La città eterna

As my third week in Rome arrives, I often find myself in awe of all of the ancient histories that surround me. La città eterna or “the eternal city” is timeless. It seems as if I have never seen the same street twice. 

The first couple of days took a considerable amount of adjusting to the new atmosphere. Now, a little over two weeks later, I am starting to fully grasp that I have flown across the globe. Arriving at my new apartment for the semester was like a breath of fresh air. Although fast-paced, there was something about our balcony view overlooking the walls of Vatican city that calls you to be still. Of course, there are miscellaneous characteristics around the apartment that are different from our ways of living in America, but I felt a sense of excitement to explore so many new things. 

hideaways in Trastevere neighborhood

Italian culture is something meant to be enjoyed and savored. In my first week, I learned that many locals start apertivo around five to seven, followed by a lengthy dinner that has three to four courses. I found a deep appreciation of how most of the restaurants in Rome have tables on the sidewalk facing out towards the view of the city. You can choose from either acqua naturale (still water) or acqua frizzante (sparkling water), followed by fresh focaccia bread drizzled with fresh and warm olive oil and balsamic dressing. I have found that my favorite dish so far is Amatriciana (spaghetti with tomato and bacon). While simple, the flavor is unmatched. The food is so fresh and has no GMO’s, unlike most American foods. Most of the produce is grown locally which makes the food even more special to eat!

Sugo all'amatriciana

Another stark difference that I have noticed from America to Italy is the frequent use of public transportation and the hustle and bustle of tourism. America is known for notorious tourist locations, but never have I experienced so many historically prevalent monuments, museums, and artifacts. I am left dumbfounded on walks to class, train rides, and the view from my balcony. I have grown up in far more slow-paced environments with the countryside and small towns, so the vastness of the city is a refreshing change of course. In retrospect, most view the city of Rome and Italy as a country as a tourist destination, but in surrounding regions such as Tuscany and in the outskirts of the Lazio region you will find luscious green pastures and stunning vineyards. I tend to find comfort in these sights, as subtle reminders from home! 

fontana di Trevi


Pre-departure Jitters

While preparing to leave the country, I feel anxious, excited, and curious about the unknown. Rome is notorious for its rich culture, exquisite food, and historical architecture; it seems surreal that I will get to experience it in a matter of three days. Although, where there is excitement, there are also many concerns that have crossed my mind. I find myself wondering what the sociopolitical climate is for women of color in Italy. How will I actually figure out public transportation? Will I be pickpocketed at every turn? 

In contrast, I hope that I soak in all that Italy has to offer. I hope to meet locals and appreciate the country’s customs and traditions. I also look forward to learning more about European politics and foreign affairs from an Italian and Mediterranean perspective. 

My decision to study abroad largely stems from my passion for learning about international relations. At first, the study abroad experience seemed way out of my comfort zone. But, because of the OIP staff, and friends that studied abroad the previous fall semester, and interim, I felt comfortable enough to give it a shot. 

I remember brainstorming about places where I would feel comfortable learning and living for three months without my parents. Then, I considered places that I had always dreamed of visiting or living in. Italy, France, and Africa came to mind, more specifically Rome, Paris, and Morrocco. This past fall I was taking a plethora of international relations and government courses, which heavily discussed comparing states societies. As the course progressed we covered more topics around the European Union, which sparked my interest in Italy’s role in it all. 

Overall, I am nervous to travel outside of the United States but I am hopeful for the new memories and experiences that lie ahead of me in Rome. I plan to journal and reflect upon what I’m experiencing often. Most importantly, I will be intentional about being present at the moment, to fully appreciate the experience.