The swing of things…

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I want to firstly say that items you use to wash your body is a total scarcity in this city! After 3 weeks I finally found a body sponge I could use to thoroughly wash myself with! Every Farmacia (pharmacy), Tiudi (market) and home goods store I walked into these past three weeks had NO idea what I was talking about when i asked them for a bango spunga (bath spounge) or lavari (wash cloth). That was the highlight of my day today. Anyways…

 

I planned my first trip! I will be going to Florence the weekend of February 10th with the program I came here with. It comes with accommodation, transportation and breakfast everyday. The rest is up to us, and we only needed to deposit 20 euro to secure our spot on the trip (and they give it back to us the day of). Pretty sweet deal if you ask me, Im so excited! As far as planning other trips, has been a nightmare and the trip I am thinking of in particular is the big one, Spring Break. Its always been a dream of mine to go to Dublin for St. Patricks day, but these Europeans have their revenue tactics on point and cranked all the transportation methods to Dublin through the roof. For the price I would end up paying to go to Dublin for only THREE days I might as well go to Cancun for a week! Unfortunately, and more bitterly, I dont think I will be going to Dublin. However, my new girlfriends and I found a package in Barcelona for SIGNIFICANTLY less…. 13 euro round trip? Ill take it. Looks like Barcelona is in for a rude awakening this March! And I am very excited because a good friend of mine is studying in Madrid this semester and says he and his friends were planning on Barcelona too! Its a relief something worked out 🙂

 

This past weekend we all decided to venture off to the Spanish Steps. As if I need to go into detail, I was blown away. You know when you look back on your life and realize the moment your life changed for good? Mine was on the Spanish Steps on Friday, January 20th. The atmosphere in itself was the Rome experience everyone raves about, the shopping, the saldi’s (sales) the endless and irresistible assortments and varieties of foods, the way this entire neighborhood was dressed head to toe with festive lights and Italian traditions gave me chills down my spine. We ventured off to find the only English bookstore in all of Rome for our required books for our classes, after we came afoot of this beautiful monument. When I die, I hope these steps are the stairway into heaven…. because thats exactly where I thought I was heading. My mind was blown, I was seriously speechless. Reality has finally set in, I am in Rome, Italy, living amongst Romans… I am DOING THE DAMN THING! Im currently living in a dream right now, and it was in this moment on the Spanish Steps I self actualized and and indulged my spirit in my surroundings. As if my blessings weren’t highlighted enough, it was here where I realized my wealth in happiness.

 

Afoot the Spanish Steps

Us on the Spanish Steps

The Festive Lights that Lined Throughout the Spanish Steps

The group I was with sat on these steps in silence, I think we all shared the same moment.

 

 

We made our way back to Testaccio, and went to a close by Trattoria, so yummy, wouldnt expect any less at this particular point! This past weekend we tried many bars and other venues we havent tried yet. It was quite the experience if I do say so. We went into many places that had drink specials and welcoming atmospheres. I am more adjusted in terms of which places we know are fun and worth it, and which people always come out with the group to these places. Testaccio has a bit of a soft spot for us visiting students, I think. We have yet to pay cover for anywhere we have gone to, I thought it was just because the men we were with were strongly outnumbered by women, but even when the boys would venture off from us they have never had to pay to get into anywhere either. DEFINITELY not mad about it!

 

I would like this next paragraph to be dedicated to disclaiming a lot of perceptions and stereotypes of Rome, Italy (this may not be applicable to all of Italy).

