I’m a long way from Tacoma!
In late March, I hopped on my first international flight to attend a quarter-long study abroad in Rome, Italy. With course options focusing on art history, communications, architecture, creative writing and the Italian language, the “Rome in Residence” program through UW Seattle seemed like the perfect way to try something new, as I have been solely taking Milgard School of Business courses for my management major. Between the opportunity to study at a UW school abroad – the UW Rome Center – and the ability to get core courses out of the way, I was sold and eager to live in a foreign country for ten weeks.
When I first arrived, I was proud that I defeated the imminent threat of jet-lag. In a bit of a fever dream, I was able to make it to my hotel and grab some food. I was massively unprepared for Italian dining culture – things move slower here and you have to ask for the check, waiting a while for change and scantily tipping. Although, the cacio e pepe (a pasta dish made with tons of fresh pepper and cheese) was worth the momentary cultural awkwardness of accidentally leaving a six-euro tip. I checked into the program the following morning, meeting my four roommates among other students in the program and getting my first daylit glimpse of Rome.
The first day was filled with the daunting little things I forgot about when traveling – getting lunch, going to the grocery store or the pharmacy, and communicating with my new landlord. It was a huge shock at first – European standards for appliances are quite different from the States. Small fridges mean constant grocery trips, grocery stores require you to bag, weigh and label your own produce (in Italian!). During the first week, my washer broke (dryers do not exist here!) and the apartment was without heat, hot water and a stove for days. I speak very little Italian, but I do speak Spanish – so I was able to use a jumble of the two, a language that I now affectionately call “Spitalian” to communicate with a kind repairman. Surprisingly, Rome is also covered in graffiti, despite the ancient history of buildings. It is not uncommon to be standing in an 11th or 12th-century building on a daily basis!
There have been lots of positives. My roommates are all fun, sweet and supportive. I ventured out with them to find cute cafes and restaurants, eating Nutella croissants and rigatoni all’amatriciana as much as possible. I was able to get into a routine quickly and loved exploring our neighborhood, Trastevere. Known for being a culturally immersive neighborhood with amazing food, the winding alleyways are packed with adorable restaurants, cheap gelato spots and the best flea market in the city.
So far, my highlights have been my art history class, where I get to visit a different location twice a week, like the Ara Pacis Museum, the Roman Forum and the Caracalla Baths. I am so obsessed with stracciatella wafer cookies that I shipped them home to my family, and have suddenly started drinking espresso. I will always be surprised while wandering around, looking for a good panini spot and accidentally bump into the Pantheon or the Fountain of Neptune.