In my last post, I had just arrived home and started to reflect on my semester abroad. There is so much to unpack from my time in Rome, both figuratively and literally!
I’ve been asking my friends, followers, and viewers online for questions they’d like to ask me about my time abroad, and let me say that you all did not disappoint! Thank you for your questions! Here are my answers to them.
Question: How did you choose a study abroad program?
When I was on campus, studying abroad was a something I hear a lot about! As a first-year, I heard older students talking about how they either planned to go abroad or had just returned from their time away from campus. I attended the Study Abroad Fair and got to hear first-hand accounts from students who had studied in different places. I learned more about specific programs through formal information sessions and through one-on-one appointment with the Office of Study Abroad.
I worked with both my Study Abroad advisor and my academic advisors to find a program that was right for me. I took into consideration my goals for the future. As a double-major, I had to look through multiple program catalogs to find one that would best help immerse me in another culture while still keeping me on track with my academic plans. I created several courseloads that would work with my two majors and looked at programs in more detail from there.
I chose Temple Rome because Rome was the best fit for my plans and interests. As a Classics major, I had always wanted to see the things I had studied for so long come to life in front of me. I started learning Latin in middle school and delved deeper into the world of the ancient Romans in high school. I loved seeing ancient artifacts and learning about the people whose language I was studying in museums.
At Holy Cross, I expanded my views of the ancient world beyond Rome: there were so many other cultures and peoples to explore in the ancient Mediterranean! I knew from my ancient history classes that ancient Rome had expanded into the largest civilization in the region and incorporated the cultures and histories of the lands it covered into the empire. And I had a chance to study in the city that was once the center of such a large expanse of land. I wanted to go to Rome not only to learn about not only the ancient Romans, but also to look for the influences of other cultures in the city and beyond.
My other major, psychology, impacted my decision as well. I learned about the beginnings of developmental psychology in my introductory psychology classes, and a name I remember seeing often was Montessori. I looked up this name, and it turns out that Maria Montessori was an Italian physican who devised the Montessori method of education for the underprivledged children of Rome in the early 1900s! I was lucky enough to have seen where the method had started in the San Lorenzo district in the city, an area I had explored in not a psychology course, but in my political science course! I’m glad I got to walk through history for not only my Classics degree, but also for my studies in psychology as well.
Question: What was the most unexpected experience you had during your time abroad?
There were so many unexpected things that happened while I was abroad I don’t know where to start! I had two travel-related mishaps, one when I missed my bus to Pompeii because of construction on the Roma Metro (a misadventure I made the most of here) and the other when my flight back to Rome was pushed a day back because of aviation strikes (transportation strikes are common in Italy) and I stayed an extra night at a hastily-booked room in Catania, Sicily.
An unexpected experience I had in Rome was when I used three languages in one day while walking through the Nuovo Mercato Esquilino at Piazza Vittorio (an adventure I wrote about here). I heard a lot of the merchants say “Ni hao!” (“Hello!”) to me in Chinese (a language I didn’t think I would hear much of in Italy). My professor’s friend, Omar, who works at a butcher stand in the market, asked me a few questions in Chinese! It took me a moment to switch from English to Chinese to respond to him, and even longer for me to switch back to English to talk to my classmates, and later from English to Italian for Italian class! I was not expecting a trilingual experience that day!
Question: What are some highlights from visiting Florence?
When I went to Florence for a weekend in October, I liked seeing how different the place was from a city like Rome! The streets were less crowded and more colorful, with distinct architecture and art from the Renaissance. My favorite place was Ponte Vecchio, where I got to see an amazing sunset! The pictures I took from that short trip are some of the best ones I took from my entire semester abroad. The photo of the sunset in Florence was also one of the prints I gave away for my fundraiser; it was very popular in the Temple Rome community!
Another highlight from my trip to Florence was the food. I had heard of Tuscan cuisine in the United States, but I had never tried until October! I tried charcuterie for the first time in Florence and loved the local pizza and pasta as well. I even got to try something new in the Mercato Centrale on my last day there! One of my former professors who read my post about Florence said I was “adventurous” for trying fried rabbit there! It’s fun to try new things.
Question: Did you have a new favorite food you tried?
This is a hard question: I had so much good food abroad! While I loved trying regional dishes in the places I visited (cannoli and chinotto in Sicily, sarde in saor in Venice, and so on), I have to say my favorite food from the semester is a tried and true Roman classic: carbonara. I tried the dish of pasta, eggs, pancetta (pork belly), and pecorino cheese (the local sheep’s cheese in Rome) several times, both near Via Flaminia behind campus and farther away from the center of the city. My favorite carbonara was at the seaside restaurant I went to in Ostia. I giggle to myself every time I think about the ingredients, because I can imagine trying to make an omelette from bacon, cheese, and eggs at home!
Question: What was your favorite lunch place around campus?
Yet another hard question! So many good places to eat lunch around campus. Almost every day, I looked for places to eat along Via Flaminia and tried a few different ristoranti (larger places to sit down and eat) and trattorie (places to get a quick bite of pizza or sandwiches.) I’d say my go-to place behind campus was Alice Pizza, a pizza chain with a lot of choices! I got to try classics I’ve tried in the United States like the margherita (tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese) and tried new toppings like prosciutto (sliced ham) and roasted melanzane (eggplants). Orders are priced by weight and heated up in the oven while you pay.
Question: Any activity recommendations besides just sightseeing and eating?
A very important question! While there is so much to see and eat while abroad, it is also important to get involved with local activities at school as well.
When I was at Temple Rome, I got notifications about upcoming events and could access places I could sign up for them. We all signed up for Italian cultural labs, which could be anything from exploring in the historic markets of the city to learning Italian with dogs to listening to Italian music!
Some of my classmates volunteered at local places like high schools near campus or the refugee center further downtown. Others signed up to play calcetto (soccer) or basketball after classes. I was lucky enough to sign up for the last cooking class of the semester. Making pasta by hand was hard, but it was lot of fun and definitely worth it in the end!
We also got to attend special lectures on campus about issues we wouldn’t have learned about otherwise. I went to a discussion about race in Italy and met Susanna, an Afro-Italian activist who shared how she found her identity in Rome. I got to plan my own activity on campus through my fundraiser for QuestaèRoma, the organization Susanna works with. (Read about how I planned this project here.) I’m grateful to Temple Rome for their support through my independent project. I’m glad we could make something wonderful happen for the holidays!
Those are all the questions I got for this Q&A! Do you have anything else to ask me? Leave a comment below, and we’ll see if I get enough questions for another short Q&A next month as well. Happy New Year!
That’s right: I’ve returned home after my semester abroad! It feels strange, not writing this from Rome. The last time I published a blog post in the United States was back in September, on the day before I caught my flight to Fiumicino Airport.
As I unpack the many things I brought with me from Rome, I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience abroad. So many sensations – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches – from just three and a half months in another country! The whole semester was a lot to take in and a lot of fun to explore!
I had a hard time packing my suitcases on my flight back to Boston, I can’t believe I got so much stuff! I paid a little extra for my checked bag because it was over the weight limit.
I’m slowly but surely recovering from jetlag. There is a six-hour time difference between Rome and Boston. It took me three days of naps to readjust to Eastern Standard Time.
I miss Temple Rome already. I smile every time I think about the people I met there. A lot of good memories! How time flies.
In the three days of re-orienting myself to my hometown, I looked through all of my previous blog posts and all of my favorite photos. I decided that it would be a waste not to combine the two and create a digital record of my experiences. Why not make a video of my adventures this semester?
On Christmas day, I did just that! Check it out right here!
As I continue to reflect on my time abroad, I think it’ll be nice to hear from you, my readers, about what you would like me to write about in my next post. (I’m thinking about publishing a little Q&A based on what you would like to ask me.)