  • The Roman culture does NOT appreciate it when you try to speak Italian, if you’re not fluent, you’re better off starting off with “Parla Inglese?” (do you speak English?), because the locals get VERY huffy and even walk away from you when you try. It’s yet to stop me from learning, but it’s frustrating to us all as well. They’re going to have to put up with me stumbling with the language because I am definitely trying to be fluent by the time I leave in May.
  • Maybe in other towns, or cities, or locations that are particularly poor — but no one in this program or in this city has gotten ripped off. I was told when I came here that if I was carrying a purse or a wallet to keep it concealed under my clothes because people will walk right up behind you and snip it right off and run with it. WRONG. Every local here wears their purse dangling off their arm or shoulder like everyone else does in America. If the LOCALS are doing it, its evident that crime is not as aggressive as it was described to me. Our program sends out e-mails if theres a crime or violation that occurs within our program or in our neighborhoods, and not one yet about theft or being robbed. Or maybe we’re all being super precautious? Either way, its a reliever to not have to worry if someone is targeting you for your purse.
  • In terms of being over charged for something, yet to happen. Our program representatives gave us a rule of thumb to abide by, look at the price before you pay one of two things will happen, they will notice you looking at the price, so they wont over charge you, or if they DO over charge you, you will know to correct their ‘error’. Now that I’ve been here for about 3 weeks I am familiar with how much things should cost, so no Roman will be getting anything extra from me!
  • This is the most odd thing ever, but entering and exiting buildings are opposite here. To enter a place, you had a handle on the entrance as if you should pull it (these very handles in America actually say PULL on it, but not here) but you actually PUSH the PULL looking handle. And to exit, you also pull, as opposed to push like you do in the states. SO abstract, I know but you really notice how trained your stimuli is to do just the opposite of entering and exiting places. Those reading this blog, imagine going to dunkin donuts and you have a huge tray of coffees to go into work, you get to the door and you have to let one hand off of your heavy tray to pull a door open! NO, that would be a mess! Usually you use your backside or foot to PUSH open the door, well not here! You make your coffee run in TRIPS if you have a big order!
  • You get fined for spitting….but not if you dont pick up after your dog…always watch where your walking around here F.Y.I.

 

Thats all I can think of for now, but I know there’s plenty!

 

On Sunday, was of course a defining day for America…..who’s going to the SuperBowl?! We decided to make our way to the Irish Pub, Scholars, for the games. Unlike the first time I went, it was actually MUCH less of a zoo, and more civilized than that night. It was actually silent in the bar when we walked in because all football fans were watching with dire anticipation, and suspense. When I ordered a beer, the bartender ignored me because he too was watching the game! It was funny because durring the commercial breaks the chatter and chaos would stir back up again. The second the game turned back on it’s like some one hit a mute button in the place! My roommate and I met these really nice Australian people, who were also studying abroad in Rome but their home University was at Tufts and Temple. They were so delightfully nice! We chatted with them all night, and unbeknownst to me, one of the guys actually had a girlfriend but she was SWEET as pie when she saw that her boyfriend was talking to me! Maybe its only in America where girls get so territorial over their men. She even bought me drinks! The bar was dominantly Raven and 49ers fans, so it was very awkward for our residence to walk in their split down the middle between Patriot and Giants fans. Our residence were the only people cheering when either of these two teams were doing well. It was such an eventful night, and I enjoyed myself by feeling American by drinking beer in a bar playing football! Gotta take a break from the culture SOMEtimes.

 

My classes are now going into their second week, but now this is my first full week of my finalized schedule. My new philosophy class has A LOT of brilliant minds in it. Everyone in my class is from places like Oxford University and other very prestigious institutions that you would THINK should intimidate me….

 

No.

 

The only thing that differs them from me is their vocabulary. Their use of 35-letter words is nothing but a mask, because behind these sophisticated verbal proposals, is some one who has a very similair point of view as I. Apparently in these peoples home countries they havent met others who are strongly opinionated. In my last post I mentioned how this class is a lot like Professor Lajoies standard class, with a lot of participation to be counted toward your grade. This particular topic of today is to define what we believe is justice, and equality amongst a nation. When voicing my opinion and views (believe me, with a rights activating brother and a crumbling economy as we know it, I had a few things to say…) I received the nastiest stares and most back handed comments from these fellow students, and it turns out their ‘argument’ against me was the EXACT same thing I just said except with more indigenous words and different sentence format….Just because I don’t have a thesaurus encoded in my head doesn’t mean I dont know what I’m talking about!

 

The price of hair maintenance is ridiculously expensive, apparently. The boys down the hall from me just tried to give themselves a haircut and WHAT a disaster! Watching my talented mother over the years, I figured any help would be a huge help to them! Thankfully, their hair looks fine now thanks to my embedded talents:)

 

This experience is happening so quickly, I already feel like I know my neighborhood like the back of my hand, and I am well on my way to getting to know other neighborhoods and their hidden treasures. Today in Compra del Fiori I tasted the best pizza that has ever crossed my lips at a local pizzeria. It was so delicious and hit the spot after going through a 3 week excursion to find a body sponge (again, I cannot express my joy that I finally found one). Everyone is starting to plan weekend trips now so it’ll be interesting to hear their experiences. I have a few places I plan to travel while I’m here, this will work out fabulously if the travel is as cheap as I found my flight to Barcelona!

 

  • Barcelona-Madrid, Spain
  • The Italian South
  • Nice, France
  • The Greek Islands (certainly staying away from the main land right now)
  • Prague

 

I’m hoping I can make all of these happen, just got to shop for the right deals at the right time to perfectly plan out a trip!

