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Capturing Italian Culture while Studying Abroad in Rome

April 17, 2024
by Mya Cuper
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The Italian Culture I Captured by Studying Abroad in Rome 

The highlight of studying abroad, whether it’s to study or intern abroad, or travel, is experiencing the culture of another place. It’s not only an enriching opportunity to learn about yourself, but also an opportunity to expand your knowledge and awareness of something unfamiliar to you. When you’re in a new environment, you gain a better understanding of how you adapt and your level of cultural awareness, and in turn, you can learn how you might expand or improve upon those things.

What I Captured 

My photoset shows that study abroad experiences can make other life transitions to new environments easier in the future.

Roman History, Monuments, and Sites 

Tiber River

In my Art & Archaeology of Ancient Rome course, I found out that the picturesque river a 5-minute walk from my apartment played an important role throughout Rome’s history by being a driving force for settlement and its history of floods, hence the high walls. There's even a tradition for divers to dive into the Tiber River on the first day of the new year, which I learned about during a CEA CAPA study abroad excursion

A study abroad student sitting on a ledge

Here, I'm sitting along the Tiber River on my second day in Rome after some exploring.

Victor Emmanuel II Monument 

Additionally, I find that nothing facilitates learning about a culture more than standing where the celebrations happen or where the history took place.  

The main celebration is held in Rome at the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II where the President of the Italian Republic takes part in a ceremony. I was lucky enough to get close to the front of a large crowd of people there for the celebration. Aside from aircrafts flying over to paint the sky with the Italian national colors, the most magical moment was when all the people surrounding me began to sing the Italian national anthem. 

A group of buildings with a building in the background

This photo was taken during the celebration for Republic Day, the day in history when Italy became a republic.

I can say with confidence that experiencing the culture is a large part of what makes studying abroad a worthwhile experience.  

It was only after having my own experience abroad in Rome that I learned how interacting with the unfamiliar culture in front of you is such a valuable and irreplaceable opportunity. During my stay in the Prati neighborhood of Rome, I started by exploring the streets near my apartment and gradually expanded out.  

Castel Sant'Angelo

I toured it for free since some sites and museums have free admissions on the first Sunday of every month and certain holidays. It has a rich history that you can learn about while you tour, and there is even a cafe near the top! I regularly walked past it several times a week on my way to various places throughout Rome and felt more appreciative of it after learning its history. 

A study abroad student standing on Castel Sant'Angelo with a stone building in the background

This was me in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, a historical site that was just a 5-minute walk from my apartment.

Palazzo Altemps Museum

Part of my Art & Archaeology of Ancient Rome course was an assignment where you had to visit a museum and write about a piece of art. To prove you went to the museum, the professor asked us to take selfies while there, hence the silly selfie. Previously I wasn't interested in art, but I found reading about the various pieces of art abroad and the building they inhabit taught me a lot and felt very enriching. Dedicating time to better understand something you never gave much thought was a good learning and growing experience. 

A study abroad student taking a selfie with a statue

Art & Archaeology of Ancient Rome course assignment.

Monument to Victor Emmanuel II.

My roommates and I spotted this building from afar while exploring, and decided to visit it and investigate its history. Upon reaching the monument, we found out entry was free so we decided to do a little internet searching to have a makeshift tour on our own. We learned a bit about Italy’s history and saw the beautiful landscape of Piazza Venezia. 

A study abroad student standing on stairs in front of a building

The building captured in the background is the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II.

Roman Colosseum

I toured it and learned more about its history. I was very surprised to find out that the degradation of the Colosseum was more because it was gradually stripped of materials to rebuild Rome some time after the fall of the Roman Empire rather than time. It was also incredible to stand atop the Colosseum and see all the various historical monuments and sites that surround it. I really felt as though I was in the heart of Rome. 

A study abroad student taking a selfie in front of an ancient building

While in Rome, I obviously had to visit the Colosseum!

Largo di Torre Argentina

I first walked by it on my way to get pizza, but later learned during class the site’s history. There are many stray cats that inhabit this historical site, so some say Caesar’s soul lives in one of the many cats that roam the ruins. Even now, I still find it crazy to think that you can walk past the place where Julius Caesar fell simply on your way home or to get dinner. 

A stone ruins in a city

Pictured here is Largo di Torre Argentina, which contains the ruins of Pompey’s Theater, where Julius Caesar was assassinated.

Italian Cuisine 

Tiramisu

One such dessert was tiramisu - a coffee flavored Italian dish. While in Rome, I stumbled upon a restaurant called Mr. 100 Tiramisu, where they have 100 different flavors of tiramisu! It’s a popular place, so I had to wait in line for a bit, but it was worth it. 

A group of desserts in plastic cups

One of my favorite ways of delving into a culture is through trying the various foods and desserts it offers.

Pasta

Another CEA CAPA study abroad excursion was a chance to attend a pasta-making class. The class was very informative and fun! At the end, everyone’s pasta was combined, and we all had dinner together with the pasta we made. A few days after the class, my roommates and I decided to challenge ourselves to make homemade pasta on our own in our apartment. We were successful, as seen from the pasta nests we made. 

Food on a pan

Pasta nests we made in our study abroad apartment.

It began with cautiously trying different restaurants and going to various grocery stores and turned into being a regular at a gelato shop, knowing the history behind the various buildings and historical sites that line the streets, and feeling confident in my interactions with locals.  

I captured multiple photos like this one because in Italy there's a stand where you weigh and print the barcode for the specific fruit you are purchasing, which was unlike my experiences back home. I took the pictures to remember the number or bilancia to put into the computer so it knew what fruit it was weighing. It was certainly a learning curve the first time I tried! 

A sign on a shelf with melons

Photo 3 Caption: These are yellow melons that were sold at a nearby grocery store.

Ultimately, having intentional interactions with the new culture surrounding me made me feel much more comfortable living somewhere so far from home, and helped me appreciate the various things I walked by every day that I would’ve otherwise not known the importance of.  

I hope that by sharing how I interacted with Roman culture through this photoset, you’ll have a better idea of how you can connect with a new culture and enhance your own experience studying or interning abroad


Mya Cuper is the Summer 2023 Alumni Ambassador in Rome, Italy, and is currently studying at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
 
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