I’ve been in Rome for nearly three weeks, and so far, they have been some of the best weeks of my life! I’m still pinching myself that I’m really here for the semester. In the weeks leading up to my flight to Italy, I was so nervous and trying to soak up every bit of information I could find. Here’s a list of a few tips that I would have found reassuring just before this adventure began.
1. Take it all in! I was the first person to my apartment on arrival day, and in all the hustle and bustle of traveling across the world, I stopped for a second in front of my open bedroom window and took in the view. After an exhausting day of travel, taking that minute to breathe and think about the experience ahead of me was so welcomed, and I really believe it helped me to start this semester off on the right foot.
2. Try some new foods! Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to try new things, and food is no exception! This may be obvious to some, but I’m notoriously a picky eater and trying new foods is not something I do very often. Since I’ve been abroad, I’ve challenged myself to try foods that I would never go near at home. So far, I haven’t met a food I didn’t like. Italy is known for their food, and I can’t imagine turning any of it down!
3. Take advantage of the SAI excursions! Food tours, day trips, and weekend trips are all great ways to not only experience some of the best parts of Italy, but they’re also amazing opportunities to make friends, get to know the locals, and to step out of your comfort zone. This past weekend, SAI Rome went to Abruzzo and had a great time exploring the old fortresses, eating tons of food, and relaxing on the beach. We also got to choose between horseback riding, canoeing, visiting a local candy factory, or mountain biking. Needless to say, everyone had an awesome weekend!
4. Don’t be afraid to “be a tourist”! When you’re studying abroad, it’s definitely a great idea to assimilate to the culture, dress like the locals, and, as we say in Rome, “do as the Romans do”. However, don’t let your efforts to fit in prevent you from visiting all of the big tourist attractions. As long as you’re being respectful, you should absolutely visit everything on a traveler’s bucket list- the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, and so on. After all, they’re tourist attractions for a reason! Enjoy!
5. Travel! Before coming to Rome, I had never left the United States. I’m loving soaking up everything Rome has to offer, but there are so many places to visit and so little time! My best advice is not to get too caught up on exploring Europe – there are tons of amazing destinations right here in Italy! After our first week of class, a group of us went to the Amalfi Coast on a whim, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m still in awe of how beautiful Italy can be, and I can’t wait to soak up everything this country has to offer! That said, I’ve definitely booked my fair share of trips around Europe and am so excited to experience so many different cultures this semester. The world is yours for the taking, so get out there!
Josie is a fall 2019 Rome student from UNC Chapel Hill.