 

There’s an information session about Internships and Job offers tomorrow, I’m going to check it out and see what they have to offer. My guess is the usual, opportunities for every major EXCEPT psychology but, WHEN IN ROME right?

 

Will post again soon, Ciao!

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Week 1 Down…

Yayyy! Have my final class schedule figured out. After dragging myself through two of the WORST classes I have ever been present for, I decided to drop Art History and Philosophical Ethics. Philosophical ethics was probably doable, but it had more cons than pros. It was at 7:00 at night, and I had no one to make the 30 minute trip with, the professor fo the class might as well have spoken her first language in the classroom dialect because her english was dreadful, and on top of it there was a sadistic asshole in the class who revolted against the idea of there being a supernatural (probably would have chopped his head off if I heard him say ‘my views are fictitious/naive’ one more time)  was an obvious drop. AND this woman required SEVEN textbooks….

My Art History class, I was actually really excited about at first. The syllabus online said we would be visiting Florence three times through the semester for a project we were completing by the end of the year. It met once a week for 3 hours, and we also finished our classes a month prior to other courses. Pretty sweet I thought. On other course syllabus’ they discuss if there is an additional fee for course activities (which were all particularly low anyway), this syllabus didn’t indicate one so with no hesitation I signed up for it. And what a SCAM it was I must say. First things first, the professor was 20 minutes late (tisk), and he didn’t even take the time to introduce himself to us. He gets through the syllabus and then tried to nonchalantly throw out there that the trips to Florence will be out of our pockets. That how we arrive there, sleep there, and eat there (eating was understandable), and even the rates of the museums and galleries we were required to visit (roughly 10-11 each time we go!) all out of OUR pockets! Imagine how much the galleries and museum tours are by themselves…thats atleast 600 dollars every time we go to Florence. I am ALL set with that. However, we still had 2 hours of class left so he decided to get into our lesson. The lesson it’s self was just dreadful. He spoke a million miles per hour and the material was just dry, boring, and horribly uninteresting. I have never fallen asleep in a class before (no, not even in World Civ. freshman year) and I knocked out in this class, I woke myself up and looked around and almost everyone was asleep! Once the class was over everyone rushed to get up and get out. Many people were exclaiming how they were dropping the class as we all drained down the hallway.

I decided to substitute these classes right away. I chose a Journalism course (my mother always says I should have went to school for Journalism) it’s called Media Writting, and it’s extremely interesting and cutting edge. My professor has a lot of experience and she found a lot of fun ways to keep us participating in class discussions. We are learning about different ways to construct a story and the techniques to engage a reader. I am so excited about this course!

The second class I added, I actually just got out of. It was another philosophy class but the syllabus looked far more engaging and less brutal than the original I signed up for. It’s called Freedom, Equality and Democracy. the professor reminds me a lot of Professor Lajoie back at Nichols. He’s very into getting to know his students and giving creative discussion topics. Theres a forum that we post on with links to readings he wants us to read. Even the people in the class reminds me of a standard Lajoie class. Today the discussion lasted all the way to the last minute of class (just like Lajoie as well) So I have no fear with this course, I know I will love it and get a lot out of it.

My other classes, Sociology of Southern Italy, Cognitive Psychology, and Public Speaking are all very intriguing as well. I can’t wait to get into the different regions of Southern Italy and learn more about the booming characteristics of what makes the most beautiful country in the world, so beautiful. My Cognitive Psychologly I surprisingly do not have a good feel on. My first class he reviewed the syllabus and said he’ll see us the next class. We meet again tonight so hopefully it’s a keeper. My Public Speaking class will be fantastic. I have a lot of experience public speaking from being an Orientation Leader, a teaching assistant, and a student ambassador. The professor has a lot of satirical composition through out his lectures. He seems very fun and eager to teach an exciting class.

This week was very hectic, our first week being actual students in Rome, a lot of new names and faces accommodated a very particular set of judgement techniques on whether or not we can pass the class or atleast be interested in it. This school doesn’t offer any classes on Fridays so my four day weekend is straight ahead of me. A few girls and I have been planning spring break this whole week. Going to Dublin on St. Patty’s day is our top priority! Then half of us are going to split off and go to either London or Barcelona. I of course chose Barcelona, many other trips are in progress of being planned and I couldn’t be more excited!

Will post again soon!

First day of classes!

