Today I wanted to reflect back on an experience that I had earlier in the semester. Towards the beginning of the semester, I spent more weekends in Rome than I currently am, however, I got into a weird funk of not really going out to see different areas of Rome. What’s odd about studying and living in Rome is that it becomes really easy to not go out and see the city. Whereas when I travel to see other cities around Europe, then I become very proactive about seeing the city. Thinking about places back in the states, there are many areas in my own home town and the town that I go to school in that I have yet to go visit even though they're only a short drive from where I live. I think that studying in Rome sometimes gives you a false sense of how much time you have here, when in reality the time really flies by. So I’m going to reflect on what I did during my first big tourist weekend in Rome.
What is great about the IES Abroad program, is that there are no classes on Friday. This allows for many opportunities that we wouldn't normally be able to have with the traditional weekly schedule. This includes being able to really travel on weekends, and have extra days in Rome to be able to see more sites. On Friday, I got a chance to see the San Luigi dei Francesi, Santa Maria supra Minerva, Santa Maria in Aracoeli, the top of the Vittoriano, and Sant’Agnese in Agone. These were some of the most beautiful and important churches in Rome. It’s incredible to live in a city where I can just take a walk on the way to my internship and see just a few of the most amazing sites in the world.
On Saturday, I got up early in the morning so that I could see as much of my list as I could. I was able to see the Capuchin Convent and Crypt, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baths of Diocletian, and the Circus Maximus. The Capuchin crypt was a set of rooms all decorated in bones and skeletons and was certainly the creepiest room I’ve ever been in. I highly recommend anyone who is studying in Rome or even visiting Rome to go visit the crypt as it is a very unique experience. The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four papal basilicas in Rome. As someone who was baptized and grew up Catholic, it was an incredible experience to see one of the most important churches in the Catholic world. The Baths of Diocletian and the Circus Maximus were incredible to see as they are some of the greatest monuments of Ancient Rome. In Rome, it is so easy to find ancient monuments and artifacts which is something that is very unique about Rome when compared to many of the other study abroad cities. There is always something new to see regardless of how long you've been in Rome.
On Sunday, I had the amazing opportunity of going to the Vatican for the Palm Sunday Papal Mass. This was honestly one of the most amazing and surreal experiences of my life. I arrived to the Vatican about an hour and a half before the start of mass so that I could get a good seat and be able to see the Pope, and I was not disappointed. I was in the front section of the public seating and, while I couldn't make out many details of him from there, I could very easily see the Pope and what he was doing. Granted, I didn't understand anything that he was saying as the entire mass was in Italian, it was still an amazing experience. The best part, however, was after the service when he rode through the crowds. This was when I was able to get an amazing picture with Papa Francesco up close in the background. Getting to see the Pope is something that I highly recommend to anyone who comes to Rome, regardless of whether or not you are a Christian.
Looking back on this weekend, I wish that I had spent more of my free time in Rome going out and seeing the city. This is definitely one of the biggest suggestions I would give to someone who is planning on studying abroad in Rome or really any city abroad. You have less time than you think you do so just be sure to make the best of all of your time. Studying abroad so far has been one of the most incredible experiences and everyone should do their best to make the most of their experiences.
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<p>My name is Josh Marrs and I am a junior from Rice University in Houston, Texas! I'm majoring in Sociology with a major interest in social inequality. My passions are playing tennis, basketball, ping pong, and any other sport I can get my hands on. Visiting Rome has been one of the biggest dreams of my life thus far and I will be fulfilling that dream by studying in Rome during the Spring of 2016. This will be my first time experiencing another country and I can't wait to share my experiences and reflections.</p>