Leave a comment, and I’ll either respond to it on this post or include it in the future as I continue to look back on my experiences. It may take a little bit for comments to appear on my post, but be assured that I do take every bit of feedback I get! Can’t wait to hear what you would like me talk about as a study abroad blogger.
I blinked, and it is now finals week at Temple Rome! I am taking a breather halfway through my exams.
One of my favorite ways to recharge after a big test is to look at pictures of my favorite things. After some thought, I’ve decided to share some photos from one of my favorite adventures in Italy: my trip to Sicily during Fall Break.
I spent three days on the east coast of the island, which was only a short flight away from Rome. I started in Catania, the destination of my flight. I met a friend at the airport and we went to the center of the city together. We saw the Piazza del Duomo, a large space with churches, statues, and bubbles.
I was intrigued to read that Sicily was once settled by the ancients Greeks and Romans, and I saw clear evidence of this at the Roman Theater in the city! My friend and I explored the ruins of the structure, which dates back to 300 B.C.E. What I found most interesting was the fact that this space was once an ancient Greek theater. The Romans built on top of it later on. It was quite an experience, knowing that I was sitting where people from different civilizations across time sat to enjoy plays in the city.
I was also very happy to make a new friend in the theater: an adorable cat I saw wandering the ruins! It turns out that the ladies at the front desk have two cats that like to walk around the place. I really missed my own cat at home, so it was nice to pet a feline friend in Catania.
We stopped by a local pastry shop to try a Sicilian specialy: a cannolo! Yes, I mean cannolo: the term “cannoli” I hear in the United States is actually the plural form! Cannolo is the singular! I got one with ricotta cheese and pistachios! Yum!
We went back to the Piazza to look at a few churches. We stopped at the Chiesa della Badi di Sant’Agata, which had rooftop access for a small fee. I climbed up so many stair that day. The view was worth the climb! (This is why you don’t skip leg day!)
For dinner, we found an interesting restaurant that had underground seating near a creek! You bet we got seats there! I read in a book I bought as a souvenir that the east coast of Sicily was thought to be where the cyclopes, the one-eyed giants of Greek mythology, lived in their caves.
How fitting that we were dining in a cave of sorts like the cyclopes did! Although I know that the cyclopes wouldn’t have had the same taste for fresh seafood and Sicilian chinotto, a carbonated beverage made from a local type of citrus, that I had developed. I am also not a one-eyed giant.
My friend and I tried more Sicilian food the next morning, when we tried arancini (plural for arancino). I was curious about how it was possible to deep-fry a mixture of rice, cheese, and other fillings to an iconic golden-orange. (The word “arancino” is related to “arancione,” the Italian word for orange.) Arancini are everywhere in Sicily, and it wasn’t hard to find them in stores.
Our next stop was Taormina, an hour away north of Catania. The small town is very high in the mountanious Sicilian terrain, at a lofty 204 m (670 feet) above sea level. It is famous for its massive Greek Theater. It was much bigger than the Roman theater we saw in Catania, and it had a much better view of the coastline.
My friend and I also bought tickets for an unlimited hop-on-hop-off bus in Taormina. What an amazing view as we went further up the mountain!
We stopped at Castelmola, which was an area 529 meters (a whopping 1,736 feet!) above sea level. It was a quaint little place full of artisan shops. There was a lot of handmade jewelry on sale, a lot which was made with volcanic rock from the Mt. Etna, which is a popular souvenir in the area.
After lunch at Castelmola, we rode the bus along the shore. We passed through a region called Naxos Giardini, which was an early Greek settlement. I had fun reading some ancient Greek in the massive sign that said “ΝΑΞΟΣ” (“NAXOS” in the Roman alphabet). I enjoyed the sea breeze blowing on my face and through my hair as I took in all the sights and smells of the Sicilian shore. How it reminds me of Santa Marinella!
I also caught a glimpse of the sunset on the way back to the bus stop. What a breathtaking view to end the day in Taormina!
Our last stop in our three-day trip was the city of Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian), which was an hour’s bus ride to the south of Catania. We started our adventure there in the southern part of the city, the island of Ortygia. The name is Greek, and there are signs of ancient Greek settlement there. We saw the massive ruins of the Temple of Apollo just across the bridge. According to the sign, it was built in the 6th century B.C.E. It was a lot to take in!
We headed toward a new yet familiar sight: another Piazza Duomo! This is the second one we’ve seen in Sicily, the first one being in Catania. We looked inside the old churches and even caught a glimpse of some Carvaggio paintings displayed there for special exhibits!
After lunch, we headed back north and walked to the Archaeological Park of Neapolis (Parco Archaeologico della Neapolis). There were even more ancient ruins there. I got to walk the same paths as ancient figures such as the Syracusan general Hiero II did; I saw his famous altar in the park.
We saw not one, but two more ancient theaters in Syracuse! There is a Greek theater on a hill with all of its seats and foundations still intact, and the Roman theatre on the other side of the park is overrun with grass.
The most interesting sight of the day had to be a cave called “Orecchio di Dionisio,” or “the Ear of Dionysius.” I read that Dionysius of Syracuse was a tyrant who was fond of keeping his prisoners trapped in the cave, where he could hear every word they said as the sound echoed against their stone surroundings. Every step I took echoed through the entire cave, and I could hear other people speaking from further inside. Eerie!
We went to the famous Museo Archaeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi, one of the most important archaeological museums in Europe! We walked through a garden of sculptures to get to the entrance, which seems unassumming at first, but houses an incredibly large collection of Sicilian artifacts inside.
I was taken aback by the sheer number of items on display inside the museum. There were remains of ancient flora and fauna from prehistoric times and remnants of the earliest human settlers in Sicily in the exhibits! The collection of Greek and Roman artifacts was impressive as well. So much in one place!
I learned a lot about Sicily through the interactive screens in the exhibits. I got to look at different maps that showed the history of the island. It’s amazing how much happened in just one city like Catania or Syracuse over centuries. Sicily was colonized by different ancient civilizations, with ancient Greece being one of the earliest. It was also a place of conflict between powers, such as during the Punic Wars, when ancient Rome fought against Carthage in north Africa for control over strategic areas of the island. Fascinating how so many civilizations impacted the development of the place! The plethora of artifacts in the museum spans across all the different cultural influences in ancient Sicily.
Before I headed back to Rome the next day, I stopped by a small café at the airport to try one last Sicilian specialty: cassata! I’ve never tried a cake with ricotta cheese before, and I was surprised at how crunchy the slice was! I’m used to soft icing in the United States, so the unexpected crunch of the sweet shell on top was amusing.
I did some reading about Sicilian food while waiting for my flight, and it turns out that a lot of traditional Sicilian pastries and sweets originated from elsewhere! Cassata became popular under the Muslim era of Sicily in the beginning of the first millenium C.E. Cannoli may also have been from this time as well. Fascinating to see how different cultural influences melded into one cuisine in modern Sicily!
Finally, I boarded my plane back to Rome. I took one last glance of the Sicilian landscape below and then saw the beginnings of mainland Italy. Ciao, Sicilia! It was a pleasure visiting over fall break. You were one of my favorite trips abroad. I miss your warm weather.
December: my last month in Rome! Time and time again, I stop to wonder: where has all the time gone?
Three months ago, on September 9, I had my first day of classes. And now here I am, attending my final classes for the semester, taking care of big projects and papers, and preparing for final exams.
I don’t know how to feel about this day. It feels like only yesterday I published my first monthly reflection. I thought my October 9 post was a good landmark of where I was in my semester abroad, so I was happy to write another one on November 9. Today, December 9, will be my last monthly reflection on this blog. I guess I would say that this is quite a bittersweet moment as I sit at my desk and write this on my computer.