I absolutely loved my first class, a total keeper. Sociology of Southern Italy is a course that basically composes all of Southern Italy and all of it’s charachteristics. We covered a lot of ground today in the first class. The professor seems like a cool guy too, he’s from London, England and he startd his class with “as you can tell, I have a funny accent…” he was really down to earth. Im excited for Wednesdays class!

After class I decided to wander a bit and try to find some cute flat boots that everyone seems to wear around here, the ones I liked I couldn’t afford and the ones I could afford I didn’t like. The search continues. But, I did find a really cute bag that can fit my school utensils, not a total waste. Trestevere is loaded with American students, it’s so easy to navigate because it’s all one big circle and you always run into people you know, and with Rome being as big as it is; this is pretty comforting!

I learned today my last name means “of the(della) wall(mura)” when I showed the John Cabot security gard my student ID. I am learning a lot of Italian through listening to other speak, and I am absorbing everything I am coming across.

I’m currently awaiting my second class of the day (I have 8 hours in between them ;\) and after taking a closer look at the syllabus I think I might drop it because it seems very heavy with termonology, but we will see how it goes tonight.

Today everyone moves back to Nichols, which is insane for me because I am so used to being there already for hockey, and here I am across the world! Make me think of freshmen year when traveling abroad was just a dreamof mine, and now it’s finally come true. I feel so blessed for this experience, honestly this was the best decision I have ever made with my life!

Thats all for right now, will post soon about the rest of my classes this week!

Getting settled…

Since my last post, I have been adapting very well. The first thing I want to point out is a piece of useful information that should be drilled into everyone in the states… GUIDO is NOTa term for hot italian-american males! Why do you ask? Because it’s literal translation means DRIVE, yes as in “uomo guido macchina” (the male is driving the car) and when its a WOMAN driving…you guessed it…it becomes GUIDA. Now I know I’ve been sounding like an adjective confused lunatic over the years! Please spread the word, it’s now actually quite embarrassing. A few nights ago this girl said to one of the local attractive men “Omg, you’re a total GUIDO” his reply “no guido qualunque” (Im not driving anything) In total denial, we looked up the term and what do you know, it means DRIVE. Yeah I know, cool story.

Anyway…

Italy has been extremely fast paced. I have been taking Rosetta stone so Im familiar with most conversation, but I have learned much more over the past 6 days. I have also gotten the transportation system down to a decent art, there are several different busses you can take to various parts of the city. They are all coated by number, whatever neighborhood the bus is located out of will be at the top of the list of locations, as the list goes down, its the order of stops on this particular bus the location that is circled is the location you are at. The bus ticket system is very skewed. You need to go to a Tabacci shop to by a ticket (1 euro each) then once you are on your desired bus, you need to get your ticket validated with a time and date you entered the bus in this machine that stamps it for you. Now, if a police officer finds you without validated ticket, the fine is over 100 euro. The ticket is valid for 75 minutes of bus or tram use. Useless info some but if anyone reading this blog is making plans to travel here this is VERY useful.

We were informed of these Taxi strikes that occur often here. dont ask me why they happen but you do not want to left out whren this information comes around. It’s exactly as it sounds, taxis do NOT run. You are forced to walk or take a bus or tram. We’ve been getting emails about these kind of strikes, you do not want to be caught west past Testaccio without a taxi option.

So we toured Vatican city the other day! IT WAS SO AMAZING! The Vatican was beautiful. Also, it’s own country, we had to go through customs and everything to get into it. Our tour guide is extremely knowledgable, I was blown away by everything she knew. Since the Vatican was so breath taking, again my group and I basically tuned out 90% of the time to soak in the beautiful monuments. A lot of the monuments I knew myself because of my prior education in a private school, there was so much symbolism in itself in the church. What blew me away was the amount of detail in every inch of this monument, all hand crafted sculptures and beautiful paintings and murals. Tombs of many important religious figures were located in the bottom floor of the vatican, it was really creepy actually. The tombs were above ground with a sculpture of who was just inches from your finger tips. Our tour guide asked ot not take pictures to show our respect for the dead. There was so many different rooms in the church to hold mass, it wasn’t one huge church with one alter, there was MANY alters. There to serve different masses or purposes. What I liked most was what the Holy water was held in, it was this giant marble dish that held 5 gallong of Holy water at a time. Outside of this church was this door that was explained ot only be opened once every 25 years for forgiveness of sins.

