Things I'll Always Remember From My Time Abroad
Zachary, Spring 2024, Rome
May 3, 2024

This semester has been a truly unique and life-changing experience! I could not have predicted the impact it would have, and I’m very sad to see it come to an end. One of my favorite parts of this study abroad experience was volunteering with TuttoBlue breakfast distribution. It became a part of my weekly routine, as I would meet bright and early with fellow John Cabot University students to buy bananas at the local supermarket. We would bring them to Piazza Mastai where the other TuttoBlue volunteers were already dutifully setting up. Something I noticed in my first few weeks in Trastevere was that there was not a significant amount of homeless people out in the open, especially compared to cities I have been to back home. Yet I was surprised at the amount of people who showed up to collect food and clothes, and it made me realize that just because they are not visible does not mean that there aren’t people in need. My volunteering would entail handing out bananas and juice, and I would enjoy learning different words in Italian for the fruit to communicate to the guests.

TuttoBlue Breakfast distribution with fellow JCU students!

Throughout the semester, I would start to recognize familiar faces of those who regularly frequented this distribution, and watched as they would chat happily with the other volunteers. Even though I could not understand what they were saying as they were speaking Italian, I was able to feel the sense of community that had been created in this little Piazza. This was the main inspiration behind my thesis research, as I wanted to learn more about how poverty and homelessness affected Rome, and what was being done to resolve the situation. What I found was that Rome truly does have a significant amount of homelessness and that through religious organizations and local government, the community does come together to aid these people in need.

My favorite meal in Rome was cacio e pepe!

Another impact from this time abroad is getting to witness a multitude of cultures. My travels took me to cities in Italy, such as Florence, Naples, and Catania, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. It was always so fascinating to see how cultures are so different from every place and interesting to learn about what parts I liked and what parts I did not. For example in places like Italy and Spain, I always feel uncomfortable having to ask the server for the check, even though that is the norm. But in general, I love the feeling of not feeling rushed. Europe does not have this nervous energy that the United States has, and so it allows you to truly feel relaxed and at peace here.

A fountain at Villa Doria Pamphilj where I enjoyed to read!

Finally, one part of me that I will miss the most is my visits to Villa Doria Pamphilj. No matter where I am, whether it is at home in Northern New Jersey or at school in Virginia, I always love having a park nearby where I can go to read and soak in nature. For Rome, that place became Villa Doria Pamphilj. Even though it was quite a walk from my apartment, about 25 minutes, the walk allowed me to explore more local neighborhoods of Rome. And once I arrived at the park, I was so happy to see rolling green grass and little ponds. It was the perfect setting on the weekends to relax and unwind, and my favorite part was the umbrella pine trees. It made me feel like I was truly in a foreign place, and the park allows for great views of the Vatican. I will truly miss the park when I leave. Overall I am so grateful that I got to have this experience, and a piece of me will always be in Europe. I can’t wait to return!

Written by: Zachary, Spring 2024 Rome student, from University of Mary Washington

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