A lot has happened in the past month. I went on my first class trip to a different country (read about my adventures in Lisbon here) and got to see my parents in Italy over Thanksgiving break. I really missed Mom and Dad this semester. I talk to them on the phone sometimes and saw them through the occasional video call.
I picked them up at Termini station after they flew to Rome from Boston. Mom says that I’ve changed a lot since they dropped me off at the airport in August. I can owe part of that the haircut and the sense of fashion I’ve picked up in Rome (clothes seem to fit better on me here), but deep down, I can tell that I’ve grown a lot from my experiences learning to be independent in a foreign country.
I showed Mom and Dad the major sights in Rome. We saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountains, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon.. We went back to the Colosseum a few days later to get tickets to go inside. I was happy to tell them all the things I learned about the place in class. In a way, I was like their personal tour guide!
We also saw the Vatican Museums (which is right behind my apartment in the Residence) and went to Venice on Thanksgiving Day (read about going to the Floating City during flood season here). My parents were in just as much awe as I was the first I saw Italy. Even at the end of the semester, there is always another sight and experience else to take in.
I turned 21 on the last day of November, and I am glad I got to celebrate it with my family. The sun was shining on that wonderful Saturday afternoon, and I got to rent a boat in the Parco di Villa Borghese (a short walk from Flaminio station near Temple Rome’s campus).
I had gone to the park before and have always wanted to get a closer look at the ancient Greek temple in the center of the pond, but I couldn’t rent a boat unless I had at least one other person with me. With Mom and Dad there with me, I got the row a boat on my birthday! It took a while for me to figure out how to row, but once I got the hang of it, it was smooth sailing from there!
Mom and Dad treated me to dinner at a local Italian restaurant, where I got to show them how much Italian I had learned in the past three months. They were impressed at how I spoke to the waiter without using any English.
I’ve surely come a long way from my basic phrases of “survival Italian” at the beginning of the semester! I’ve been speaking to the Residence staff in Italian almost every day, and they say that I’ve improved as well. I like to tell them about my day and ask how they’re doing.
I’ve also been getting involved with events in the Temple Rome community. I was often given the task of photographing events both on and off-campus, and from my year as a student photographer I gained a lot of experience with my camera from my duties. I helped my professor take pictures throughout the Lisbon, and I think word of my photography skills reached a few others in the community.
I was invited to photograph a long-time staff member’s retirement party. I was very happy to help out like I had at Holy Cross earlier this year. And what perfect timing: I had found out about the retirement while I was in Lisbon, and I happened to walk past a nice cherry-red (Temple University’s school color) handbag in the shopping mall on my last day in Portugal. You bet I bought it as a retirement gift!
It is my token of appreciation for Mrs. Morelli’s kindness when I first arrived in August. She was also one of my first fans: several of the Temple Rome have come across my blog and read my posts! Mrs. Morelli liked my post about Santa Marinella the most. She said that it made her feel 20 years old again. As a new 21-year old, I can confirm that I too feel 20 years old when I re-read my posts. She seemed amused when I said that during my speech before giving her my present.
My photography isn’t limited to events, though. I’ve taken a lot of pictures on my travels and had a hard time picking just two for the student art exhibition. I was surprised to see my photographs on display outside of the faculty offices on campus! I’ve gotten a lot of praise for my pictures. Some people even asked if I was selling prints of these! I’m very flattered that the community likes my work!
I have taken all the feedback I’ve gotten into deep consideration, and I am working on something I can do for the with these photos. What do I have in mind? We’ll have to wait and see!
I’ll leave you with a set of photographs I’ve taken throughout the semester. Every month, I have taken a picture of the postcards and books I have above my desk in the Residence. Every month, my collection grows with all the new places I’ve seen on my adventures. It’s amazing to see how much I’ve experienced in what I realize is a short time!
Lastly, I would like to thank all of you, my readers, for going on this journey with me. It was a pleasure writing down all my adventures abroad for you to experience as well. I am sad that this is my last monthly reflection to you. If there is something I’ve learned from how quickly this semester as gone by, it is to appreciate every experience you come across, even the difficult, challenging ones. I’ve found all of my experiences, both good and stressful, very rewarding in the end. I’m happy with all I’ve done in three months. I will look back upon these entries and smile at these experiences in the future.
Onward, to wrapping up the semester! I wish the best of luck to everyone at Temple Rome and everyone at Holy Cross. You got this!
November 28: a normal day in Italy, Thanksgiving in the States. This is my first one outside of the country, and it’s a special one indeed: my family came to visit me for Thanksgiving break!
I met my parents in Venice after a 4-hour train ride from Rome. They have always wanted to go sightseeing around Europe. What better place to start than in Italy, where I’m studying abroad this semester?
The moment I stepped outside of the train station, I knew that it was flood season in Venice (Venezia in Italian). It was cloudy and a bit chilly outside – glad I was wearing a warm jacket! The water had risen above the canals and flowed onto the streets! There were even raised platforms for pedestrians to walk above the water. It really is the Floating City!
Mom brought me a pair of plastic boot covers, and I gladly put them on. I was going to need them, in these flooded streets! At least the water was receding as time went on. It would have been quite an experience if the water went up to my knees!
We had lunch in a restaurant by the busy “parking” center for the taxis, gondolas, and ferries of the city. All the modes of four-wheeled transportation you would see in cities like Rome and Florence are completely replaced by boats! We saw a few police boats and aquatic ambulances as well.
After lunch, we went to the Piazza San Marco. Not only did we see St. Mark’s Basilica, but we also got a more hands-on experience in Venice thanks to the pigeons in the square! The birds there are not afraid of humans and flock toward anybody who has crumbs for them. There were pigeons landing on everybody! A lot of them landed on me! One of them stayed on my shoulder for a long time. Some of them perched on Mom and Dad as well.
We strolled alongside the water (which, thankfully had receded enough for us to wear our shoes without the plastic covers) for a bit and took in the views of Venice. I bought a small Venetian mask and had fun posing with it near the bridges!
For Thanksgiving dinner, we tried some Venetian food alongside the classic Italian dishes. We had a seafood appetizer complete with fresh shrimp, slices of smoked salmon, boiled octopus, and some sarde in saor, sweet-and-sour Venetian sardines. We shared some classic carbonara and some mushroom pizza. We didn’t have any apple pie, but I had some gelato for dessert!
The three of us enjoyed seeing the city at night. The water shimmers in the glow of the lamps, and the light inside the ferries stand out from the rest of the scene. Stunning views!
As I wind down after our Thanksgiving adventure in Venice, I find myself more grateful for the opportunities I’ve had this semester.
I am thankful for the Holy Cross Office of Study Abroad for helping me apply to the Temple Rome program and for guiding me through the entire process. My journey here would not have been possible without their support.
I am thankful for the Temple Rome staff for welcoming me to their program and for helping me adjust to my life in Rome. I am still using the advice they gave me at orientation, and I learned a lot from them throughout the semester.
I am thankful for my professors at Temple Rome for teaching me this semester. I love all of my classes and enjoying learning new things from them every day. They have been very kind and helpful since Day One.
I am thankful for my classmates at Temple Rome for their openness and their kindness. I enjoy spending time and going on adventures with them.
I am thankful for my parents for being supportive of me while I am on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean for the semester. I’m glad I can call them sometimes, and I’m honored to host them in Italy over Thanksgiving break. Hope my Italian is good enough!
I am thankful for my experiences this semester. Studying abroad is not easy, but the challenges I’ve faced in a different country away from home are rewarding. I’ve grown braver and more adventurous in my time here. I’ve honed life skills that had only started developing back home. I feel like an adult, managing all my time for classes and chores and planning all of my trips from scratch. Learning to be independent is a valuable asset to have, and I know that it will serve me well.
