One of the most common answers people give when asked what they regret not doing the most when they were in college is “study abroad.” I now can see why.
Over the past six weeks, I studied in Rome, and I had the experience of a lifetime. This had been in my plans since Fall 2010, and it took a lot of paperwork and follow-ups to finalize this excursion. Despite how tedious the bureaucratic process was, it was worth it all.
When I first arrived in Rome, I had no idea who my roommates were or even how many of them there would be. I was concerned that maybe I wouldn’t like them, but it turned out they were the best roommates I could ask for because of our similarities and because we always looked out for one another.
I usually took some time to myself and strolled the back streets of Rome in search of a good restaurant or took a peek at extravagant street performers. After only a few days, I began to get incredibly familiar with my surroundings. I visited many ancient Roman tourist attractions during the first week and not only did this help cross off most of my Rome to-do items but it also assisted me in navigating the city for the rest of my time there.
The academic experience varied widely across campus. Some students were weighed down with tons of homework each night and let loose on the weekends knowing they need not worry about these obligations. Some others, such as myself, had it easier. My professor only handed out two take-home exams and the answers came directly from lecture. Bottom line -- if you went to lecture and took notes, you’d pass.
Although my main purpose in Italy was to earn three credits toward my Marquette curriculum, I also wanted to become more cultured and worldly in my five week tenure. Having five years of Italian instruction under my belt, I saw living in Rome as the perfect opportunity to communicate with the locals, whether at restaurants, bars, or just while taking a stroll on the streets. I was usually greeted in English by the Romans because of my American appearance and demeanor, but on occasion I passed as an Italian and carried conversations in the local tongue.
Taking time to visit places outside of Rome was also an important part of adapting to the European culture. London offered a great glimpse into how the Olympics will be set up later this month and the city is generally more laid back than Rome, which is cramped with cars and pedestrians all day every day. I actually felt more out of place in London than Rome because I was in London as a genuine tourist, while in Rome I considered myself a resident.
I truly hope I can go back to Rome someday with the friends I made over there. Now that I know the city fairly well and which restaurants to go back to, I bet it would feel like I never even left, even if it is 10 years from now.
I cannot imagine a better place to study than Rome. Packed with history and entertainment, the old-new blend offers so much to the average tourist. No matter if you spend five days or five weeks in the Eternal City, you will always want more time here.
Thanks for following my journey these past weeks and I hope it has motivated you to someday take a vacation across the pond. Until next time, ciao!
Want to be e-mailed when Kyle has a new column? Click the “keep me posted!” button below.