun to prepare for my time in Rome by starting Italian language lessons on the app Duolingo. I have no prior experience with Italian and I want to learn as much as I can during my four months there, so I decided to get a head start! While I am in Rome, I will be taking an intensive, eight credit Italian course. I hope to become as fluent as possible in Italian and cannot wait to meet and talk to native Italian speakers. I have found the app Duolingo to be extremely helpful and would recommend it to anyone looking to learn a new language!

While a lot of my personal preparation to leave for Rome has been experiencing as much fun as Temple and Philadelphia has to offer, it has not all been fun. Preparing to go abroad can be overwhelming and stressful at times. Applying for a student visa can seem like an enormous undertaking and trying to find an apartment in another country may feel impossible. It is also challenging to balance school while working endless hours each week to save money to go abroad. Plus, buying plane tickets is no easy feat for a poor college student. Although it may sometimes feel like preparing to go abroad is exhausting on top of our busy lives as students, I promise it is more than worth it. I have been abroad one other time before and it was the most incredible experience of my life. I cannot wait to have this longer, more immersive experience abroad and a little bit of preparation is a small price to pay for the experience of a lifetime.

It is hard to believe that I leave for Rome in just a few days, but I could not be more excited! While I am going to miss Temple and the City of Brotherly Love, I feel prepared and look forward to exciting new adventures in Roma!