Lastly, I am thankful to my viewers and fans online. I don’t know all of you in person, if at all, but I am happy that you’re reading my blog and following me on my adventures abroad. I’m flattered by the kind feedback some of you have given me at the beginning of the semester. Thank you for coming on this journey. Know that I am thinking of you this Thanksgiving, no matter where I am and no matter where you are.
I may not be home in the United States to celebrate with you, but I’m glad I can still be thankful to all of you abroad. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
One thing I’ve learned to appreciate during my semester abroad is the opportunity to not only learn things firsthand through field trips in the city, but also to apply what I learn in class to new experiences outside the city.
This is the case with Immigration, Race, and Identity in Contemporary Italy, a political science class that has taken me to places as close as downtown Rome, under 30 minutes away on the Metro, and as far away as Lisbon, a three-hour flight from Fiumicino airport.
I went to Lisbon for an academic excursion in the middle of November with not only Professor Rinelli and my classmates from Immigration, Race, and Identity in Contemporary Italy, but also with Professor Bordignon and her Contemporary Politics of Europe class. We took a bus to the airport on Thursday evening and flew to Lisbon.
We arrived late that night, ate at an American(!) diner (well, what better way to welcome a group of American students than with some American cuisine?), and checked into our hotel. I fell asleep instantly and was ready to see the city the next morning.
After breakfast at the hotel, our professors gave us 24-hour passes for the Lisboa Metro. We used them at a Metro station close to the hotel and switched to another train before we got to our destination: the coast.
After some ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the sight of the shore (and at a bridge in the distance, which looks exactly like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco), we continued on our visit to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA for short).
We learned about the organization and their role in regulating maritime transport in Europe through a short presentation from an EMSA representative. From the 270 representatives from 28 countries in the European Union, many are from Portugal and Italy. EMSA has been making maritime regulations since 2002 and has added two major revisions to their policies in response to human migration in the Mediterranean since 2013.
I was fascinated by all the expansive technology and protocols behind the scenes of maritime safety. In particular, I was intrigued at how EMSA monitors and communicates with ships through satellites and drones.
We asked a lot of questions during and after the lecture. Some of them were about EMSA’s domains in the international scene. EMSA is a broad organization that operates on the European level. We learned from the answer to a question about what EMSA can do about a region-specific issue, such as pollution from cruise ships in Venice, that it is up to each member state to handle local incidents.
I asked a question about EMSA’s involvement in cases of irregular migration aboard European ships. I learned that the organization investigates incidents that happen during maritime transport and works to determine the root causes and contributing factors behind the case. However, it is up to the member states to investigate serious incidents, such as deaths of migrants on ships. EMSA does keep records of incidents in state-by-state logs for its database, which can be accessed for legal cases in the future.
After the interesting presentation at EMSA, we headed to the local market and had an hour to explore by ourselves. I loved walking around the Time Out Market in central Lisbon. I couldn’t wait to try some Portuguese food for the first time!
Excited to try some Portuguese food in the market!
Seafood is a staple in Portuguese cuisine, and the Lisbon market was bustling with seafood chefs and customers. I saw trays and tanks of fresh fish and crustaceans on my stroll through the stands.
My friend and I decided to eat at a cleverly-named shop called “Sea Me at the Market,” where we ordered fresh seafood. I tried some cuttlefish with a twist: it was fried in black tempura! Quite different from the calamari I tried at the beach in Rome. I heard from my friend that the pan-seared tuna was very good as well. We shared some bacalhau (Portuguese for cod) in some savory fishcakes and enjoyed it with some tomato rice. Delicious!
After lunch, we met outside the market and took the Metro to our next stop: the Centro Nacional de Apoio à Integração de Migrantes (CNAIM), or National Center of Aid and Integration of Migrants. I had seen the migrant center near Termini station in Rome on a previous trip for Immigration, Race, and Identity in Contemporary Italy, but I could tell that this center was going to be much different from the one in Rome.
On our tour inside the building, we stopped by the gallery next to the first-floor waiting room. There were photographs of migrants from a camp in Greece displayed on the wall with powerful messages next to them. I found the placement of these two-dimensional black-and-white photos next to a waiting room full of three-dimensional people fascinating. I thought about the stories and message each migrant told through their photographs. I wonder what stories the migrants waiting just outside have to tell, and how they might feel about the messages in the gallery.
We learned from our guide that CNAIM has been providing a variety of services to migrants of all backgrounds and legal statuses since 2004. 75% of its funding comes from other places in Europe while the remaining 25% comes from the Portuguese government. The center in Lisbon is the largest one in the country, bigger than the other two in Portugal. The organization offers answers to necessary questions about the integration process and has partnerships with other entities, including over 100 other centers in different municipalities.
CNAIM offers its services in 15 different languages on site and has access to a support in 60 languages through the telephone support line. There is also a small kindergarten near the first-floor waiting room, where the children of migrants going through the immigration process in the center can learn and play as their parents are in meetings with staff. With so much in one center, I was not surprised to learn that CNAIM has won many awards for what they do.
On our way upstairs, we walked past the health office, the board of immigration services, the family reunification services, the social security office, the ministry of justice, the education office, and the legal support office. Each office provides general information to migrants who need guidance and referrals to other centers for their cases.
In addition to the row of offices, there is also a mentoring program at the center, where over 1000 Portuguese citizens volunteer to mentor migrants one-on-one based on specific needs and skillsets. CNAIM is partnered with 60 other programs and has a 10-session entrepreneurship class that teaches and advises migrants who want to start businesses in Portugal. The program aims to promote networking and workshops with Portuguese professionals and encourages former trainees to share their knowledge with migrants currently in the classes.
After learning about all the services CNAIM offers migrants, we headed into a separate hall for a Q&A session. On our way there, I couldn’t help but think about the migrant center in Rome when I walked past a mural of a woman reading a book. It reminded me of the painting of an African woman facing Dante, the father of Italian literature, that I saw near Termini. The image represents a migrant working toward integration into society, and this is the message I got from the mural at CNAIM.
During the Q&A session, my classmates asked a lot of questions and learned a lot from the answers. I was happy to hear that there was no political backlash against CNAIM when it opened, and the Lisbon community is accepting of the center and the migrants it helps. I also learned that many new arrivals in the country first learn about CNAIM and its services through other migrants. The center opens at 8:00 a.m., but there are people waiting outside the door since midnight for CNAIM’s services.
I learned a bit about Portuguese citizenship as well. I was surprised to hear that there are no questions about the history or government of Portugal on the citizenship test: there is only a language section. As a naturalized US citizen, I couldn’t imagine a citizenship test without a question about the branches of government or years of a specific war.
Unlike American citizenship, Portuguese citizenship works under ius sanguinis, which is Latin for “right of blood.” People who are descended from Portuguese citizens are Portuguese by law. The United States works under ius soli, “right of soil,” which grants American citizenship to anyone born in the country.
Our last stop after our visit to CNAIM was the School of Law at the University of Lisbon, a public research university in the city and the largest in the country. It rained a bit after we walked out of the Metro station near the university. We did see a rainbow afterward, and I took it as a sign of a good visit ahead.
We went on a short tour inside the school. The University of Lisbon was founded in 1911 and holds over 100 years of history. We walked through its historic lecture rooms and its huge faculty room, which has paintings of faculty on its walls.
We finished our visit with a special lecture from Professor Nuno Cunha Rodrigues, a friend of Professor Rinelli’s. He spoke about how Portugal is different from other countries in Europe. There are fewer political parties in Portugal, and none of them can be considered “extreme.” The country is also geographically removed from issues that other European nations are addressing in the political scene. There are also no regions and only one dialect of Portuguese in the entire country.
