As an American student studying abroad in Rome, living in the Eternal City for almost four months and having the opportunity to travel throughout Europe on any given weekend, it is really hard to be in a bad mood. Let’s just cut to the chase and say that we are living the life out here at Temple Rome.
I probably looked liked like I needed to be admitted to a psych ward this morning while riding the tram to school. I was laughing out loud, thinking about just how fortunate all of us here at Temple Rome are to have the opportunity for this most incredible experience. Never again will we be in our early 20s, in college, with our friends (some old, most new), living abroad (most of us for the first time) in such an ancient and fascinating city, with the entire world at our feet. A bit too sentimental, perhaps, but seriously, this semester rocks. I can’t help but to feel lucky, grateful, and above all, truly blessed.
I had pep in my step (did I just say that?) as I stepped off the tram and popped my umbrella open for the short walk to school. In the States, a rainy day is the most terrible, horrible, God-awful day, but here in Rome, well, it’s still Rome. Even rainy days are glorious days! Walking up the block in my nice new flats and taking in the greatness of the day, I took a nice big step… into a giant pile… of dog poop. And other than being suddenly self-conscious and more mortified than angry, it suddenly hit me. What stinks?
It’s too easy to gush about how wonderful this place is. My vocabulary here consists of the words, awesome, incredible, amazing, or unbelievable, and an occasional Holy crap! almost every time I turn a new corner. But what is it about studying or living abroad that’s annoying, inconvenient, frustrating or just plain bad? You’ve been dying to know, haven’t you?
I spent some time this morning having a discussion with a group of Temple Rome students, polling them to find out what they think. Here’s what we came up with (don’t get too excited, the list isn’t very long).
Ten Downsides to Living a Charmed Life in Rome
1. Watch out for that… ewww! The sidewalks here in Rome are almost like minefields, the IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) being dog poop. It’s almost as if there is no law that requires cleaning up after your dog in Rome (though there certainly is!). One of us will step in dog poop, and everybody will inevitably point and laugh. I was once a pointer and laugher. Then this morning I was the one with poop on my shoe. Not so funny anymore.
2. Bella figur-whaaa? In Italian, the term bella figura means “the beautiful figure,” but in actuality, it means leave your favorite sweatpants and ragged old t-shirt at home. Bella figura refers to your self-image; if you present yourself well, it shows that you respect yourself, and thus others will respect you, too. Really, this just means you’d better not leave your house (even if it’s just to run to the store for five minutes) without looking your absolute best, or you’re guaranteed to attract a few stares. And gentlemen, don’t think this doesn’t apply to you too!
3. 1 euro, 2 euro, 3 euro, 4… 5 euro, 6 euro, 7 euro, POOR… This horribly unoriginal rhyme I recite to myself is the sad state of my bank account. Not only is it annoying that we jingle everywhere we go from euro coins, but it’s also easy to forget that one euro definitely does not equal one dollar. It’s a rather harsh reminder every time I log in to check my bank statement.
4. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you with your face buried in my armpit. Did you say you were claustrophobic? Ahh, good old Termini metro station on any given day of the week. Do you enjoy your own little bubble of space? Yeah, well you’d better leave that at home with your sweatpants if you plan on taking the metro in Rome. The amount of people that move through the Termini metro station and pile into and out of those cars is a wonder all in itself. Do yourself a favor and do a deodorant check before leaving your place. You don’t want to be that guy…
5. To eat for a week or to dance my butt off into all hours of the night… that is the question. I am still trying to figure out how Italians do it. First, it is customary of Italians not to eat dinner until about 10 p.m., and they don’t typically go out until right around midnight. And cover charges for clubs are incredibly pricey, and though they typically include your first drink, don’t plan on having any leftover euro to eat if all you want to do is dance.
6. Look left, look right, look left again, then proceed… is what my Dad taught me to do at stop signs when I was learning how to drive. Definitely useful when crossing the streets here in Rome, but you’d better look left, look right, and look left again about five to ten more times. The traffic is insane in Rome, and the idea of yielding to pedestrians does not exist for Italian drivers. A word to the wise: watch out for those Vespa’s.
7. Wawa wahhhhh… thanks to technology, we really have no reason to suffer from homesickness. Skype allows us to catch up with Mommy and Daddy and make kissey faces and baby noises to the dog with just the click of a button. But I think Wawa withdrawal is becoming rampant across the Temple Rome campus to the point where it may be frightening what some of us here would do for a 24 oz. cup of coffee and an Italian shorti.
8. Honk that thing one more time and I swear… If there was a limit for the number of times one can honk his horn on a daily basis, Italians definitely abuse it. After living here for over a month it is becoming more like white noise, but the sound of honking horns is incessant everywhere you go, every single day, at all times of the day.
9. I might be an ignorant American, but I still know how to count! You go to your favorite panino shop for a sandwich in between classes, and you order the same thing every day. Yesterday you paid 2.50 euro, and today Giuseppe wants to charge you 2.85, and you’re like, “Hey Giuseppe, I might not be fluent in Italian, but you can bet my Italian teacher taught me how to count! So long as you wave your hands around like a lunatic, you can get your point across, even in Inglese.
10. “Crab cakes and football… that’s what Maryland does!” At the end of the day, we’re Americans, and sometimes you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The bars, Scholars Lounge and the Abbey Theater are both conveniently open until 3 a.m. and we love them for showing American football games on Sunday’s, but man are we missing out on our Monday Night Football. While you’re all enjoying at home, the six hour time difference leaves us tucked in, in our beds, anxious to check the stats of our teams first thing Tuesday morning.
So besides the occasional stinker on the metro, having to watch where your walking (both for dog poop and for those crazy Italian drivers) and having to wait another month and a half for a Wawa hoagie, our discussion about the annoying, the inconvenient, the frustrating and the just plain bad about studying and living abroad in Rome ultimately led us back to just that… we are studying abroad and living in Rome. It could certainly always be worse. So with that, I guess I’m right back to where I started…
It’s definitely not all bad. Better yet, this semester rocks!