Though we have had several study abroad experience interviews (and one on Rome already from Michael Ryan) it is interesting to see everyone’s different take on what it is like to live in a new culture. Read Megan’s interview below to learn a bit about what it is like to relax as an Italian, tiramisu that is so good you just have to talk about it (even in your sleep!), and other aspects of a city that is “a mecca for the beautiful things life has to offer.”
1. Why did you choose your site?
I have always found Italian culture to be so enticing - everything from the history to the food to the art to the mother-son relationships. The Italian language itself is perfect and alluring. Rome, in my mind, is a mecca for the beautiful things life has to offer. I could not give up the chance to see a culture I have studied so much about and has such rich history behind it.
2. What did you anticipate? Were you nervous? Excited?
Before leaving for Rome, I was too excited to be nervous. I had never been to Europe before, so I was determined to make the most of it. One of my friends studied in Rome the semester before I did and gave me a list of the favorite places she discovered and everything I needed to do while I was there. I appreciated that a lot, but at the same time, one of the best parts of studying abroad is discovering new places on your own that are off the beaten path.
3. What surprised you the most about your experience? What about the other culture surprised or shocked you?
What most surprised me was probably how quickly I assimilated to the culture. At first, it was a struggle getting accustomed to the Italian style of living where there is no schedule and no one is in a rush like in America. For example, no schedule was followed for public transportation throughout the city. I gave up trying to schedule my day around the bus and metro schedule after about 5 days of living in Rome. Also, meals were not merely something that had to take place during the day. Meals for Italians meant a time to relax and enjoy the fresh and unique tastes their country had to offer along with the company of others. This was the part of Italian culture that I found most appealing in the end.
4. What did you see (monuments, historical sites, palaces, etc.) that impressed you the most?
Before arriving in Rome, I was most excited to see the Colosseum in person. However, it was the Pantheon that left the greatest impression on me. It was sort of hidden in the middle of a piazza away from other landmarks. There were times were I would get lost wandering the streets of Rome and then would stumble upon the Pantheon. I could not help but smile and appreciate how amazing a city is that I could go from frustrated and lost to happy and in absolute awe with the turn of a corner.
5. Can you describe some of the food that you loved best? Any food experiences that didn’t go as planned/well?
If you see any pictures of me towards the end of my semester in Rome, you will be able to tell that I definitely enjoyed Italian food. The best part about Italian food is how simple and fresh all the ingredients are. My two favorite food experiences, of course, occurred in Italy. One was while my mom was visiting. We were staying Sorrento and exploring the small towns along the Amalfi Coast when we met a local that suggested a place for pizza. When we arrived, it was a small storefront on the side of a road on the top of a cliff along the coast in the town of Ravello. We went inside and each ordered a pizza at the bar and watched as a man made each one fresh in front of us. It was the most delicious pizza I have ever had in my life. When my mother and I are together, it is usually a difficult task to get a word in, but we both spoke very little for the short time this pizza was in front of us. The other was when my friends and I were visiting Venice. The hotel we were supposed to be staying in during the Venice Film Festival messed up our reservations so we were given a private villa along a canal to stay in for the weekend. We went into the first restaurant we could find. It had the best tiramisu I have ever had. My roommate can attest to how much I enjoyed the food, as I recited the entire meal in my sleep that night.
6. Did you make friends with some of the people native to that site? What was that experience like? Did they make you notice things about your own culture that surprised you?
My favorite part about studying abroad was meeting people from other cultures who grew up completely different from me. This was my first time really getting to know people from other countries, and talking to people puts a new spin on your own perspective. Connecting with different people put us at an opportunity to also experience different things as they would give suggestions of the essential things to see, do, eat and experience while in their country. Without opening myself up to meeting other people, I would never have eaten “Polish junk food” with Polish students after a Human Rights film festival or stayed at the Danish Embassy our last days in Rome after our school closed. My biggest advice when studying abroad would be to venture outside of the typical American spots in the city and really get to know the city from the perspective of the people that live there. It has been almost three years since being back from studying abroad, and I still consistently talk to some of my European friends.
7. How were your classes? Did you have the opportunity to take a class that fit into the culture of that site (such as art history of Spain, etc.)?
My classes in Rome were wonderful. I saved some of my fine arts, language, and theology requirements to take while studying abroad so I was able to enroll in all classes that pertained to Italian culture. I took Italian, Roman Catholicism, Italian Food and Wine, and Art in Rome. I loved all of them! I would especially recommend Art in Rome. It was an off-site class so every time we would meet at a different art or architectural site and our professor would teach us in front of the work we were studying. It was like having a private tour guide every week. All of my classes were perfect because they gave me an opportunity to experience what I was studying.
There is no question here. I would definitely recommend that all PT students study abroad. This is such a unique opportunity for a PT program to offer studying abroad, and it should not be missed! Studying in Rome for 3 months gave me a new perspective on life, and I would not take back the time I spent abroad for the world. Rome was perfect because with its location, I was able to travel around to other parts of Italy and Europe. I experienced everything from walking the grounds of Auschwitz in the snow to staring at the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Rome is the perfect place to do it! If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me!
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