Before our trip, I remember how Professor Rinelli mentioned that Portugal was a “political exception.” I heard in the Q&A session at CNAIM that Portugal is not a racist country, and Professor Rodrigues’ lecture about Portuguese history helped me understand why this is the case. Portugal was, in his words, “traumatized” by a brutal dictatorship and a horrible war that was claimed more Portuguese lives than the Vietnam was did American soldiers. Younger Portuguese citizens fled during this period in the mid-20th century, and since then, the country has been more open to foreigners.
I was intrigued by the lecture. In high school, I only learned about Portugal in the context of the 15th and 16th centuries, when Spain and Portugal split the “New World” along a vertical line on the map. I don’t remember learning much about Portugal outside of the Age of Discovery, the Spice Trade and a little bit from the Scramble for Africa. This was my chance to learn more about the history of Portugal.
Through my questions at the end of the lecture, I learned that Portugal was actually on the same side as the US during World War I! It must have been a lot, since Portugal had an unstable government for almost two decades after its monarchy was abolished in 1910.
Portugal was also one of the only countries that remained neutral and was relatively unaffected by World War II. During the Cold War, Portugal was allied with the US it was isolated from the situation because of a war with Angola, which was a Portuguese colony fighting for its independence at the time. There was also a military revolution in the 1970’s that overthrew a dictatorship that had been in place since the 1930’s. I was in awe of how a brutal dictatorship ended so peacefully with the nonviolent Carnation Revolution.
In closing, Professor Rodrigues stated that Portugal is a country with over 800 years of history and has some of the most stable borders in the world. Its people are unified under a strong national identity. You don’t learn about that in a high-school European history class! I’m glad I got to learn a lot of new things from our visit.
After the lecture at the university, we went to explore the city by ourselves. My friend and I headed downtown to look at some restaurants. We settled for a small spot near the theaters of the city. We shared a plate of sauteed prawns with the heads and shells still on. I’m glad I got to eat some fresh prawns before I left Portugal! I was curious about them at the market.
We took a taxi back to our hotel and fell asleep quickly after our busy day in Lisbon. I couldn’t believe I experienced that much in just one day!
You would think that after doing so much in one day, that would already make for a pretty full trip. But wait, there’s Moor!
The next morning, we learned about the multicultural history of Lisbon, starting with the influence of the Moors from North Africa. We met José Linu, our guide from the Batoto Yetu Association, an organization that promotes traditional dances from Africa and leads post-colonial tours of Lisbon, at the Igreja de São Domingos.
I first learned about the Moors in my high-school European history class. They were Muslims from North Africa who settled in the Iberan peninsula in the 8th century. I remember reading about how the Spanish Inquisition drove them out of the area in the 13th century.
At the beginning of our tour, we learned about the African influence in Lisbon. The very square we were standing in was a major meeting place for Africans in Portugal. The church itself was an important religious location for Africans who were freed from slavery, and they referenced African saints in the regions. The priests there were of African descent as well.
The church survived two earthquakes and a fire between the 14th and 17th centuries. It was almost completely destroyed by the natural disasters, and there are still signs of the destruction inside.
José gave us some ginger candy as a little pick-me-up on our tour. He said that, according to African tradition, there was magic in ginger candy. I was more than happy to take a few pieces: I grew up eating ginger candy in the United States, and according to Chinese tradition, ginger has multiple medical benefits on the body.
José told us about the cultural importance of Fado, a genre of music that originated in Lisbon. Fado is similar to the Blues in the United States, in that it is known for its melancholic tones. Homesickness is a major theme in Fado music. He said that Fado has influences from African dance, beginning as a lively dance performed in the streets of Lisbon. We saw artwork relating to Fado and the multiculturalism of Lisbon in the historic Moor area of the city which is known for its tunnels and stairs.
This part of the city has seen a lot of cultural exchange throughout history, and it was here that some Portuguese nobles from the upper end of society mixed with the locals who performed Fado dance and music outdoors. Eventually, Fado was brought from the streets into salons and the music lost its lively percussion. José told us that it is important not only to promote new artistic-cultural movements, but also to remember the roots of cultural gems such as Fado.
Further along in our tour, we stopped by a long street teeming with customers from multicultural shops. We saw one of the older buildings from the center, which survived the earthquake of 1755. Some people called the event a “punishment for Fado.” I would call it a natural disaster completely unrelated to human activity.
We learned about the colonial history of Portugal. There are streets named after former colonies. José, who works at the migration center in Lisbon alongside his job promoting African traditions and leading colonial tours with the Batoto Yetu Association, said that he is working on education people about the often-overlooked history of the country. It is important to remember the past of a place, even if it is not very well known.
We finished our tour with a walk in the park and a group photo in front of the School of Medicine of the University of Lisbon. We stood in front of the statue of José Tomás de Sousa Martins, a doctor who treated and helped find medical aid for the lower-class people of the city. Our tour guide José mentioned that he was from African descent and hailed as a hero, with people still leaving gifts and tokens of appreciation at the base of the statue today.
What better place to end our tour in front of a statue after a walk in the park?
After we thanked José for the tour, we had some free time to explore the city before our flight back to Rome. I decided to take the Metro to the Amoreiras Shopping Center to buy some gifts. The place looked like a skyscraper, and I was excited to find out that I can get a panoramic view of the entire city from the rooftop! I bought some handbags for my friends and family (and a cute hat for myself), had some fresh tuna (can’t leave Portugal without trying some!), and bought a ticket to the rooftop. What a view, from the highest point in Lisbon!
I left the shopping center very happy with my trip to Lisbon. I was thinking about everything I learned on the plane ride back to Rome. I’m glad I had the chance to study abroad not only in Rome, but also briefly in Lisbon as part of this academic excursion. This is not an opportunity I’ve ever had before, and the unique experience has made my semester abroad even more special and memorable.
November 9 marks the end of my second month in Rome! I haven’t quite figured out why time seems to pass by so quicky: does time flow differently in this time zone?
Speaking of time zones, I learned that daylight savings ends during the last Sunday of October in Italy. In the United States, daylight savings time ended on the first Sunday of November. For one week, I was only five hours ahead of my family in Boston and everyone at Holy Cross. But now that it’s past the first Sunday of November, we’re back to a six-hour time difference.
This was one of the unexpected things I learned in my two months abroad in Rome. I’ve picked up so much in my time here that I don’t know where to start in my two-month reflection!
I do know that I have adjusted very well to life in Rome in my second month here. I’m learning more Italian both in and out of class, and I feel comfortable asking for directions or holding conversations with people I encounter on my walks around the city. I also feel more comfortable shopping for groceries, clothes, and shoes in full Italian.
I’ve learned to say “troppo grande!” (too big!) when one of the boots I tried on at the local shoe store was a too big and “troppo piccolo!” (too small!) when it was too small. Italy uses European sizes for clothes and shoes, so it’s taken a lot of trial and error to find the right sizes for me. From all the “troppo grande!” and “troppo piccolo!” I heard myself say, I have figured out that I can wear size 37 shoes. Very different from the sizes I wear in the United States.
At the grocery stores, I like paying in cash. Rome is a very cash-heavy city, so definitely withdraw a lot of cash at once, keep some in the safe at home, and pay with bills! Also: bring your own grocery bags! I keep a foldable cloth bag in my backpack and purse at all times, so I won’t be amassing any plastic bags in the apartment!
At the cash register, I sometimes hear the cashiers ask me if I have 1-Euro or 50-cent coins so they can give me fewer bills and coins in change, and I like seeing them smile when I give them what they’re asking. It feels nice to make someone’s job a little easier by listening to what they say and understanding what they’re looking for!
Besides becoming for familiar with and comfortable in my environment, I have to say that I’ve really come out of my shell on campus! The president of Temple Rome came to visit us a while back, and there was an open-mic session where students could talk about their experiences in Rome so far in front of everyone.
