Daily Life Hannah Gehringer Packing Peer Advisor Temple Rome

25 tips on how to study abroad authentically in Rome

As a Temple Rome alum, here are some of my tips to help you enjoy your summer, semester, or academic year abroad in Rome. In bocca al lupo a Roma! 

  1. Come with high hopes, unwavering optimism, and no expectations. No matter how much time you spend preparing or reading this blog, you’ll never be able to fully predict what it will be like to study abroad until you actually experience it. So, don’t set yourself up for failure, and try to leave all of your expectations at your departing airport. Having an open mind and being comfortable with ambiguity will help you better enjoy your time abroad and make you more willing to accept the unexpected. 
  2. Pack light. Bring only what you need plus a few comforts from home. Chances are you’ll want to shop at Italian stores in Rome, and packing light ensures that you’ll have the extra space in your luggage to bring it all home. 
  3. Learn the language. And practice it as much as possible! We all know that practice makes perfect, so even when you’re ordering coffee, asking for directions, or buying a metro ticket, try doing it in Italian. The more you try to speak Italian and the more willing you are to make mistakes, the more you’re going to learn. 
  4. Actually pay attention in Italian class. Yes, at Temple Rome you have to take Italian class. But, instead of thinking of class as another requirement to fulfill, have fun with it and remember that your professors are there to give you the skills necessary to navigate daily life in Rome! Everything you learn in class will help you outside of the classroom, so pay attention, practice with your classmates, and ask questions! A majority if not all of your professors at Temple Rome are from Italy. They know Rome like the back of their hands and are more than happy to help you with any challenge you’re facing. Whether it’s figuring out how to tell your waiter about your gluten intolerance or figuring out the best place in the city to get a haircut, your professors are there to help!
  5. Use Roman slang. Like with any other language or culture, Romans have their own slang words that you can start using with your friends or during Italian class. Using phrases like daje, da paura, or simply dropping the final vowel in an Italian word will improve your Italian fluency and make you seem more authentically Roman. To find out which slang words are used most commonly, ask your Italian professors or tutors! 
  6. Eat everything once. Even if you think you wouldn’t like something, at least try it! Italian food extends far beyond pizza and pasta, and in Rome you’ll come across so many delicious and unfamiliar foods to try, like suppli and fiori di zucca. You might not always like what you eat, but you’ll better understand Italian culture after trying something new. Plus, you’ll probably have a funny story to tell from the experience. While I was abroad I tried a lampredotto sandwich, which is basically chewy cow stomach on a bun. Did I like it? No way. Did I have a great story to tell afterwards? Of course! 
  7. Eat when you’re hungry – and when you’re not. Studying abroad (especially in Italy) is not the time to try a new diet. In any study abroad location, there is so much culture to immerse yourself in, and in Rome so much of that culture is tied to food. So, eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and try not to worry too much about it. Italians definitely don’t count their calories, so why should you! Plus, with all the walking and exploring that you’ll be doing, I promise that an extra helping of pasta or bread wouldn’t make a difference. 
  8. Learn how to make real Italian food. When you arrive in Rome, you’re soon going to realize that the Italian food you’ve grown to love so much in America isn’t really Italian food. Spaghetti with canned Prego sauce isn’t really their vibe. Instead, you’ll find fresh ingredients in every dish and pasta varieties that you can only find in Rome! So, as you rediscover Italian food and figure out which dishes are your favorite, try to learn how to make a few! When you arrive back in the US, you can then share these recipes with your friends and family and show them part of Italian culture through food. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider signing up for one of Temple Rome’s cooking classes. 
  9. Try to do one new thing every day. Whether that be trying a new cafe, visiting a new museum, or just riding the metro a few extra stops, there’s so much to see and experience in Rome that you would need more than just one semester to do it all. But don’t let that discourage you! Make a list if you feel overwhelmed and try to cross one new thing off everyday, no matter how big or small it may be. By the end of the semester, I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how much you experienced and saw.  
  10. Learn how to navigate the public transportation system. In Rome, ancient history and famous works of art are around every corner, and luckily the city’s public transit system makes it easy to see every one of those corners. If you want to get a head start, check out my blog about navigating Rome’s public transit system and be ready to hit the ground running when you arrive. 
  11. Travel off the beaten path. When you first start talking to your friends and family about studying abroad in Rome, you’re probably going to get a lot of recommendations from people who have been to Italy before. Although you should definitely take note of these, try to seek out destinations and experiences that tourists often miss. This is where you’ll find Italian culture at its finest and likely discover your favorite spots in the city. If you need help finding these places, ask your professors or people that you meet in the city for authentically Roman places to visit. 
  12. Try to make Italian friends. Even though you’re studying in a different country chances are you’ll be surrounded by other American students for most of your time abroad. So, to really understand Italian culture and to get the inside scoop on the best spots in Rome, try branching out and becoming friends with Italians. If you aren’t sure where to start, look towards the people at Temple Rome. In every Italian language class at Temple Rome, Italian students from a local university come to help tutor students. This provides a great opportunity to meet Italians your age and to form friendships. 
  13. Adapt to Italian culture as much as you feel comfortable doing so. No matter how hard you try to blend in, when you first arrive in Rome you’re probably going to stand out as an American. There’re so many parts of Italian culture and style that will be foreign to you, but after a few weeks you’ll start noticing details, like how Italians never leave the house with wet hair and how jorts are a cardinal sin. Certainly don’t sacrifice your identity or personal style, but if you’re comfortable, try shopping at Italian stores and matching the style that you see in the streets. Maybe even get a fun, Roman Holiday-inspired haircut while you’re there! You can dress like an American any day of the year, but when’s the next time you’re going to be able to pretend to be Italian for a semester? 
