Our full set of classes have been going on for a couple of weeks now, and judging from how they’ve been thus far, I think it will be a good semester. Alongside my required Italian class, I’m taking three other courses that are significantly outside my comfort zone: Italy and the Mediterranean World, The Jews of Rome, and The Archaeology of Ancient Rome. I’m eager to learn a ton of new things about the history and the culture in which I’m living, and these classes will play a pivotal role in doing just that. The best part of my classes is the field study component. As often as once per week in some classes, professors hold class outside of the IES center at various locations throughout Rome. So far, I’ve visited the Museum of Italian Immigration and the Roman Forum. Actually seeing all of the things that we talk about in class is really helpful for internalizing the information, and it’s just cool. Field studies feel less like coursework and more like adventure.
To round out my schedule, I’m enrolled in an Internship Seminar class. IES Rome offers a great internship program, and in considering my courses, I thought that I would regret not taking advantage of the opportunity. I’m just getting started at Ittec, which is a small company that performs services in finance, IT, and consulting. It seems like the perfect fit for me. After making the hour-long trip to the office a few times now, I’ve gotten my project assignment. I’ll be working with another guy at the company to redesign the web interface of Quantum Forecasting, one of Ittec’s branches that uses software to predict market changes. I think this will be a great experience, and I’m excited to get to work on my project.
Starting classes has, thankfully, put me into much more of a routine. I’ve finally gotten over my jet lag, so I’m on a decent sleep schedule that gets me up by 9:00 every morning. After the day of class, I go to the conveniently proximate gym for a while before returning home to cook some dinner for myself. Then, after some homework, Skyping, and any sort of socializing with IES students, comes bedtime. Some days, when I have an activity right after school, like my internship, this part gets pushed back to a later time, but I’ve managed to maintain it thus far. It’s a good schedule.
Of course, there are plenty of events that spice up my fairly regimented schedule. I’m trying to participate in as many activities and go to as many events as I can, since, as we say in our program, “YORO (You Only Rome Once).” For instance, I got to go on an IES-sponsored field trip to Tuscany last weekend. In the region, we visited a little town called Montalcino for lunch, the larger city of Siena for a tour and a night at a hotel, and a vineyard and winery in Trequanda for a wine tasting and cooking class. Although this wasn’t as eventful of a weekend as my crazy previous one, it was fun and relaxing. My favorite part was the food, naturally. We had a couple of five-course Italian meals over the weekend, during which the food kept coming and coming. On Friday night after dinner, I was even fuller than I usually am after Thanksgiving! And the best part was that this trip was incorporated into the cost of our study abroad program, so I didn’t have to pay any extra for this enjoyable weekend and grandiose meal. It was really nice, too, to just have to follow instructions and be at the right place at the right time rather than having to plan everything myself.
Another exciting experience was the papal audience a few days ago. One of the reasons that I chose to study abroad in Rome is its giant Catholic presence. I’ve been to the Vatican dozens of times by now, since its on my way to class every day, but one of my goals this semester is to meet the pope, or at least get a picture with him. It’s a lofty goal, I know, but we can all dream, can’t we? Anyway, this papal audience was the closest I’ve come yet to achieving my goal, but it still wasn’t all that I expected. Thousands upon thousands of people were assembled in Vatican Square. They came from all over the globe to, like me, get a glimpse of Benedict XVI. He paraded around a little bit in his popemobile, and then sat on a stage in the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica to watch the service that commenced. It was a simple thing, with a few readings and prayers in probably a dozen languages that lasted an hour and a half. I must admit, it wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world. I’m still not backing down from my goal, though. Benny and I will be best friends before I know it!
This weekend, I’m headed out of Italy for the first time to check out this little event in Munich, Germany. It’s called Oktoberfest, I think. It should be a good time, but I plan to be vary wary during my travels, especially since I don’t know a word of German. Wish me luck, and I’ll check back in next week!