I’m not usually much of a talker, but for some reason I was feeling bold enough to improvise a speech on the spot. I talked a lot about how I love seeing the ancient and modern worlds merge together on my adventures abroad, and how much I love the artifacts in my favorite Metro station. I got a few laughs and a lot of applause. I was told afterward that the president was impressed and amused by my impromptu speech. Glad this whim of mine amused someone!
I was also happy to be featured as Student of the Week on Temple Rome’s website a while back. I came across someone asking me if I wanted to answer a few questions for the website, and I thought, “why not?” To this day, I laugh at the answers I gave in that interview. I’m proud of the advice I gave at the end of it, though. I think a good balance of studying, resting, and travelling is key to a good experience abroad. Let’s not overwork ourselves!
I managed to sign up for the last Italian cooking class of the semester. And good timing, too – I almost missed this opportunity! I had fun kneading dough. It feels a lot like helping my mom knead dough for pork buns at home. The pasta was delicious. Partly because it was pasta, but also partly because I put in some effort to make it from scratch!
In addition to pasta, I’ve also enjoyed exploring Piazza Vittorio (which I wrote about in one of my previous posts) and trying out of different types of food. I was delighted to find some good Asian restaurants there and enjoyed eating at a local pho place. The taste of the beef broth and the texture of the meat, vegetables, and fresh rice noodles…it reminds me of how my sister and I would get pho together sometimes. It’s just what I needed as the weather grows colder in Rome. (Yes, it does get cold here! Just not at the same as New England.)
I’ve been cooking a lot this semester, more than I have ever cooked in my life! But sometimes, when I get sick of even my own cooking and really miss the wonderful Chinese dishes my mother makes at home, I eat out. I’ve tried a lot of classic Italian dishes, but when the homesickness strikes, nothing beats a meal at the local Chinese restaurant! I ate some rice, pork ribs, and spicy green beans for lunch one day and felt much better afterward.
When I’m outside of class and not at the residence, I like to go exploring in the city. I’ve gotten used to using not only my monthly pass for the Metro, but also my trusty Musei in Comune (MIC) card. This handy pass grants me free admission to a lot of museums in the city! Makes seeing remnants of the ancient world a lot more affordable. It reminds me of how I can get free admission to the Worcester Art Museum with my Holy Cross ID back in the States! (Check out an article about seeing ancient artifacts at the WAM I wrote for the school newspaper last year!)
Every now and then, I like to walk around the city after class and try to catch a good view or two in the evening. I was very happy to capture this shot of the evening sky of the city, as seen from the top of the Spanish Steps. This is not a sight you can see just anywhere – better enjoy it while I can (and the weather doesn’t get too cold!)
I’ve also enjoyed travelling around Italy and taking in all the beautiful sights outside the city as well. Everywhere I go, I try to buy postcards from local souvenir shops. By now, I must have at least five pounds of postcards, books, and replica coins (I love ancient coins!) in my room. Souvenirs make great decorations for the room – makes the place feel more like home. I’ve gotten to see a lot of museums and read a lot of books about the places I’ve seen, so when I tape postcards to the wall and keep the books on my shelf, I feel like I’m curating my own gallery and creating my library based on my travels.
I have been very lucky in that I have not had any major mishaps on my trips around Italy. One of my friends told me that she had her passport stolen on a trip outside the country. I’m glad that we learned what to do in a situation like this at orientation. It is very important to stay calm, report the stolen passport to the police, and go to the US Embassy to obtain a temporary passport.
Regarding safety, I recommend these tips.
1.) Be aware of your surroundings. The more crowded the place, the harder it is to keep track of everything and the easier it is to lose something. Always pay attention to your belongings!
2.) Travel with at least one other person you know. You are less vulnerable when you are not alone. If something happens, you will be able to help each other out. I’ve helped a friend find something she lost, and we both figured out how to get back to our hotel after dark.
3.) Buy a discreet money belt and/or an anti-theft bag. I have both of these, and I have not gotten anything stolen. Definitely keep your passport, ID, keys, and bank cards in the money belt or anti-theft bag. Crossbody bags work best, as they are difficult to steal. Make sure backpacks are closed! Even better if they have locks.
4.) Don’t stay outside too late at night. I like to at least start to head back to the residence or any other place I’m staying at around sundown.
5.) Make photocopies! Be sure to keep a photocopy of your passport photo and signature pages separate from your passport – you’ll need these as proof that you are a citizen when you arrive at the embassy to report a stolen passport! By law, you are also required to carry a form of state-issued ID on your person in Italy. I keep a photocopy of my passport and my US driver’s license in my money belt at all times.
After those serious points, I’d like to end my two-month reflection with a little note to you, my viewers.
I hope you are enjoying my blog. It is hard to believe that two months have passed since my first day of classes at Temple Rome. I am over halfway done with the semester and have only a little more than a month before I head back to the United States. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing about my adventures abroad and hope that you enjoy following along through my words, photographs, and videos.
I am having a wonderful time in Rome and want to share that my joy with all of you. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have in studying aborad for the semester, and for the honor of recording my experiences here. I enjoy taking in everything this place has to offer, and I love learning about the history and culture of every place I visit. I hope I can capture that in my work here and can help bring my experience to life through the screen.
That said, as a little celebration of and thank-you for these two months as a study abroad blogger, here is one of my favorite sights in Rome: bubbles at the Piazza del Popolo, a few minutes away from campus. A dopo! (Until later!)
I have never taken a political science class before, so I didn’t know what to expect when I enrolled in Immigration, Race, and Identity in Contemporary Italy. The topics and discussions in the class really challenge me to consider perspectives and ask questions I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.
I’m always excited to learn new things from Professor Rinelli and from my peers in the classroom. For the session before our midterm exam, however, I was in for a bigger treat: a field trip to Piazza Vittorio in the middle of the city!
One of the readings we did for the class focused on the experiences of people who migrated to Rome, both from within and outside of Italy. We read a book titled Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio. The book is a murder-mystery organized into testimonies from different characters, with each one coming from a different place and having a different story to tell. We examined the characters’ histories and prejudices and analyzed them in the context of broader questions such as why people migrate (and what separates different types of migrants – immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers – from each other), what stereotypes develop about certain groups, and what kinds of challenges do migrants face in Rome today.
Our guide worked for Migrantour, a non-government organization (NGO) that strives to raise awareness about the cultural diversity of Europe by organizing tours of multicultural cities. She introduced herself as an Albanian immigrant who lived in Rome for 16 years. I was excited to learn from a migrant in Rome, especially when discussing migration and diversity!
The tour focused on the Esquilino Square, which is the most culturally-diverse area in the center of Rome. Unlike the districts filled with the remnants of ancient times, the was developed as a way to modernize the city after Rome became the capital of Italy in 1871. Italy was not a unified country since the end of the Roman empire until the mid-19th century, when Vittorio Emanuele II, the king of Sardinia, became king of all of Italy. The area called Piazza Vittorio Emanuele (near the Vittorio Emanuele Metro station, right after the Termini stop), called Piazza Vittorio for short, is named after him.
We left our meeting-point at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in downtown Rome and walked a few minutes past Termini station. Roma Termini is the largest station in Rome and is the major center for buses, the Roma metro, trains, and rides to the airport. I’ve been there multiple times to transfer to the Metro B or to catch trains to places outside of Rome, but I have never learned about the history in much detail until our class trip that mid-October morning.
We stopped at a place near the station, which Professor Rinelli described as a crucial location for migrants, since it was at the center of the city and held its main point of transportation and movement. It was a center for migrants that offers several different services for people who migrated to Rome from different places. Not only is this place a school where migrants can learn Italian (similar to the place my parents and sister took ESL (English as a second language) when they first moved to the United States), it is also a place where migrants can find legal advice for their status as immigrants or asylum-seekers and obtain medical assistance, a crucial service for the survival of vulnerable people.
