10 Lessons to Remember While Studying Abroad in Rome

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IES Abroad
May 4, 2018

Whether you'll be studying abroad in Rome or in any of our other locations, you’re matched with a Program Advisorto help you prepare for study abroad every step of the way. Our Rome Program Advisor Chelsea Kuchik shares her advice on navigating your first days in your new host city of Rome.

Listen, I’ve been in your shoes - staring at your one suitcase, imagining how it could possibly hold five-months-worth of clothes, cramming in last-minute Duolingo lessons before bed, and pinning locations on Google Maps trying to find hip places to hang out in your host city.

Maybe this is the first time you’ve ever flown alone or lived with people you have never met before. Maybe you’ve been abroad, but only on family vacations or one-week service trips. You feel a strange mix of excitement and anxiety, hopeful optimism tinged with nervousness.

I get it! To be honest, on my first trip to Rome, even as a well-traveled, 25-year-old adult, I was still practicing Italian like I could learn it in a week on an app. I was packing, then re-packing. There was so much to do before I left, so much to plan to see in Rome, so much research I wanted to do to make sure I didn’t get ripped off on my taxi ride from Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport.

We’re all looking for an easy transition into life abroad, whether it’s for a week or a semester of study abroad. You do your best, but a lot of these lessons are only learned through the best teacher: experience. Well I threw myself into as many “experiences” as I could get while I was in Rome, and this is what I was reminded of from previous travels and what I learned:

  • If someone is asking you if you need a ride, you probably shouldn’t take one from them.This includes people who look like taxi drivers in the airport. Only grab rides from marked taxi stands or people in authorized taxis.
  • Only pack what you can take up the stairs. You don’t want to regret packing that extra pair of shoes while you struggle to haul your suitcase to the train platform.
  • Just because Italians speak English doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be friendly in Italian.Try to learn the language basics before you arrive. And whether you're a total beginner or more advanced, studying abroad in Rome is a perfect opportunity to finesse your Italian accent.
  • Forget everything you know about buses and trains – use them in Europe! Public transportation is convenient – and necessary – for access to all parts of the city.
  • Learn to get lost. And how to read a map.So what, if you took the bus the wrong direction? Make goals like “I’m only allowed to make two wrong turns to school today; I made three yesterday.” You’ll probably find something awesome on your misadventures. Rome is especially filled with small winding roads. It helps to look for the few larger straight roads to get you where you need to go directly.
  • Ask for recommendations – but also look around. At dinner one night, I asked the waiter what was better between two pastas (and wine), only to look around and see every local around me was eating pizza with beer. I went back the next night and tried the locals’ choice instead.
  • Talk to strangers.Okay, your mom may hate me for this one, but honestly if you want to meet local residents, you may have to be a little open.
  • Embrace the fashion, but also embrace not-twisted ankles.Heels are not necessary in Rome. Rome is a mix between ancient history preservation and a modern city, so streets are both cobblestone and pavement. Prepare yourself!
  • Get a guide.A lot of the ancient ruins are so old that some just look like rocks in odd formations - especially in the Roman Forum. Going on course-related trips or paying for a tour guide can help you understand the full picture and give context to help you truly appreciate these sites. Not to mention you will learn tons of facts to impress your friends with when they visit you.
  • Walk until your feet hurt.
    Then take a break. Then walk some more.
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