We caught up with SAI Ambassador Lorraine, who answers some questions about her time in Rome.
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
One major travel tip I would recommend to people who are going to study abroad is to make sure that you get to travel to a bunch of different places during the semester, but also make time to get to know the new home you are in. People always told me this when I first got to Rome while I was abroad, and I brushed it off and was just so eager to make sure to get to all the places that were on my travel list before I had to go home! It wasn’t until one of my teachers at John Cabot University in Rome was talking about all of the amazing places and historic sites that we definitely had to visit before we left that I realized that I had not even been to all of the places yet and needed to explore more around my new home. The rest of the weekends that I didn’t book for trips I left free, and I ended up loving some of those weekends the most. Simply walking aimlessly around this amazing city, going to hidden parts of the city or even just hanging out in one of our favorite local spots during those weekends that my friends and I decided to stay home still remain some of my favorite moments of my study abroad experience. As exciting as it is to book every weekend and break that you have to travel during your time abroad, make sure that you leave a few (or even more) weekends to travel around your host city or country and make sure you really get to know the city you are living in.
What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?
I was really nervous about going abroad, almost to the point where I didn’t end up going. The decision to go to Rome for the semester is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was extremely nervous about going to a new place alone without knowing many people, missing my friends and missing out on what is going on at my home school, and being in a new place, let alone country, completely on my own. However, forcing myself to take the leap and do something I knew I would end up loving was the best decision I could have made. I made lifelong friends, got to travel to some of my favorite places in the world, and experience a completely different type of lifestyle. I really learned that, even though it is scary and nobody likes to take the first leap, often times when I push myself to do something that I am a little nervous or uncomfortable about, it ends up being some of my best experiences. Going to a new country isn’t easy for anybody and trying new things is always difficult, but those end up being some of the best experiences you can have.
What is your most memorable interaction with a local in your host city?
I will always remember this one evening that my friend and I were in Rome and we were sitting on this wall that was right along the Tiber River. The city was bustling: there were people walking around, laughing, eating a meal or gelato, and live music in a square right by the river and one of our favorite coffee shops. People were gathered on the steps leading to the square enjoying the music and some people were also dancing. The weather was finally getting warmer and it was just about to be sunset before we were going to go get some dinner, but we were enjoying ourselves so much at the moment we didn’t even want to go eat. My friend and I were sitting on the wall eating gelato and I remember thinking to myself that I would remember this moment and the lively and loving atmosphere that Rome always has. It was such a simple memory, but one that stands out so clearly in my mind still today and reminds me how much I love Rome and getting to really know the city.
Do you have any tips for learning the language while students are abroad?
I would really recommend taking a class in the language that people speak in the country you study abroad in if you could get the chance. A lot of people are required to take the language by their school, but I took Italian while I was in Rome because I thought it would be fun to be able to speak and understand a little bit of the language while I was there. Learning the language not only made it easier in some instances where people did not speak much English, but also made it fun to be able to try and immerse yourself into the culture more by speaking the language a little bit. Also, Italian people are so nice that they would patiently let us try to speak the language and appreciate that we were trying, even if we weren’t making much sense! If you don’t get a chance to take the language, at least try to pick up on a little bit of it while you are there and try it out – it makes it more fun to be able to immerse yourself into the culture!
Lorraine was an SAI Rome spring 2018 student from Lehigh University.