It appears to be run-down, but this is only because it is very difficult to run a center like this one. The organization is not funded by the government or the church – in Rome, when it comes to helping human beings, a lot of things need to go through the Vatican. Furthermore, it is especially difficult for migrant women, especially Muslim women, to integrate into Italian society. Professor Rinelli added that this is an issue of marginalization because of religion and gender.
Around the migrant center were murals by a street artist named Sgarbi. To the right of the building, painted on the corner, was a portrait of Alberto Manzi. He was a teacher who taught Italian to one million people through television in the 1960’s. To the left was a larger painting of Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, which includes Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso (the first of which is what we call “Dante’s Inferno“) and widely considered the father of Italian language and culture. That is the reason why Dante is facing an African woman: the mural is a message and commentary on the multicultural society gravitating around the center.
Sgarbi’s work around the migrant center is one of the most moving things I’ve seen in Rome. I’ve always known I was an immigrant: I noticed that my family and I looked different from most people in Boston since I was in elementary school, and when I was a little older, I learned about my family’s journey to the United States. However, it wasn’t until I started taking this class that I learned what it means to be a migrant.
From a young age, I’ve understood how important it is to learn the lingua franca of a place. I was luckier than the rest of my family because I never needed to learn English as a second language: I grew up in Boston and learned English at the same time as the other children. I do not speak with the same accent as my parents or my sister and did not have the same struggles with reading and writing as they did. I remember being around my parents when they got phone calls in English and sometimes explaining what the person on the other end of the line was saying. I remember speaking on the phone in English myself when my parents got too confused to understand what the other person was saying.
Seeing the picture of Manzi and learning about who he was and what he did for a million people really touched me. The fact that he was able to teach so many people the valuable skill of communicating with, understanding, and creating bonds with others through television is amazing. Learning about the meaning of the mural also brought me back to my childhood. My mother told me that when I was little, she and I would watch children’s programs on TV. Most of my family’s exposure to English at home came from the television back then, and I grew up watching the same shows as my classmates did. We got better at English through watching TV, and I think I learned a lot of my English from the kids’ shows that focused on vocabulary and grammar. I could relate to the people who learned Italian through watching Manzi on TV in the 60’s.
Another one of Sgarbi’s works: Dante (who wrote Inferno) face-to-face with an African woman. A very important piece around Termini!
Professor Rinelli mentioned that adding the image of the African woman facing Dante on a wall around Termini was also a strong statement in favor for integrating migrants in Rome. I thought about his point about how migrant women in particular struggle to integrate more than migrant men do. I felt sorry for migrant women in Rome after hearing that – I am a migrant woman myself – and found solace in seeing the woman in the mural juxtaposed with the one and only Dante. The deeper meaning of Sgarbi’s piece gave me hope that integration is happening right here and now, and made me fully realize that this progress is unfolding right in front of us thanks to the power of these artistic representations.
We concluded our time outside the migrant center learning about the general time periods of migration in this part of Rome. The first major wave of immigration from places outside of Italy happened in the 1970’s. Italy was first a nation of emigration, but we also learned that in the late 19th-century, after the unification of Italy, Piazza Vittorio has always been a melting pot of cultures and languages from the workers who built the area after they moved here with hopes for better lives. It wasn’t until decades later when more people started moving into Italy from other countries.
The first groups of immigrants were from North Africa, in particular Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, countries that Italy once colonized and were part of the Fascist Empire during World War II. There were also people moving to this block in Rome from southern Italy. This part of the city was fairly empty at the time because of an economic crisis, and the new immigrants opened small shops in the properties, which were later purchased by Chinese immigrants.
We headed further downtown toward the Mercato Esquilino. In 1991, it was an open market that was a setting for The Bicycle Thieves, one of the most famous neo-realistic Italian films that was also hit in international cinemas. The Mercato was then moved into a new closed space in 2001. It is the largest and the most important market in Rome, with roughly 150 shops, most of which are food and grocery stands.
On our way, we stopped by a garden that was once part of the department of Asian languages at the Sapienza University of Rome, a few minutes north of Esquilino. There, I was surprised to see a statue of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, of all people! Professor Rinelli described the piece as something “unique” to Rome and in Italy overall. He said that the art in Italy is mostly euro-centric and that there are almost no references to other religions or cultures, so a piece of Asian art on display in a public space is rare to see. I’m glad I got to see it on this field trip!
We made our way to the market and entered to see a bustling area inside. There were too many shops to count, and I saw people selling things from different types of clothing, accessories, food, household essentials…you name it!
We walked through the first part of the market and headed outside to the newer part of the Nuovo Mercato Esquilino. We learned about an initiative to give unsold goods to marginalized people in the area. So far, the market has donated a lot of food. I was happy to hear that everything is going to good use, even if unsold. It feels nice to know that people are helping those less fortunate than they are in this way.
We turned around and saw another one of Sgarbi’s pieces: a mural of a woman and a child reaching toward a scene of different fish in the ocean. On the top left were the words “Diversita Elemento Di Vita,” which means “Diversity is the element of life.” A powerful message that added to his other works around Termini!
The new part of the market was even busier than the first part. I saw a lot of fresh grocery stands selling produce, meat, fish, spices, and condiments. I walked past a display of bok choy and Chinese eggplants and got hungry. These are things my family and I always buy at Asian supermarkets back home. The stand made me think of my mother and her cooking. I could almost imagine smelling fresh eggplants cooking in our wok with some soy sauce and garlic. I think I’ll call Mom and ask for her recipes so I can make use of the nostalgic vegetables I saw on this trip.
On our walk through the market, I heard some of the people greet me with not “Hello” or “Hi,” but with the standard Chinese “Ni hao!”
Professor Rinelli told me that a lot of the people working in the Nuovo Mercato Esquilino were migrants or descended from migrants, and that they know “how to treat a Chinese.” I asked him if people in Rome saw me as American or Chinese, and he said that if I don’t speak, I am Chinese. I am 100% Chinese by blood, so it makes sense. Wait until they hear me speak Italian with an American accent!
Our last part of our adventure in the market was a short talk with one of Professor Rinelli’s friends, Omar. His family has run several butcher shops in the area for 39 years. He surprised me by speaking to me in Chinese. It turns out that he is a polyglot, speaking Spanish, French, Tagalog, Romanian, Chinese, and English! We also met his father, who told us about the importance of selling halal meat in Rome. Butchers like Omar and his father provide a valuable service to the Muslim community in the city.
Islam is not the only Abrahamic religion that is part of Italian society. There is a long history of Judaism in Rome, with services that offer kosher food is important in the city. Islam’s entrance into Italian society is fairly recent compared to the centuries of Jewish history in Rome. Learning about the cultural history at the butcher stand was a unique experience. I found Omar’s father’s explanation of how to prepare halal meat fascinating – I really learned a lot from him! Right behind us was a Chinese butcher stand that also prepares halal meat. I was amazed by this additional layer of cultural diversity in the market! It makes me happy to see people from different cultures cater to each other.
We said goodbye to Omar and his father and headed outside. We said another goodbye to our Migrantour guide and met in a square for a little bit to discuss the last part of the book. After a discussion on how the author captures the experiences of migrant women, I learned more about the history of the place.
The Esquilino square is, as Professor Rinelli said, “what you might call a melting pot in the United States” with people speaking different languages. In a way, he added, it was like a Babylon. In the 1990’s, the market was spread all around the square. I can only imagine what that must have been like, a square surrounded by markets stocked with international goods! Luckily, I can visit the old Esquilino through The Bicycle Thieves, the movie Professor Rinelli mentioned earlier. I can’t wait to watch such a famous film!
