Today is October 9, exactly one month since I started classes at Temple Rome. And what a month it’s been! It’s hard to believe I arrived in the eternal city just over a month ago! I can’t tell if it feels like I’ve just left Boston, or if I’ve been in Rome for over a semester already.
I’ve experienced and learned a lot in Italy during my first month abroad. I like to think that I’ve grown considerably (in maturity and wisdom…not physically, i.e., sideways – all this walking keeps me in shape!) in this one month. I’m happy to take some time out of my busy class schedule to reflect on what I’ve learned since September.
Getting used to Rome was certainly a crucial experience by itself.
Adjusting to my apartment was unlike my housing situation in my first two years at Holy Cross – I had much more to work with but also much more to maintain. Chores and shopping every week. I’m used to doing chores for my family at home, but it feels different because they’re on the other side of the Atlantic. At least I can make dishes (like my favorite stews) in the kitchen. Just like Mom used to make. Surely makes me feel at home!
Figuring out the city and its sights was a lot easier thanks to the advice Temple Rome gave me during orientation. I learned how to get my monthly pass and how to take the Metro. I figured out the transportation system and can see places I had only seen in books and screens back home. It’s very fulfilling to see wonders like the Pantheon in person!
I’ve more or less gotten used to my schedule. I’m getting to know my professors and classmates better by the day. I love the interesting details I get from lectures and discussions, and I like staying after class to talk to my professors more about the topics we learn in class and about being in Rome in general. I also get to go on field trips for a lot of my classes this semester. What better way to learn about Rome than to see Rome itself?I’ve gotten a lot of suggestions about places to see on my own while I’m abroad this semester. I appreciate the heads-up on cool sights I can see at my own pace.
I also learned a lot about Italian and other European perspectives on certain topics such as race and immigration. Some are similar to perspectives I’ve listened to in the United States while others are unlike anything I’ve heard before. It’s good to enhance I also got to learn more about modern issues in Italy from events with guest speakers. So far, I’ve heard from activists and photojournalists focused on migration. Really adds to what I’m learning in my classes!
I admit that I do get homesick sometimes. I’ve called my family a few times since moving into the Residence. It’s nice to hear my parents’ voices and to get caught up on what’s happening back at home. I also made the space my own by taping postcards and setting up sentimental trinkets from the United States at my desk. I’ve put them alongside the expanding collection of new postcards I’ve been collecting every time I go to a new place in Italy. I also bought some international stamps (francobolli internazionali in Italian; it’s what I ask the cashier for in gift shops) so I can write to people in the United States.
These little bits of home and local comfort aren’t the only things I’ve kept close to me in Rome. I always leave the residence with some important things stored in a discreet travel belt that goes under my shirt. Passport (for identification – also needed for checking into hotels in Europe!), mini-wallet, cash, driver’s licence (my American ID), credit/debit cards, insurance cards, and apartment keys all stay close to me while I’m out and about.
I also got a stick-on phone wallet before I left the States. It’s been very handy in holding the cards I use the most: my monthly pass, my Residence Candia gate key, and Temple Rome ID. The detachable wrist strap is a nice bonus, too! I like being able to feel where my phone is at all times.
In addition to my locking backpack, I also have a crossbody camera bag that I carry my digital camera in. I like the security of having my precious camera by my side. I also have an anti-theft crossbody bag with locking zippers and a slash-proof body for my leisurely walks around the city.
I’m also glad I got an eye exam before I left and used my updated prescription to get not only a good pair of glasses, but also a handy pair of prescription sunglasses. I’m so happy that the sun and my nearsightedness can’t get in the way of enjoying the sights of the city! If you wear glasses and don’t have contact lenses, I highly recommend you invest in a pair of prescription of sunglasses! There are sights you don’t want to miss.
In addition to seeing places with my own eyes for the first time, I also tried a lot of new things. I tried a classic Roman dish for the first time last month; carbonara is my favorite dish by far. I also went to a Roman salon for the first time. I liked talking with Federico, the local English-speaking hairdresser, about being in Rome. It was interesting to hear what he had to say, too.
I’m proud of how much I learned from my first semester abroad. I’m happy with how much of the city I’ve been picking up, piece-by-piece, as I explore my home for the semester. I’m learning new things every day, and that’s not limited to new Italian phrases I see and hear on my way to class – I’m learning more about myself and how I’m adapting and growing in a new environment. I look forward to applying my new skills (and new Italian skills) in my next two months in Rome! Ciao for now! A dopo! (See you soon!)