  14. Go thrift shopping! Nothing’s cooler than trying on old school Moschino at one of the vintage stores in Monti or flexing on your friends with a second-hand outfit you bought at an Italian thrift store. Plus, by shopping at Italian thrift stores, you’ll have a better understanding of Italian fashion than you would by shopping at H&M or Zara all semester. If you’re not sure where to start, try visiting Pifebo, King Size Vintage, or Humana which were my favorites while I was abroad and are located in the Monit neighborhood! Also, be on the lookout for vintage pop up markets in the student neighborhood of San Lorenzo. 
  15. Try to love espresso. Yes, you can order a caffe’ americano at any cafe in Rome, but there’s a reason why it’s called a caffe’ americano. Try espresso a few times before deciding that you hate it, and try it from some of the best cafes in the city, like Sant-Eustachio il Caffe. But, if you really don’t like it, you can always drink cappuccino, latte or latte macchiato instead. Italians don’t drink milk after midday though, so just make sure to stop ordering cappuccini around lunch time or risk some funny looks from Italian baristas. Also, say goodbye to to-go coffee. To-go containers don’t exist in Rome, so if you need a dose of morning caffeine, make sure to carve out a few extra minutes to stop at your local cafe or buy a coffee on campus. 
  16. Ditch the eggs and bacon. Italians aren’t huge on breakfast foods, and the sooner you come to terms with that, the happier you’re going to be in Rome. Instead of starting their day with the typical eggs and bacon that we’re used to, Italian usually just have espresso in the morning with a small cornetto pastry. If you’re really craving American breakfast, you can always find the ingredients at the grocery store, but try to adapt to Italian breakfast if you can. Because who doesn’t want to start their day with a chocolate filled pastry! And if you’re extra hungry, order a few. 
  17. Understand that aperitivo is going to be your best friend. In Italy, people rarely drink on an empty stomach, and their version of happy hour, or aperitivo, is no exception. Aperitivo usually falls between 4-6 pm and every drink you order comes with snacks to share with your friends. Some aperitivo restaurants will give you chips, olives, and bread as your snack, whereas others provide entire buffets of appetizers. So for study abroad students on a budget, aperitivo is the perfect time to enjoy some drinks and get dinner for free basically! I’m sure you’ll find your favorite aperitivo places in the city, but be sure to check out Freni e Frizioni in the Trastevere neighborhood at least once for their Medittereanan inspired buffet and outdoor seating. Or check out Gusto for a buffet that includes pizza slices, arancini, small sandwiches, and pasta! At both restaurants, you can eat your fill for only the cost of one 10€ drink. 
  18. Shop local. Yes, we all love Carrefour grocery stores and the comfort that comes with being able to speak English to the employees when you need help finding a product. But, when in Rome, do as the Romans do! People in Rome often shop at their local produce market instead of going to major grocery store chains, and you can find at least one market in every neighborhood in Rome. You may fumble trying to tell the nonna behind the table how many artichokes you want to buy, but trust me the quality and variety of the food is unmatched. Plus, many of the local vendors are more than willing to explain to you their favorite way of preparing the vegetables that they sell, so by shopping at produce markets you’ll learn new recipes AND get to practice your Italian along the way.
  19. Say yes to (almost) everything. For many study abroad students, your summer or semester abroad could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, take advantage of every moment! Pay the extra fee to climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. Eat gelato anywhere, anytime. Of course, know your limits, stay safe, and don’t agree to things that wouldn’t make you happy, but try to experience everything Rome has to offer and don’t make excuses for yourself! 
  20. Party like an Italian. Try visiting bars that aren’t teeming with American students or spend the night socializing in a piazza like Italians do. Not only will this feel like an authentic Roman night out, but you might even meet some Italian friends along the way!  
  21. Learn the history. Rome is a city built on top of its own past, and having a basic knowledge of this history will help you better appreciate the monuments and sites that you’ll visit throughout the city. So, sign up for an immersive course at Temple Rome, such as the History of Art in Rome or Museum Studies in Rome, or simply do some research on monuments either before you visit or while you’re there. Skimming a Wikipedia article about the Roman Forums will not only give you an understanding of why the Forums are so important to Rome’s history, but it will give you a deeper appreciation for the city that you’re living in for a few months. 
  22. Keep your stubs. At every museum or monument that you visit, you’re likely to come home with a handful of maps, ticket stubs, and brochures. Instead of throwing them out and spending more money on souvenirs that you’ll have to cart home at the end of the semester, save your ticket stubs, and add them to your journal or a photobox! When you get home, you’ll then be able to show friends and family the maps that you received from the Colosseum or the MAXXI Museum and point out which part was your favorite.  
  23. Go to a Papal mass, even if you aren’t religious. Rome, and Italy in general, is deeply rooted in religious tradition. Plus, Papal blessings are free to the public and are held nearly every Wednesday at 10 am. So, why not explore this part of Italian culture? 
  24. Put your phone down and focus on what’s around you. With so much beauty and history around you in Rome, it would be a waste to constantly be on your phone during your term abroad. So, bring a digital or film camera, and switch your phone to airplane mode. Trust me, you wouldn’t regret being present in such a beautiful city. Your down time, either before bed, in between school assignments, or waiting in the airport, can be used for checking TikTok, not the time that you should be exploring the city. 
  25. Remember there’s no right or wrong way to study abroad. At the end of the day, your study abroad experience is entirely up to you and what you hope to get out of it. So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Focus on achieving your individual goals for studying abroad and making yourself happy, and you’re bound to have an unforgettable experience in Rome. 

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