Adventure is expected when traveling abroad, and there can be multiple types of adventures ranging from small and personal to large and social. In the first few weeks being here, everything felt like a mini adventure; from buying gelato to figuring out how the buses work to finding out where the best panino shop is. Now that classes have begun, I am having even more adventures through on-site lectures, assignments speaking with actual Italians, and exploring the city.
I have found that the best course of action to exploring your new study abroad world is to balance out your adventures. Your goal should be finding the right amount of small, medium, and large trips and experiences, and not piling too many big excursions onto your schedule. If you find yourself traveling every weekend all over Europe, you may end up missing out on actually experiencing your destination city. Also, travel and jetlag is bound to catch up to you and lead to too much stress later on in the semester.
So each Friday I make little itineraries for myself of what I want to explore in Rome that day, mini adventures if you will. Taking just one day a week to freely roam the city really makes me feel connected to Italian culture, then I begin to feel less like a tourist and more like a local. (I have also had 5 people ask me for directions this week in Italian! I don’t know what it is, but I must seem like I know what I’m doing when waiting for the bus). I also started taking the time to do the things I love, like drawing and painting, throughout the city. It feels like more than just taking a picture and saying I was there; I feel like I am documenting my experiences in a more personal way (Above is a photo of one of my watercolor paintings that I have done when exploring Rome).
There are also medium adventures. These generally mean traveling within Italy, just going away for a short weekend. You could go to the Amalfi coast, Pompeii, Florence, Tuscania, Sorrento, or even some of the free beaches just off of Ostia. What’s really nice about these medium sized trips is that you are still immersing yourself in Italian culture, but you also get the opportunity to see the variations within Italian customs; seeing and comparing different regions within Italy. Having these experiences outside of Rome is really important to bolstering your study abroad experience.
Medium adventures could also be from class trips! I have two classes that have weekend excursions at certain times in the semester; one of my classes is going to Trento in Northern Italy and another is going to Berlin, Germany. Temple Rome really does a good job of getting their students acquainted with locations both inside and outside of the city, and a lot of classes offer these trips as part of their curriculum. You get to experience another city, but you also get to see how that location relates to what you have been studying in Rome, and often you get to see little connections between cultures that you would have never noticed if you went on your own. These excursions with my classes are really nice for someone like me who is a little apprehensive about booking their own trips around Italy. It’s nice to know that I will be going with a big group of students that I already know, and I will have a professor leading us around who really knows the area.
Studying abroad also lends time for larger trips. This type of adventure could be going to another European country, such as France, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and so many more. I think the staff at Temple Rome have been very helpful and informative with which places might be nice to go to, how should I go about buying train or plane tickets, etc. The networking events from our Orientation week definitely helped me make connections with other students, and I feel very comfortable in asking fellow classmates whether they want to go on group trips together.
I know it seems really tempting to want to book trips all over the place for every weekend, and there is nothing wrong in doing that, but I really think it can be beneficial to have a variety of adventure types throughout the semester. Stress from traveling can lead to feeling overwhelmed between classes, homework, and other assignments. Alternating between big, medium, and small trips will be good for maintaining your overall physical and mental health. And in the long run, you will be able to keep up on your coursework and won’t feel as overwhelmed when finals come around.
That being said, you are in control of your own study abroad experience, and you should feel comfortable being able to choose whatever trip you want. If you have always wanted to go to Ireland, then you should go! If you feel more comfortable just staying close to Italy, that’s okay too! You should always do what feels most comfortable to you, and the students and staff here will always be there to help you follow your own path.