What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?
My study abroad experience in Italy posed itself as an eyeopener. It has changed me in ways unimaginable, and it has taught me many things about myself. I believe that although I have had prior experience of acclimating to new environments, this one has been quite different. Being so far away from my family and friends allowed me to feel a new sense of independence.
Firstly, I honed my cooking skills, particularly by learning and observing others and also with the help of the internet and a few calls to my parents back home. The environment of Rome allowed for growth mentally, physically and emotionally. Mentally, I viewed factors such as living alone for the first time as a privilege coupled with a case of home sickness. Physically, I became stronger. Short walking distances were usually no less than thirty minutes long. I was able to walk to school, the Vatican and my favorite restaurants without complaining of long distances due to the strength I had built (this was also a mental challenge I overcame). Emotionally, I believe that I acclimate well to new environments, but this was something I had never done before. It was exciting at first to be able to meet new people, delve into a new culture, try new foods and even observe European fashion trends as being almost polar opposite to that of US or even Caribbean fashion.
Living in Rome had its perks, specifically in terms of being able to intertwine experiences I have had and relating them to what I am learning here. After living in Rome for almost four months, I had gained a new interest in traveling. Traveling to different countries within the European Union is not surprisingly very easy! I appreciate this because I was able to see other cultures along with Italian culture- it is quite a bonus if you ask me.
What surprised you most about your study abroad city/culture?
What surprised me most about Italy was her blindness to differences. It was beautiful to see a country like Italy with its diverse population, intermingling of various races and inclusion of cultures. One lesson I learned there that I never want to forget is that it is possible for us to live as one community. I was never discriminated against there and I truly do value that, as it’s something I have come across much too often being biracial. In fact, I was actually complimented regularly by the Italians, often hearing “Che bella!”, as I entered the local coffee shops. Rather than trying to put each other down, the Romans try to make everyone feel included. For example, there were many underground music genres that I discovered in Rome which are currently emerging. One that I found interesting was Reggae, which is a musical genre that was made popular by my father’s home country and where I grew up- Jamaica. I was definitely shocked by the underground movement in Rome, so I had to go and check it out for myself! The club Imani and I went to (my Jamaican friend who was also studying abroad), was vibrant and colorful and brought us back home for a night. The Italian DJ’s spoke our island’s dialect, and the words slipped off his tongue as if Jamaican patois was his vernacular. The music he played touched our souls and the rest of the club goers in the room- you could see it in the way we danced!
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
I jumped at this question because I was the planner in the group whilst studying abroad. See a few of my travel tips below that will save you time and money, and allow you to have a stress-free travel experience:
- Plan ahead: One of the first things my friends and I did when arriving to Rome was create a planner for our travels during the four months we would be living there. We utilized websites like Canva, which provide templates for calendars. The calendar was visually pleasing, so we preferred this over a list. I visited a total of eight different cities during my time abroad, so that meant accounting how many weekends we would travel for enough time in the host city. It also means planning out your budget beforehand, and ensuring you have enough money for groceries in Rome rather than blowing that 100 euros on a flight to Paris. And that brings me to my next tip:
- Find your means of traveling way in advance: Take this advice from the girl who spent 6 hours on a bus to Venice that did not have a functioning toilet. I hope you’re picturing my face right now from that putrid scent. With that being said, utilize apps such as GoEuro to seek out alternative and inexpensive means of travel to your desired destination. In my experience, air travel came out to be the happy medium amongst comfort, time and price.
- Have an idea of what you want to experience in each country or city you visit: After planning your trips, find out what each place has to offer you. I say this because in the interest of time, (you will most likely travel from Thursday evening to Sunday evening- kudos to JCU’s policy of no Friday classes) you will need to make the most of your short visit. A simple google search should aid you in discovering all the activities you can do while abroad. Also, if you have the opportunity to visit a country or city where one of your family members live or a good friend, do it! In my experience, I really enjoyed my visit to Ireland because I stayed with my cousins and got a very authentic experience.
Sydney was a fall 2018 Rome student from Suffolk University.