Outside of the Vatican was statues of saints and angles. It was so beautiful. We were pointed out the location of where the Pope lived. There was a hugeee fountain infront of the church, and pillars that size floored me on how enormous they were. This entire tour of the church took about 2 hours, it was a lot of information but what I was looking at made the time fly. Our next stop was St. Angelo castle. Talk about a hike to the top! I was walking through this ancient structure and all I kept picture was Shrek when he saved Fiona (sad, but true) it was so arcaic and strong I was instantly putting myself back in history, imagining what it was like to be living in this castle. We reached the top, and you saw the entire city of Rome.

I had no words.

Castle of St. Angelo

Ontop of Castle St. Angelo

Inside

Inside the Vatican!

After our tour was over, me and the girls were so hungry. We stoped at the first Tratoria we saw. Our waitor walks over and puts a bottle of champagne on the table and said it was “free, for you ladies.” ..hey, who turns down free champagne?! It was the best champagne I ever tatsed. The menu was very big, and had many seafood options. But pretty affordable! We dug into the bread, and placed our orders. When the food was being carried out, my plate was the only one still behind in the kitchen, the waitor says it will be a few more minutes but he offered to go into the kitchen and yell at the chef. I thought he was joking, but he signaled me to the back. Now, Im no idiot, I wouldn’t go into a seculded back room a stranger is leading me to. I was able to walk into the kitchen with my girlfriends still in sight, laughing uncontrolabley about even being allowed to “yell at the chef” he was very friendly, laughed with me as well, and plated my food.

Before the check arrived, the waitor asked to take me out. After I turned beat red, I informed him I was not a resident of Italy and I was only studying here. He then extends me his phone number, I didnt want to accept it because again this is a complete stranger, but he said to my party of 8 other girls to all come out to Compri (a near by neighborhood) to this American bar. Hesitant, I took his number…I dont plan to call though. I’d like to play it safe for a while before I allow miscellanous men taking me out. Besides, I wouldn’t go ANYWHERE without my new girlfriends.

That brings me to my next part of this blog, I have met the best people here. I think because all of us are in this experience to start with, we are already on the same page. A lot of us have very very very similiar points of views and it seems like the time we spend together outside of tours and other activites is not enough. I really enjoy this group of people Ive been placed with. Everyone has been getting along so well and connecting famously.

Last night, I planned to stay in and get some sleep. I get a knock on the door from my neighbors and they said they wanted to go out for a little while. I agreed and got ready… well this changed quickly. We ended up walking to Trestevere and explored the bars around there. Those bars were SCREAMING Welcome John Cabot Students! I was able to meet more students who were placed in different residents, and meet some locals who are degree seeking at John Cabot as well. Last night was a success. A “taking it easy” night was equal to “going hard” at home. Things escalate very quickly here, whether it be going out for the night or going to find a place to eat or an activity to do. I love that there is ALWAYS something to do.

Today, my roommate and I were productive. We wrent grocery shopping, found a gelato place, an accessories store, and a tanning solan (solarium, in italian) however it is way too expensive for a package or a single session. We then compared our schedules and found that were in a few classes together. I have a class that gets out at 8:15 at night, and I was NOT comfortable walking back to my residence by myself in the dark, turns out, she has a class during that same time, so were both safe walking at night now!

We made dinner together tonight and it came out pretty well! just like Shamie, people walk in and walk out as they please and chat with you for a little while. It’s easy to make plans with everyone here, and it’s easy to go places in groups. Im certain I will not become a statistic, the system I have been placed in the middle make me feel even mroe comfortable of my surroundings.

Rome is getting so exciting more and more each day, and it hasn’t even been a week yet!

Hello Romaaa!

Okay, WOW.

This week has been a rollercoaster if I do say so myself. Let me start off this blog by saying first and foremost that I am SAFE, adapting to Rome just fabulously, and RELIEVED that there’s finally an internet connection. The first part of this entry is going to be a little negative given my nerves and my anxiety but its entirely necessary to paint the whole picture for the flight in itself was very eventful.

My first piece of advice to all viewing who have never traveled before DO IT WITH SOME ONE! There is no word in existence to describe how much of a wreck I was at JFK. Last time I flew was when I was 6, to Disney world. On top of my natural fear of heights and strangers, I was also still tipsy from the get together I had prior, and now extremely emotional from my tearful goodbye from my mother and father at the security gate. I was crying so much to the point where a total stranger walked up to my and gave me a package of tissues. Pathetic? Probably. but this was the start of a new journey that no amount of preparation and advice from others could make you feel comfortable enough for. It was at this very moment I started to feel alone and isolated……AND I WAS STILL IN NEW YORK!

