That is the first statement you will hear from any former study abroad student. The ones who go to Italy, especially Rome, will tell you about the rich history of the Coliseum, the beauty of Villa Borghese, and the wonder that is the Trevi Fountain. They will tell you about the bustling city streets, the exciting nightlife, and the food that will have you looking for any excuse to go out and grab a bite to eat.
It all sounds wonderful, but what the former study abroad students fail to mention is the radical adjustment to the Italian way of living. It’s not that it’s impossible to live in Rome, not even close. Rome is one of my favorite places in the world, and the first place I would recommend to any future study abroad student, and the first school I would recommend would be John Cabot University.
In America, we are given every comfort, whenever we want, and we take it for granted. In America, we simply exist. So much focus is put on making our homes as comfortable as possible, so much so that we often prefer to stay in them. We neglect the outside world, and everything it has to offer. It is in this respect that studying abroad opens your eyes.
I remember my first few days in Rome. I was miserable. My roommates and I didn’t have hot water, we were jet lagged, and we had gotten lost half a dozen times. I was the only one that spoke any degree of Italian, but it was as clear as day to the locals we were American.
But I don’t think it really hit me until I took a look in the bathroom and saw the tiniest washing machine in the world, and noticed the lack of something very important next to it: a dryer. That was when it clicked to me that all the clothes hanging outside people’s windows wasn’t a “funny Italian thing,” and that I was in for a very different four months. And another somewhat stronger hint might’ve been that I could lean my head against the wall in front of me while sitting on the toilet.
After the third different bed broke for the third time, (once while I was sleeping at about two in the morning) my roommates and I started joking about how we had the repair guy on speed dial, and that we should chip in to get him something before we left. It wasn’t like the Italian people were difficult to get along with. On the contrary, they are perhaps the nicest people in the world, even to foreigners. The John Cabot housing staff was extremely helpful, and responded to us instantly, courteously, and professionally. When these issues that we had would be fixed, and how many times it would have to be fixed, was the real question.
But I think it was after discussing for twenty minutes the importance of having a cereal bowl and getting blank stares back, that I came to learn that it wasn’t the people. It was just the Italians, in their own way, functioned.
Unconsciously, it probably pushed me to go out and explore the world more. In between drain clogs and hot water outages, I learned it was important to really open your eyes and truly see where you were. That I could go out and explore the Roman nightlife, or that every day on my way to class I would walk through St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
So, later on in the semester while Skyping my friends and watching them recoil in horror at my living conditions, I would laugh it off and recount my tales of traveling through Greece, and remind them that I was going to Florence the next weekend, and Croatia the weekend after that.
Now that I’m home, (where everything now seems excessively accommodating) I find myself not lamenting about the cramped apartments in Rome, but yearning for the beautiful vistas, the rich history, the vivacious culture, and the hidden treasures on every corner.
To all incoming students, I’m going to warn you now. The living conditions in Rome will be an eye opener. But it will be just the eye opener you need to fully see the world that we live in.
St. Joseph’s College
Study Abroad Spring 2014