The great thing about the apartment that CEA selected for us is that it is really just a regular Roman apartment, the same kind any Italian might choose to live in. In fact, we are the only non-Roman tennants in our building! What I love about this is that I've had the chance to experience what living in Rome, and what living away from my parents and my college, is really like. It's is both a blessing and a curse, in a way. As someone who is used to living right down the hall from most of my friends and classmates, I find it unfortunate that we have to walk 10 minutes to the next nearest CEA apartment (and fluent English-speakers); on the other hand, the walks to school and to other student apartments have given us a great opportunity to explore the city. We probably would never have found our favorite Chinese place if we didn't have friends who live on that same street. Speaking of exploring, our apartment's location is ideally situated in the city for hybrid tourist-students like ourselves. We live on a pretty busy street - we've got shops and cafes on either side, an elementary school behind us, and the newest (thought not yet operable) Roman metro line right across the street. From our place, we can get to the city center via a short 15 minute bus ride or walk to any number of parks for a relaxing afternoon.
There are, admittedly, a few drawbacks to Roman living. Unlike in your average apartment in the states, we have limited hot water and heating. We've also lost power for several hours on a few occasions due to the metro line construction. But don't let that scare you off! There is a very important benefit to being thrust in an unfamiliar and very different style of living with four other girls: you always have each other. While working out the shower schedule isn't always a blast, learning to cope with an even have a good time in these very different circumstances has probably brought us together in a way that living in a state-of-the-art apartment never would have. Since we only had a limited number of candles, the power outages forced us to abandon our individual rooms and do our homework together in the common room, not that much homework got done in the end. Instead, we spent a few hours playing cards, sharing music and dancing, and trying to cook dinner on our gas stove in candlelight - something I don't recommend if you want your food to turn out edible, by the way. It's a memory I know I will never forget.
Another great bonding experience for us has been cooking. Our apartment came with a fully stocked kitchen including a gas stove, which we can all finally light without fear, a fridge, and all the plates, utensils, and pots we could possibly want, all of which we used gratuitously. We all have our own family cooking traditions that we have tried to replicate for apartment dinners, though not always successfully (I burn everything on the first try...), and teach to the other roommates. I have definitely picked up on a few tricks and am very excited to cook for my own family and friends when I get home.
But until then, we've made a pretty great home out of our cozy little apartment. It has a character all it's own and living here has taught me a lot about what it means to be an adult, one who can solve problems and start providing for herself - with a fair bit of help, of course. It's one step in a long process but, whatever doubts I might have had in the beginning, I can say with certainty that I'm glad to have taken it.
Now it's just a matter of remembering how to drive my car...
By Caitlin Smith
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
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