Luckily, I met these two college students before I boarded the plan, this one girl was a studying to be a yoga instructor at a SUNY, and was flying out to her semester abroad in CANCUN, sweet deal right? We board the plan and I am sitting next to these two extremely sketchy people…now I’m REALLY freaking out. Im not saying this because I was naturally nervous, I mean…these people were genuinely WEIRD. The guy next to me was humming to himself…not rhythmic humming…like humming like he was holding in a bowel movement. The woman next to me was blasting some obnoxious foreign music, mind you this was also 6 in the morning. We were due to take of at 6:20, and it is 6:45 and we still havent moved. the pilot came on the PA system and announced there was an electrical problem…Exactly what I was hoping to hear my first time traveling by myself! :\ Finally at 7:00 we took off. I have never felt a feeling that I had in my stomach before this day, it felt like the big drop on a roller coster…except I was plunging UP. Shaking, freaking out, practically on the verge of an anxiety attack (still tipsy!!) and at the foot of being in another country for a semester….I was not off to a good start.

Were approaching my connecting destination in Atlanta (YES, all of these emotions for just two hours in flight….give me a little break I was nervous damnit!) My pilot comes on again and says that we have to take 45 minute detour because the airport has too much traffic for landing right now. Just what I wanted, more time 15,000ft above ground, score!

We land…finally. Apparently half that plane had a tight frame to get to their connecting flight to their next destination, so it was a stampede getting off. Atlanta airport as most of you know is enormous, but whoever told me that it was hard to navigate through….shame on you! easy as pie, and Ive never traveled before! Im still anxious and nervous at this point and now I was completely on my own. I had an 8 hour layover to recollect myself and screw my head back on right. I got some lunch, and the people at the restaurant were laughing at me (like I cared, they’re probably working in an airport diner for the next 5 months and I’ll be in ROME.) these 8 hours passed pretty quickly, with the combination of me reviewing my travel files and finishing up my Rosetta stone it was time to board before I knew it. and MAN this plane was enormous! I mean obviously, but this plan held 200 passengers! I sat next to this girl who was also studying abroad outside of Rome, also her first time traveling by herself. She was very nice and we exchanged info, were going to try and meet up while were here. The plane over loaded us with food and beverages, half of it tasted like dirt but I was SO hungry.

As we entered over Italy I immediately started getting excited! All of my nerves were gone, I think I got them all out on my flight to Atlanta! I was so excited to land after a 9 hour flight! We flew over the cities and saw all the amazing lights and the bodies of water. I could not wait to get on the ground and start this whole experience. It was finally here!

Now, I’ve been studying Rosetta Stone, I know some basic phrases so far. I asked the Italian Speaking man in front of me if he could hand me my red suitcase please in Italian, the man just LAUGHS at me and he said to me in Italian “you must be American…” and handed me my bag. HOW RUDE!

Anyway, now Im off the plane and this was the most confusing part of my arrival. I was prepared with everything except for an idea of how to navigate through an Italian airport! AHHH! The second we get off the plane…apparently we had to take a tram to the terminal where we collect our luggage. I get off the tram and the line is so out of control and disorganized I was so overwhelmed. I figured I’d go find the person who was picking up the students at the airport first, as Im trying to track this person down Im walking by different baggage claim ports and all of a sudden I see my luggage….I wasn’t going to question it, I just took it. Very weird and random seeing how my luggage was on a completely different flights baggage claim…I was just gonna go with it. I walk through customs and was HIGHLY disappointed!!!! THEY DIDN’T EVEN STAMP ME OR LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL PASSPORT PICTURE!!!!! They barely even held it in their hand!! What a drag!

I see a man holding an API sign and I nearly leapt off the ground and hugged him! Was so happy to be afoot of one of the most beautiful cities in the world! I met these two girls while I waited, Alex and Jenn. Both were studying at John Cabot. We waited as more students arrived with luggage and anticipation and we loaded up the bus and headed toward our residence.

I met my roommate finally after exchanging messages back and forth about our arrival. She’s very nice, and very cultured. She does a lot of international relations for her International Affairs major at George Washington University. It made me feel comfortable that’s she’s traveled a lot because I haven’t traveled at all! We arrived in Testaccio, which we were informed was the “young people” location in all of Rome. They call clubs here “discos” but they weren’t kidding, we are RIGHT across the street from some of Rome’s biggest clubs and famous bars! For my Nichols people, if my apartment was Remilard…these clubs and bars would be Frank Kusters house!

