As I scroll through my photos and videos, I can tell I’ve already come a long way from when I arrived on September 2nd. When I first arrived, I could tell I was very much stuck in my “pandemic shell”; I was afraid to explore even my immediate neighborhood, I resisted introducing myself to other students, and I avoided anything that seemed too unfamiliar. While I am no less cautious now than I was at the end of 2019, I can feel my independence and eagerness returning. I can tell that I’m ready to embrace the excitement and opportunities of this year. With one month in the Eternal City under my belt, it’s time for me to share my reflections, highlights, and goals for October.
Some things I’ve observed and learned as I’ve gotten familiar with the city:
- The metro is super straightforward. The buses? Not so much. I was absolutely terrified of navigating the metro system when I first arrived, which meant I tried to walk everywhere. While there’s nothing wrong with getting in your daily steps (and it’s impossible not to in Rome), I realized I had to take a leap of faith when I had to meet my 9:00 AM Roman Art & Archaeology class at the Capitoline Hill, a roughly 45-minute walk from my apartment. I quickly learned that the metro is easy to navigate: Signs plainly list all of the stops, it’s easy to find your train once you’re inside, and the stops are all clearly marked and announced. The buses, on the other hand, have a number system I haven’t quite learned, and they are rarely on time anyway. I’ve learned to rely on the metro and my fast walking speed to take me where I need to go.
- Always carry your documents with you. Aside from legal and safety concerns, having all of my proper documents has allowed me to visit all sorts of amazing places. Just recently I was the only student in my Darkroom Photography class who could enter the Hendrik Christian Anderson Museum right next to campus because I brought my CDC card, a form of ID (such as a state ID or passport), and an official letter from Temple explaining the validity of the CDC card as an equivalent to the European Green Pass. Always keep these documents with you, as you never know when you’ll need them!
My September highlights:
- Seeing the inside of the Order of Malta. Through Temple University, I and a group of other interested students visited the Order of Malta, where we got to see beyond the famous keyhole and explore the grounds. We saw not only the beautiful Baroque church but also the gardens and an amazing view of St. Peter’s Basilica.
- Watching the sunset at the Piazza del Popolo. After a long day of classes, nothing beats taking a short walk to the Piazza del Popolo and climbing the stairs to the lookout at Villa Borghese. The photo below speaks for itself!
- Seeing the Colosseum and the Roman Forum five times. Part of the privilege of studying abroad for a full academic year is the fact that I can return to my favorite iconic places multiple times for different reasons. I often pass by these incredible ancient monuments depending on where I’m going for class, whether for on-site lectures or as subjects for my photographs. I can’t wait to claim more spaces as my favorites!
- Having my first complete conversations in Italian. At last, I can sit down at a cafè or bar and order coffee entirely in Italian! My favorite cafè is a three-minute walk from my apartment and serves what they call a cappuccino eccelente, a cappuccino served in a cup lined with chocolate. I am also now able to visit my local photography store and purchase my film for the week entirely in Italian. The constant practice really helps!
My goals for October:
- Be more adventurous with food. One thing I still have to overcome is my anxiety about ordering food. Now that I’ve developed a small arsenal of helpful Italian phrases, I want to try ordering my coffee at the bar or grabbing lunch to-go.
- Visit more museums. Now that I know how to get around and that I’ve seen many of the major outdoor sights, I can finally start appreciating the collections within buildings. With my MIC card, which gives me free access to several civic museums and archaeological sites within the city as a student in Rome, planning a trip is only a matter of deciding where I want to go.
- Evaluate how I spend my free time. This one will probably be the most difficult to approach, and definitely not a goal I can master in a month. Between studying and preparing for five classes (which for me means translating Greek and Latin texts, taking 72 film photos each week, learning Italian, and studying ancient Roman art and architecture), exploring Rome, practicing my cooking, and getting enough sleep, finding time to relax is difficult. However, I hope that as places and activities become more familiar, I’ll be able to take more time for myself to explore how my interests and hobbies evolve. Ideally, I want to read more and take a few watercolor lessons from my three talented roommates!
I’m so relieved that I am settling into Rome day by day. As the heat (hopefully) fades away during October, I can’t wait to keep you all updated on my next month of adventures!