As someone who is naturally a bit nostalgic, I often take time to look back on my experiences, in particular those during my gap year abroad in 2019-2020 working as an Au Pair in Italy. That was my first time living and working alone abroad, learning a new language, and meeting people from all over the world. It was also the start of Covid-19, which brought its own difficulties, and I kept revisiting the experience upon returning home when talking to friends and family, since it had such an impact on me. Two years later, when I finally returned to Temple Rome for the Summer I session, I’m happy to say that this experience has given me a new depth into Italian culture and the history of Rome that I haven’t had before, and it has also allowed me to let go of that gap year, the difficulties I faced during 2020, and move onward.
Some experiences come to a close, but my study abroad experience at Temple Rome gave me the opportunity to return, and learn more about myself and Italy that I hadn’t yet discovered. I was given the chance to continue practicing and improving my Italian, meeting people from all over the world, and learning about other countries that are completely different from my own. In Rome, I delved into the history of the city by exploring parts of more modern history that I had never known about such as the role of women in the Resistance movement during World War II, the history of the Italian cinema, and Cinecittà’s worldwide impact on the film industry. Aside from cultural/historical learning, I was finally able to enjoy the city to the fullest extent, since many of the restrictions that had been here in 2020 and 2021 were gone, and more places were open with regular hours. I also lived in housing outside of that which was provided by the university, which encouraged me to improve networking skills, allowing me to build stronger connections to other students at Temple.
I’ve now lived in Italy for a solid year and a half over the course of the last three years, and in the city of Rome for 14 months. This time, the hardest part of the experience was probably balancing schoolwork and money with the activities I wanted to do. I was surprised when I realized I am probably more comfortable navigating Rome than my own hometown of Philadelphia. Some of the most gratifying moments of the program were when I could use my Italian to have conversations with locals, or to direct people that needed help navigating the city (including locals or Italian tourists!). Even though I am often identified as a foreigner, and Italians will sometimes revert to English when talking to me, it is fulfilling to realize I have made a home for myself in a country other than the one I grew up in, with people that speak a different language than my own mother tongue.
The best thing that these 6 weeks have given me is the realization that these are the kinds of experiences I want to have for the rest of my life: making friends from parts of the world that I previously knew nothing about, like Azerbaijan and Réunion Island, or learning about the history of a place in situ (on site) like Museo della Liberazione, or taking an easy train ride to another part of the country with its own unique culture like Pisa. It also gave me the chance to connect with other Temple students, both those in my major and out, as well as my graphic design teachers who have encouraged my exploration in design-related topics throughout the city of Rome with the Design Workshop Typography class.
As I make my way into senior year at Temple University, I have a newfound motivation that I had lost during Covid-19, thanks to my time at Temple Rome. Many of the things I learned to tap into during my time abroad will serve me for the rest of my life: navigating the public transportation in a city that is known for its unreliable service, documenting in detail my experience and the things I learn, having patience with myself when it comes to cultural differences, and adjusting to new circumstances.