We head up to our apartment space, and we found out shortly after stepping foot into our rooms that we were under some different perception of what our rooms were supposed to look like. They are definitely A LOT smaller than we thought. But we didn’t grope too much about it, we were in an awesome location and had a lot of similar travel plans that the size of the apartment wasn’t too detrimental. We unpacked, and still had a few hours to kill. Having not slept in 2 and a half days, I was in a desperate need of a power nap before we headed off to our first orientation. My roommate and I closed our shade and fell asleep within seconds, we set our alarm for a half hour before we were expected at the first meeting….we slept through it. When we finally woke up, we were so flustered and rushed! We ended up hailing a cab to get to the hall for the rest of our meetings and check ins. Was hardly in Italy for half a day and I was already loosing my head! The cab was quite an experience; the cab driver called up beautiful and asked where we needed to go. It was pretty cheap getting there, and we didn’t get over charged like people made me believe I would. We even tipped him (although we later learned that we didn’t have to do that). We walked into our reception hall and we were the only ones who were late, but they understood! We got done with our meetings and had sometime to kill before the bus came to pick us up for our welcome dinner, so we looked around the neighborhood and found some amazing coffee shops, pizzerias, and gelato places. Not to mention thousands of options to buy wine!

Let me tell you something about Italy and their alcohol…ITS EVERYWHERE. No lie. Everywhere you go, behind the counter is a full service bar with a small assortment of hard liquor, wines, and birra (Italian for beer), before you check out (whether you’re buying a coffee, lottery ticket, or Panini) the cashier asked you “Beve?” which means drink in Italian (mental notation). I have been inside of many different stores and I see people pop in for a quick glass of wine then they are merrily on their way! (YES, Italians chug wine like Americans, too!) its bizarre how this mini-bars are like a regular Dunkin’ Donuts around here! Purchasing wine is practically a steal, maybe because theres just so much accessible. I haven’t purchased a bottle more than 4 euro so far. And it’s not Franzia or any of that crap, this is some of the best wine I have EVER tasted! There are wine tastings that are frequently held at the University we are attending but they are crazy expensive! All of us in our residence agree to buy multiple bottles of wine once a week and have our own wine tasting right outside on our oversized patio!(…oh yeah, we have a HUGE patio!)

So our first night as Roman-Americans, API treated us to dinner to a local Trattoria. Im very used to the Italian ritual of eating meals so it didn’t shock me that was had antipasto and so on. However, I see how skewed our system is in America compared to the system in Rome. Antipasto was a lot more than meat, oiled veggies and cheeses, there was an entire different side of breads and peppered items that I have never knew about. Then came our first-main course, it was this dish I wish I could recall the name of but it’s their standard first-main course selection throughout Italy. It was a pomondoro sauce with bacon and mozzarella cheese, then dressed with parmesan cheese. I have to say, this must be a standard once I return home to the States, I have never tasted something so delicious before. Then, we moved onto our second-main course, which was another pasta…carbonara. Now, I have been working at an Italian restaurant for almost 5 years now, I know what pasta carbonara is, it’s my main choice when selecting my dinner at the end of my shift! Well, some one better inform my manager of this ritual because it’s totally different here in Rome! In the States, carbonara is made with a thick alfredo sauce with peas, shallots, and bacon; I receive this plate ready to dig in and the only accurate ingredient was the bacon! It was a thick marinated noodles with what tasted like a buttery or olive-oily base, dressed with parmesan cheese, basil, bacon and EGG. Which sounds weird with pasta, but honestly you don’t even notice it. In fact, never have carbonara without it! Since all of their food in Italy is fresh, you fill up much, much quicker. I am stuffed to the gills, but then came the dessert. Being relative with Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop on Wooster Street in New Haven, turning down dessert would be an indecency! We had three options, one was Tiramisu and a Riccotta torta with raspberries, and another I can’t remember.  I chose the ricotta torta, I bite in and I am immediately in all of my glory! As opposed to other cheesecakes, this wasn’t heavy and extremely loaded with fat and junk. It was fluffy, and light and the way we all wish cheesecake could taste…and no guilt either!

Jet lagged, we all crashed after dinner. We had to be up early the next day for more meetings about our residence and contracts and such. My roommate and I made SURE we were awake this time! after the meetings got out we explored more of the area, found a fresh market with every kind of assortment of cheese and meats and breads and oils and EVERYTHING Italian you can imagine! Walking through there felt like heaven! There are honestly tons and tons and TONS of restaurants, whether they be full service or a walk up desk. And shockingly, not expensive at all…even with the euro added in! I’ve had my share of panini’s and pizza and cannolis and expresso’s already! And even more shocking is that a very wide portion of Rome speaks pretty decent English!

