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Favorite Dish : Gelato
Next Destination: Back to Rome
What was a typical day like for you while abroad?
After a small breakfast of caffellatte and cornetto, I made my way down the hill towards the Trionfale Market that stretches the Vialle delle Milizie. A few visits to the same vendors usually guaranteed students residing in Medaglie D’Oro a small token of familiarity, such as an apple or clementine. This I enjoyed on my walk to La Piazza delle Cinque Giornate, across the Ponte Matteotti to the brown villa that houses Temple Rome. When it rained, which occurred less than ten times during the whole semester, I would race to the Cipro metro station, where one could really enjoy a few cultural differences. There really is no such thing as personal space in Italy—people are shoved, pinched, flirted with, stared at and invited to converse with complete strangers. I never thought so many people could fit in a subway car. As a psychology major, I wondered to myself if claustrophobia could even exist in such a place. Italians are so expressive and familiar; older women may come up to you and grab your arm to ask for directions, or pat your cheek when you offer them a seat. The metro always proved to be an interesting experience.
At Temple Rome, I decided to take four classes, so I would have time to wander the city and take advantage of the wonderful palazzi, museums and parks. My two Art History classes, High Renaissance and Baroque, both involved on-site lectures once a week. This part of the curriculum made my time in Rome most memorable; my professors took us to locations usually passed over by the regular tourists. The thrill of visiting sculptures, churches, museums and different neighborhoods that are referenced in novels, movies and casual conversation was incredible. I kept track of each piece I saw that was worked on by Michelangelo (I also kept track of each flavor of gelato I tried). It got the point that my friends and I covered our walls with postcards from Gli Uffizi, Il Bargello, I Musei Vaticani, Museo E Galleria Borghese and others. While one can learn and memorize from a textbook, one can get a much more complete feeling of a painting by standing in front of it, by comparing it to surrounding works, by understanding the location of the church, by learning about the relationship between different artists and patrons working in the same place, etc. Studying art in Rome, wandering through ruins, doing homework in the Forum, visiting the same cafes and feeling comfortable in a totally different environment—these were integral parts of my experience in Rome. They allowed me to become so much more confident, not only navigating new cities and a foreign language, but being able to allow myself to be uncomfortable and to use that opportunity to discover and enjoy Rome and Europe as someone who is more than a tourist.
How was the experience of studying the language in the classroom (in high school or in college) prior to studying abroad different from the experience of studying the language in and outside of the classroom once you were abroad?
I studied Italian at Temple University for two semesters before attending the Temple Rome program. Before I left for Italy, I used my Italian very sparingly in my everyday live. I went to class, did the homework and completed all the necessary exams; however, I didn’t really expand my knowledge outside the classroom. Conversely, while in Italy, everyday was an Italian lesson. Learning to express new desires, asking about items on the menu, understanding Roman culture, inquiring as to when the next metro strike would occur, asking for directions—all these things are glossed over in class, but they take on an entirely new meaning when living in the country. I believed that I possessed a decent grasp of the language while studying in the United States, but I recognized that it is totally unreasonable to expect myself to learn and remember everything I learned when speaking Italian on the streets. Sometimes the wrong tense comes out. You might get a weird look, but your message is understood. I learned to appreciate little things at first, such as eavesdropping on conversations on the bus or in the market. Everything you do contributes to how well you incorporate the language into your daily habits—reading signs or the newspaper, listening to music, asking for an Italian guide in a museum rather than an English one. In late November, I was totally taken aback when I found myself explaining to a nun (in Italian!!) why a particular painting in the Chiesa Santa Maria del Popolo was causing such a fuss.
I didn’t come home speaking fluently, and honestly, right now my Italian is a bit rusty. I didn’t expect myself to learn everything about Italy and the language in one semester abroad. I don’t feel that it’s necessary to simplify something that deserves to be studied and appreciated over a long course of time. Studying in Italian in Italy does in no way compare to studying it in an English speaking country. Studying abroad allowed me to make first hand comparisons of a Roman accent to a Venetian or Neapolitan one, which makes one more aware of how richly diverse regions are in the country. Your ear becomes so sensitive to accents and new words, because you’re hearing it all the time! Students with no previous experience with Italian are able to comprehend so much in so little time, because you can’t leave the classroom in Italy. Rome becomes your best instructor.
What is one piece of advice you would pass on to a student who is about to study abroad?