Finally, we learned about the architecture in this area and how it reflects the multi-layered soul of the ancient city. The psychology major in me was excited to recall that Professor Rinelli mentioned Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and likened it to Rome: he wrote, “Dreams stand to childhood memories, in the same relations as some baroque places in Rome to the ancient ruins, whose slabs and columns have provided the material for the construction of modern forms.”
I found it hard not to laugh when Professor Rinelli said that the architecture around us “makes no sense in Rome.” He himself is a Roman, and many parts of Rome do not look completely Roman. There was structural influence from northern Italy and from models categorized as the “Parisian style.” There is also a lack of balconies, which I hadn’t noticed until then. Fascinating how much you notice after learning about it firsthand!
This trip captures my favorite parts of studying abroad. Not only do I get to take classes on topics I had never tried to learn before, but I can also get am immersive approach through experiencing the topics in the real city. I’ll admit that Immigration, Race, and Identity in Contemporary Italy is one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken, but it is a very fun challenge I am eager to take on. I look forward to learning more about the world around me through further adventures in Rome.
And so ends another week at Temple Rome! Midterms are done! The semester is flying by quickly.
Looking back on my experience so far, I would say that one of the best parts of studying abroad is the fact that I can walk around Rome, but also experience other cities in Italy as well. Two weeks ago, I took up a classmate’s offer of spending a weekend in Florence with her and some of her friends. I bought my train ticket, packed my bags, went to Termini, and headed north.
Florence, called Firenze in Italian, is a city in Tuscany, which is a province in central Italy. It is almost two hours north of Rome and has an area of over 100 square kilometers (40 square miles; Rome is an area of almost 500 square miles) and has been around since the time of the ancient Romans.
Firenze is known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance (15-17th centuries C.E.) and was home to the wealthy Medicis, a family who held power in northern Italy. One of the Medicis commissioned works from artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo.
I was in awe when I exited the train station on Friday morning. Everything I saw was like looking at a painting. Such grand architecture and brilliant colors complementing the beautiful Florentine sky!
My classmates and I stopped at a local restaurant, where I tried a maiolona pizza. I thought I liked meat-lover’s pizza in Boston, but let me tell you, when it comes to pizza, the original really is better!
I managed to finish the whole thing in one sitting and decided to sleep it off at the place we were staying afterward. After I woke up, we went to see the Arno river to see the Ponte Vecchio, which is Italian for “old bridge.”
And this is no misnomer: it really is an old bridge, dating back to medieval times! Hard to imagine that it was the only bridge not destroyed during WWII. It is currently a major center for jewelry shops in Florence.
For dinner on Friday night, my classmates and I tried some Tuscan cuisine: charcuterie! I tried a lot of different breads and cured meats. I never had charcuterie in the United States, so it was good to try it in Florence!
Enjoyed some Tuscan cuisine with a Florentine charcuterie board! From left to right: bread with olives, slices of mortadella, bread with tomato-chili paste, some olives, slices of prosciutto, some sheep’s cheese, pieces of spicy salami, and some roasted vegetables.
The next day, I took another train north, this time to the city of Ferrara. We had a guest speaker one day in Immigration, Race, and Identity in Contemporary Italy, one of the classes I am taking a Temple Rome this semester. Sara Prestianni is a photographer and advocative for migrant rights. She focuses the effects of migration policies in north Africa. I was fascinated by her talk and heard that she and her colleagues would be presenting at an International Festival at Ferrara on Saturday afternoon.
I knew I was going to be in Florence for the weekend, and it was only an hour away via train, so what was there to lose? Unfortunately, by the time I got to the venue, I asked one of the festival staff about the event and she said that the place was full and could not fit any more people.
At least I got a cool-looking program about the Internazionale a Ferrara! I hope I can read it in its full Italian one day.
I wasn’t going to let my efforts to get from Florence to Ferrara go to waste, so I walked around the city for an hour. I was happy that I got to see a new place on a sunny day. The famous Castello Estense, which is a medieval fortress surrounded by a moat in the center of the city, was so beautiful in the sunlight!
I bought some postcards at a local gift shop. I love collecting postcards everywhere I go; they make great decorations for my bedroom wall! I brought the postcards from Ferrara to class along with the Internazionale a Ferrara 2019 program to class after I went back to Rome. I showed all my souvenirs from Ferrara to Professor Rinelli, who teaches Immigration, Race, and Immigration in Modern Italy. He said that it was unfortunate that I couldn’t see the festival, but he looked amused when I showed him my postcards from the city.
I walked back to the Ferrara train station and went back to Florence. I met my classmates for dinner at another restaurant. There, I tried a maialino – pasta with pork sauce. Two for two with the good food, Firenze!
On my last day in Florence, I decided to do a bit of shopping. Florentine leather is known for its high quality and high demand in the global market. There are leather good everywhere, sold both in the vast outdoor markets around the city and in smaller indoor shops along the sidewalks.
I strolled through the San Lorenzo market, a major outdoor shopping space in Florence. I got curious about the large building in the middle of the market, so I went inside and was surprised to find in the bustling Mercato Centrale (pronounced mur-cah-toe chen-trahl-le) of Firenze!
I was fascinated by all the food stands. It reminded me a little of the food court at my local mall, only each shop had its own unique history of being founded and run by artisan chefs. I stopped by a fried food station, where I grew curious about one of the items they had on their menu: fried rabbit.
I spent €10 on a special combination of fried foods: fried chicken on the bottom with some fried rabbit on top, sprinkled with bits of fried vegetables and a few lemon slices. (Don’t worry, Mom: I’m eating my vegetables!) To this day, I’m impressed that I didn’t get any of the batter crumbs on me as I ate it while sitting on a bench near the market entrance.
This was my first time trying rabbit. I’ve had boar and venison in Titignano last month, but fried rabbit was really quite something! I could tell it was rabbit because it was the meat that didn’t taste like chicken; trust me, I know what chicken tastes like. It had a mild flavor but a strong aftertaste.
After my spontaneous lunch in the Mercato Centrale, I resumed my stroll through the shops at San Lorenzo market. I stopped at a few outdoor stands to buy some gifts for friends and family in the States (get ready for some real Florentine leather from Hui!) and to buy some new accessories. I think the felt hat and silk scarf fit me quite well after I take off my ponytail!
I decided to spend my last hour in Florence seeing the Arno one last time. As I headed toward the Ponte Vecchio, I noticed something I had missed on my first visit on Friday evening. There was a statue of a pig that I looked up on my phone a bit later. It is a bronze statue called Il Porcellino (Italian for “The Piglet”). I saw people placing coins in its mouth and rubbing its nose. Turns out this is a tradition in Florence, and feeding the Porcellino some coins before touching its snout is supposed to bring good luck!
Il Porcellino (“The Piglet”) in the middle of Florence. I saw people putting coins in the boar’s mouth. I read that rubbing its nose brings good luck. No wonder why the bronze looks a bit different on its porcine snout!
The river looks absolutely stunning in the afternoon sun! I’m glad I decided to revisit the bridge and enjoy the view at a different time of day. Time seemed to stand still by the Arno that afternoon, and I could have sworn I was there for hours until my phone screen lit up with a reminder that I had agreed to meet my classmates to pick up our luggage at the hotel half an hour before catching our train back to Rome.
It was a wonderful weekend in Florence. Such a rich culture and history in a small city! Very different from Rome in its atmosphere and scenery. I’m happy I got to experience it firsthand. I bought some things for myself as souvenirs. I think of Florence every time I wear my leather jacket. It is the first leather product I’ve ever owned, and the shopkeeper said that it will last a lifetime. Just like the memories of this weekend in Florence.
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!)