We meet our bus and head right into the tour of ancient Rome! Now we had these ear bud things with our tour guide who had a microphone so she’s be telling us what we were supposed to be looking at! Once we got out of Testaccio and into the monuments, we totally tuned out and embraced the structures that laid before our eyes. We all had our camera’s so we also wore the label AMERICAN very proudly at this particular point! I do not remember the names of most of the places we were at, but we saw the best of them. We saw the Colosseum, we saw where Caesar was killed, we saw the Tiber River, and several beautiful monuments that I still see every time I blink. For those on facebook, they are all in my “When In Rome…. album”

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain!

Trevi Fountain

My roommate and I infront of the Trevi Fountain!

The second night is afoot, we’ve all gotten acquainted and we decided it is now time to take advantage of our nearby estates. Time to BEVE! We decided to enjoy our wine, then hit the bar across the way called “On The Rox” and that bar alone changed my standards for social drinking venues when I come back to the states. The staff was really nice, even bought us all our first round of drinks. They were American as well, and said they loved seeing college students studying abroad. It was a wild way to start the nights the lights were insane and the music was spot on. Once 12:30 approached, we headed next door to a club called Cyote. Clubs, we found out don’t even open until 12:30, so we were the first ones in line. Cyote was a very dynamic club, plenty of stunning displays of lights and action and amusing set-ups that gave the club a touch that every club should have. Being from the Greater New Haven area, Im pretty accustomed to the nightlife, I had expectations of what a club is like and what the etiquette should be, well Italy turned that ass backwards and basically spat in the faces of any club I have ever attended. They let in women for free (no matter what time) and buy your first drink when you get inside, they let most men in for free too as long as they are accompanied by many women. Another thing I was amused about was the amount of American music they played through our locations. Plenty of songs we have all listened to while drinking in our dorms in the States and hear frequently on the radio. The amount of house music they incorporate into their selection bring the club experience to another level. I had a great night, we all started off on such a good foot and made some interesting memories with our new friends.

The next day we didn’t need to be anywhere until 4pm. Thankfully my roommate woke me because I probably would have slept all day long.. I think I was still jet lagged… I missed out on a lot of sleep! We headed to our school to see the campus for the first time, it reminds me a lot of Nichols (minus the fact that it’s in an enormous city!)…it has two main buildings where most of the classes are held. The staff seemed pretty friendly and had many resources and policies I’m used to having at Nichols. I’m not worried about adjusting. After our information sessions about student policies and all that exciting stuff, we decided to venture off into the neighborhood Trastevere. There were many assorted shops with cute clothing and yummy looking food and plenty of wine and tap rooms with lounges and entertainment. There were also places to buy things for your home, and many shoe stores along with purses scarves and all the gelato you can wish for…and lets not forget your ever so reoccurring behind the counter liquor selection! Me and my new girlfriends made a reservation at a restaurant with surprisingly cheap prices and an English menu and then grabbed the best glass of Pinot Grigio I have ever had at a lounge across the street. We all laughed and talked and shared stories with each other, we all seem very alike and very thankful for this opportunity. Dinner was out of this world. I got the carbonara! It was so enjoyable and relaxing. We even sat in the restaurant an hour after we paid!

We decided to journey our way back to our residence, this was a great time to figure out how to navigate through our surroundings. We found it to be easy getting from Trastevere to Testaccio. We took followed the Tiber River and we were as good as gold. It was very easy to remember too considering this is how I will be getting to classes everyday! We were all exaushted by the time we got back, everyone was out like a light by midnight. The next day (today) we had our appointments with the Italian Embassy for our Permit to Stay. This needed to be completed within 8 days of our arrival, or else we’d get arrested or flown back to the United States. So THIS was very important! Lets talk about the headache with was! Talk about 2,000 students crammed into one room….P.S. there’s no such thing as lines here! After that catastrophe was over, it was times to just relax. Our WiFi was FINALLY turned on, so we all had plenty of catching up to do with our families and loved ones back home.

Tonight is my next door neighbors 21st birthday, and although this means nothing in Italy for someone to be turning 21, we’re still taking him out for a proper celebration! Tomorrow, we’re touring the Vatican! This felt good to finally be in touch with the outside world and update my friends and families back home about my experience so far!

So yes, I am LOVING ROME, ITALY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!