My biggest piece of advice for studying abroad in Rome is this: go get a gelato. Did you have a bad day? Go get a gelato. Did you not get enough sleep last night? Go get a gelato. Did you visit the Pantheon today? Go get a gelato. Do you miss your family and friends? Go get more gelato. Going out and getting some gelato is always the answer no matter what the question is. This mini-trip to the local gelateria really helps to calm the nerves, relax, and take your mind off your troubles.
When you leave your home and come to a new environment, it can be hard to get into the groove again. You’re not used to the transportation. You are confused by the language. You aren’t sure who you should hang out with. But overcoming these emotional hurtles comes with time and persistence. Going out and getting gelato is a good way to try to transition yourself into your new neighborhood and surroundings, and it creates great opportunities for making new connections.
Coming here to Rome, I did not know too many students, I felt alone, and I felt disconnected. Overall, I felt like an ostrich in a sea of pigeons. I wanted to break these boundaries I had created for myself and try to expand my social group. Out of all six of my roommates, I am always the first person to suggest getting gelato. My suggestions from early in the program have really broken the ice between us all, and allowed us to mingle in a stress free, laid back space. Now, I feel very comfortable with the girls I am rooming with and we are much better friends than before. It is these tiny moments that help build into a friendship, and you can befriend people you didn’t think you would. That is why it is always best to be open minded while studying abroad; you don’t need to have a big group of friends going with you to study abroad. You can make new networks of friends to have all these exciting experiences with.
Gelato excursions have led me to meeting more people, and made me feel like now I have a strong support system for dealing with the upcoming semester. I am the type of person that usually talks to their mom every day after class about everything and anything that is bothering me, but now it is harder to communicate with her due to the time difference and scheduling conflicts. So, making and having opportunities, like gelato runs, to make new connections has made me realize that I have a strong and caring support system here in Rome, and I don’t need to rely on my calls to my mom to vent about my day. I know that if I have a problem, I have a number of people I can reach out to (beyond just the amazing staff at the Rome campus).
This leads to another favorite topic of mine: Home. I will start off by reiterating that it is completely normal to have feelings of homesickness while studying abroad, but I have suggested ways to combating these feelings and making Rome feel like another Home. I have found that there are two parts to dealing with homesickness: talking with someone in your program and distracting yourself with the new, exciting world around you. Letting a family member or friend back home know you are upset is a great start, but talking with someone in your study abroad program really helps your situation more. This past week I had a rollercoaster ride of homesickness, but only after talking with my roommate, Alex, did I really start to feel better. Alex knew exactly how I was feeling because she was experiencing the same emotions. Because of this, she was able to reassure me in ways my family could not. Part two, distracting yourself with your new city, becomes the fun part.
I have always known that Rome was full of a rich history in the visual arts, music, literature, and politics, as I think every high school and college program teaches you. You learn about how ancient monuments were built for this reason or that, and that troops marched here and there, or how rulers used art and the urban setting to manipulate their people and do this, that, or the other thing. But today all of this, all these stories I have heard before, became so much more real.
My art history class, The Art of Fascism of Rome, met for an onsite lecture this morning at Piazza Venezia to talk about Mussolini and his manipulation of art in propaganda. As we journeyed in the surrounding area, my professor stopped by the Roman Forum and pointed out the Arch of Septimus Severus and talked about how troops paraded through this very arch to celebrate their Parthian victories. I had learned this before in other classes, but hearing my professor talk today was different. I was standing in the same space as this magnificent monument. I was standing where the troops of Septimus Severus also stood. Everything became so much more real. I felt a deeper connection to the city than I have ever experienced in a classroom.
I shared this little anecdote to show how much the city has to offer. You may think, “Oh, I’ve already learned about the Forum, or the Colosseum, I don’t need to go or hear about it again,” but you would be wrong. Experiencing these stories and places up close gives you a whole new outlook on history. History starts to feel more tangible within the city. And thus far, that has been my favorite experience: having these little moments of “re-experiencing” historical stories and myths.
Additionally, in going physically to these places, I have made more friends and gotten to experience Rome even more. Some of us travel together, take pictures together, and take the time to walk through these spaces together. With each excursion I take through the city, the more Rome starts to feel like a new home for myself, and so, I feel more confident in my abilities to explore further. So, this leads me back to gelato. By taking these small steps of getting local gelato, I prepared myself for taking bigger steps and exploring entirety of Roma more in depth than ever before.
Gelato and the Forum. The best ways to boost your confidence, acquaint yourself with history, and force you to interact with the city and its people. Thus, making the Eternal City, your city.