Pros and (Not Many) Cons: Rome as a Study Abroad Location

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Allison Derrick
May 16, 2024

As someone who runs on the indecisive side, choosing a study abroad location was a bit difficult. There are so many wonderful places to go and so many different ways I could picture the semester going. I was pretty confident that I wanted to go to Italy, but even within Italy there are so many places to choose from. Syracuse University in Florence filled up almost immediately, so that was a decision I didn’t have to make. Between Rome, Milan, and Siena, I ruled out Milan because I wanted to be a little more southern. 

Although I would bet nearly any study abroad location would provide a wonderful experience, here I will share some reasons why I would pick Rome a thousand times over again. 


1. Location

Rome is possibly the most ideal location for abroad. It’s southern enough to have mild, enjoyable weather any time of the year, it’s only an hour from the ocean, and it’s in between many popular travel locations. When I say it has everything, I mean it. Surrounding the city there are mountains, lakes, places to swim and hike, plus so much more, and they are all easily accessible by train. The Fiumicino Airport is easy to navigate to and offers cheap flights to almost any destination, making this a great place to live if you’re interested in traveling on the weekends. 

Within Rome itself, there are so many interesting places to go. It contains so many restaurants, green spaces, monuments, museums, the Stadio Olimpico, the opera, movie theaters, and of course the river– just to name a few. There is actually no possibility of getting bored here!

2. Culture

Rome is overflowing with history and culture. Around every turn, you can learn something new. Visiting galleries, historical monuments, ancient churches, learning Italian, and trying the food are great ways to immerse yourself in the culture and see what Rome is all about. Tours are generally affordable and a good idea if you’re interested in the history behind some of the main landmarks. This is a very enriching city to have the fortune of living in, and it’s somewhere where I was able to observe all the ways it was different from my own. Romans are also, in general, nice and sociable, and it’s a very student-friendly place. There are so many colleges and universities around Rome, both English speaking and Italian, so there’s a large student population which makes the city even more appealing and comfortable. 

As for daily life, many Romans spoke English, or at least enough for us to combine our broken Italian with and understand each other. It’s always better to try and speak Italian, of course, but many people we encountered would ask if we spoke Italian, and then work with what we both understood. The language barrier was more of a motivator for me to try learning, rather than something I disliked. 

3. Low cost of living

Honestly, I am already missing the affordable aspect of living in Rome. Things such as groceries, transportation, and restaurants are so much cheaper than other places we traveled abroad, such as Switzerland. It was fairly easy to be on a student budget here, as opposed to at home in the US. For example, at most of our favorite coffee shops, a cappuccino was around €1.50 EUR, and a croissant was around €1-2 EUR. Meanwhile, at home or at school, going out for breakfast means closer to $10 per person. This is an aspect of abroad that I would not overlook; while there are expenses everywhere, this factor made it way easier for us to travel and afford to live and let ourselves experience the city, the food, and the events. We were able to get takeaway pizza and sandwiches a couple times per week, which was far more often than our typical college lives at home. 

4. Coursework (IES Abroad specific)

I really enjoyed my classes here at IES Abroad, as well as their structures. I took four area studies courses, and then the required Italian class. I was able to take one class that was relevant to Rome’s culture, learning about signage on buildings and how Rome was built through writing, as well as two classes for psychology and one for marine biology. The range of choices was vast and interesting, and in my experience the professors did a good job balancing workload with class content. We focused more on time in class and rarely had outside assignments, besides a few papers and the midterm and final exams. The lack of busywork let me prioritize experiencing Rome and not spending my time doing countless assignments. I appreciate the minimal amount of homework that we exchanged for engaging class time, field studies, and hands-on learning. 



1. Big city

It’s hard to think of cons, honestly, but I would say the big-city factor was an adjustment for me personally. I’ve never lived in a city, so getting used to the huge crowds and the traffic was definitely different. I totally got used to it though, and even grew to enjoy the background noise as a constant in my everyday life. It’s definitely a factor to think about if you’re deciding your location for studying abroad. For example, my friend from home studied in Galway, and said she loved the smaller-city for her personal abroad experience rather than a huge, busy city. For me, the city noise became something that I miss now that I’m no longer there to hear it. 

2. Only somewhat reliable public transportation

The metro and trains are great, but there are only two metro lines and they don’t extend to popular areas such as Trastevere, which we went to a lot. We got great at walking instead, which was something I really liked. However, the buses were not always reliable if you were counting on being somewhere on time. Sometimes they wouldn’t show up at all, and sometimes they would be too full to let anyone on. But if you aren’t in a rush, they’re a great option and all forms of public transportation are very affordable and easy to navigate. 

The metro has never failed us, and neither have the trains!

Truthfully, I can’t think of any other cons off the top of my head. I love Rome and would recommend it to anyone I know. I think it’s a great study abroad location for many different types of people, and it has become one of my favorite and most special places on Earth. If Rome is on your mind of potential places to study, bring it up to the top of the list!

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Allison Derrick

Hi, I'm Allison! I’m from Maine and a big fan of iced chai lattes, taking pictures with my 2011 digital camera, some good throwback music, and falling asleep on the beach. I'm in search of finding the very best pasta and gelato in Italy, so join me!

2024 Spring
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Environmental Studies
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