My Life in Rome: A Mid-Semester Review

Maria Bonsignore
November 7, 2019

Life in Rome is completely different from what I was expecting, both in good and bad ways. To be honest, I think it’s easy to conjure this fantasy image of Rome based off of pretty Instagram photos and movies; it certainly is a beautiful place to live, filled to the brim with history and culture, but it’s not a flawless Utopia with nothing but postcard-like beauty (though, again, there is quite a lot of that too.) Like any city, it has it’s broken and ugly things. I watched a short movie in my film class that was highly critical of the poor maintenance of Rome, comparing the city to a “broken videogame” – it was, to say the least, a huge shock to hear that the city isn’t considered a perfect place to live by all of the locals. It really made me think that, while it’s a good idea to have a positive mindset while traveling, it’s not truly experiencing the culture if you reduce a place to it’s pretty parts, erasing all complexity to fit this idealized tourist-y image of a place; it’s fine to be a tourist, of course, and to enjoy all of the beautiful sights that people fly from around the world to see, but I think that having the opportunity to see the real Rome – the good, the bad, and the complicated – has deepened my appreciation for it so much more. It’s so much more than just pretty postcard pictures: Rome is a city bursting with life, diversity, and a culture that is as complex as it is fascinating. I thought that studying abroad would feel like a four-month-long vacation, but I actually feel like it’s starting to feel more like home every day here.

I’m going to need a mysterious wealthy benefactor ASAP so that I don’t have to leave.

In all seriousness though, I do feel like I’m genuinely enjoying every day in Rome. The classes at IES Abroad are engaging and interesting, there is always something new to see (I will never, in a million years, manage to see everything in Rome), and I feel excited from the bottom of my heart to learn, which is something that I think sometimes our brutal capitalist society beats out of us. Living here has made me feel inspired to want to spend every minute making the most of my time, learning new things and exploring everywhere that I can (the complete opposite of the couch potato that I am at home.) 

One thing that I feel definitely makes a difference is the field studies. When you visit another country, it’s easy to become timid, it’s hard to find your way around, and it’s definitely difficult to make the most of the time you’re abroad on a student’s budget. The field studies are great because they give you the opportunity to explore a wide variety of different places in Rome as a group, taking some of the anxiety and stress off of the students (this is especially true at the start of the semester when students don’t know what they’re doing but also don’t want to waste time doing nothing.) Personally, I feel really grateful to have the field studies because I start every week knowing that I will definitely visit somewhere exciting regardless of my budget or schedule. I also really appreciate being able to go to places that would be a bit more difficult to access on my own (or that I just didn’t know existed.) There is so much variety in the field studies that I feel like my weeks here are never boring, even the slower ones. If I were to say one thing that I don’t like about them, however, it would be that sometimes trying to get from the field study to the IES Abroad Center in time for other classes is hard to manage, especially since the buses in Rome are not exactly the most reliable. 

Some of my favorite field studies so far have been:

  • The Vatican Museums
  • Galleria Borghese
  • Cinecitta Studios
  • The academic day trip to Assisi
  • Galleria Doria Pamphilj
  • The night show at the Roman Forum
  • St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls
  • Capitoline Museums

In addition to the field studies, this semester I really appreciated having the Mic card, an access card that grants us free admission to many of the museums in Rome. If you really like museums (like me), then it is amazing to have. It always provides something to do on a weekend (not that there is any shortage of stuff to do in Rome on a weekend, but it's nice to know that there is always something free and fun to do.) 

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Maria Bonsignore

<p>My name is Charlotte and I'm a senior at Penn State studying Human Development and Sociology. I like traveling, baking, k-pop, rabbits, and collecting scrunchies!</p>

2019 Fall
Home university:
Penn State University
Easton, PA
Human Development
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