Throughout my time at John Cabot University, I’ve learned many things which have kept me afloat during my time studying in Rome. But, throwing back to the days when I was an eager freshman, I wish I’d had some advice from an older JCU student to help me through my first months abroad. Three semesters into my university career, I decided to write a list of survival techniques for not just university, but particularly, studying overseas at John Cabot in Rome.
- Go out and enjoy yourselves as much as you can. Whoever said Carpe Diem needs to also remember to Carpe Noctem – seize the night. Being in Rome, where the parties start at 1am, seizing the night is easier than expected. City life is for day breakers and night owls together – besides, Rome lit up at night is a wonderful sight.
- Honestly, this is a common tip for all students. I could slip into a coma for a year and it would not garner enough rest for me to survive finals week without passing out on top of my notes. Still, prioritize giving yourself a good night’s sleep. Boring or not, you feel a hundred times better with a good rest and it definitely helps you do better throughout the semester.
Throw out those strappy sandals and cute heels; replace with durable, comfortable footwear
- Rome is almost unbearably fashionable, but some things need to be left behind. Namely: shoes. Gosh, I seriously destroyed a very cute pair of white designer pumps within the first week of wandering those cobblestone streets. Iconic, sì; uneven and dirty? Sì, sì. You could be the most coordinated tightrope walker and still be caught by these historical tripping hazards. Sturdy, walkable shoes are a must! Pack ’em! It is an honest-to-goodness, awe-inspiring, and holy gift those Roman women have been given to successfully maneuver the streets in stilettos. Sadly, it’s one gift the non-natives will never be given.
- Despite the cobblestone issue, be aware that you will at least walk about 25 miles a week. And that’s me underestimating. Now, I particularly became obsessed with walking around Rome and I walked an average of 35 miles on a quiet week. This is not for everybody, I realize, but Rome is made to be walked. JCU happens to sit within a 20-minute radius of key major sites like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Vatican. Sure, walking can be a pain sometimes, and while it seldom rains in Rome, if it does it can be bothersome. But I always avoided taking the bus or tram when an opportunity presented itself to stretch my legs and take in Rome by foot.
Don’t buy groceries from mini-marts
- Convenient? Of course. But expensive? Very. Naturally, what is most convenient can be extortionate. Leave those little stops for emergencies or those super-lazy days; otherwise, get moving to the big grocery store Conad on Viale Trastevere!
Don’t eat too much pasta
- So easy to fall into the trap of the Italian charm. Pasta. A quick and easy meal, but pasta 24/7 doesn’t do a girl (or guy) any good, especially for the waistline. The freshmen / study abroad 15 is very real when pasta is on the menu.
Use American lingo on campus (usually)
- This one’s aimed at the non-Americans here at JCU: it’s okay to realize that few people really get you sometimes. It’s cool. Swallowing down the weird feeling of calling rubbish “trash” and understanding that no one else really wants a tea but you, as coffee is the go-to here is completely normal – I’m British and rarely survive the day without a good cuppa tea. Be true to you, but, I promise you, it saves so much time if you revert to the language you learned on American TV shows.
Don’t be lazy
- You are in Rome. People dream of visiting this city. Seeing it, experiencing it. Not only are you here, but you live here. For four months, or for four years, Rome is your home. Get out there. See the city, travel outside of the city with the ease of European transport. Say yes to silly events, and attend the talks that JCU offers. Opportunity is rife here, if you take the leap.
Choose a good class schedule
- Be picky. It’s okay. If you really don’t want to get up at 7am, don’t choose an 8am class. Or if you want to get up early and finish by lunch time – well, it’s your call. Your class schedule defines your week and even your weekend. Make sure you choose well, and choose what suits your needs.
Prioritize the professors
- They are so important for your learning. Sounds cheesy, but a motivated and passionate professor makes all the difference when you struggle to attend class that day due to any of the following reasons: fatigue, laziness, sickness, or just the general feeling of being done. JCU has a class act of professors who can help you out, and take the time with you due to the small classes. They learn and support you as an individual, and if you get a teacher who “clicks” for you, getting those grades becomes ten times easier. Not to mention, you’ll enjoy the class a whole lot more.
Get a great camera
- You’re in Rome, travelling Europe. This place is way too picturesque to always rely on your phone. Appreciate it, and capture those memories if you can.
Be braver than you are at home
- You’ve made it here- now go for it. Besides, nobody knows you here!
Visit other places in Rome besides Trap-stevere
- Ah, the Trap. Little nickname which is both loved, hated, and awkward to throw into conversation but pretty funny for those of us who have been there long enough. We love Trastevere, but sometimes a little too much. The cozy neighborhood can get a little too clingy, and crossing Ponte Sisto is sometimes harder than you think. But Rome has so much more than our little spot in its heart. Check it out.
Don’t carry around anything too valuable
- As with all cities, pickpocketing is rife. Go out with what is necessary and nothing more. It’s safer and it’s less to lug around on an evening out. Living in a city demands some street smarts.
City people are different from countryside folk
- Treat them with respect, and they treat you with it. You may look and sound a little touristy – very touristy – but they don’t mind so long as you’re not causing drama. Abide the rules of the city life, and you’re good. Coming from a small town where everyone knows everyone, cities are funny places sometimes, and despite the volume of people around you, isolation is real here. Remember that you are not alone, and you have a whole school of people like you to spend the days navigating this amazing city with.
Walk into oncoming traffic
- I am not promoting a certain death, but instead telling you that with Roman traffic, you really must be aggressive. Whether inside the car or outside it, the roads are always perilous. Learn that no one really wants you on their bonnet/hood, but still, wouldn’t care too greatly if you ended up there. It’s each to his own when it comes to Italian road sense. Be aware, be cautious, but step into traffic if you wish to cross the road. Definitely do not wait or you’ll be there a while!
Don’t live off Tiber Cafe food
- This is like pasta: so easy to fall into the trap of ease. Tiber food is good, but I find a lot of joy in the trials, errors, and successes of learning to cook while at university.
Use the library more
- The mythical and hidden area of Guarini is a haven for all students. While it may be manic during finals week, spending an hour in there every so often really helped me get some stuff done without the distractions of friends, food, Rome, and travel.
Prioritize your friendships
- You’ll never really meet people anywhere else like those you’ll meet at JCU. Study abroads, degree seekers, we’re all alike in some way. We are brave enough to take the leap to come here and do something so different and so far away from home, so it’s important to keep those friendships somehow. You’ll meet people you love, hate, aspire to be like, want to avoid. . . the diversity of people is rich, and while JCU is pretty small as universities go, the city is large and there are always people to meet, learn from, and make memories with. You’ll experience something with these people you may not be able to again, and so, creating the foundations of wonderful friendships over different cultures is something pretty special.
Bethany Anne Miller
Class of 2019
Classical Studies Major
Hometown: Shrewsbury, England