After a semester studying abroad in Rome, here are a few tips that I have learned along the way.
- Land in Italy with high hopes and optimism. You may be missing your family, but you have an incredible next few months lined up for you.
- Eat every sort of Italian food you can get your hands on. Pizza, gelato, Panini, tramezzini, cannoli, rigatoni… you get the idea.
- Be a tourist. You are always going to look like a tourist, so just embrace it.
Fruits and vegetables are sold all over the street!
- Respect the culture. Try to speak Italian and learn the Roman ways.
Vespas take over in place of cars in Rome!
- Climb to the top of everything. Saint Peter’s has the best view of Rome in my opinion, however there are other places to climb to the top of for different views. The Wedding Cake and Castle Saint Angelo are two others.
- Segway in the Borghese Gardens. You won’t regret this, I got the idea when Reba came to Rome in September and posted on her Facebook that she Segway-ed in Borghese. I’m not joking.
- Watch the Lizzie McGuire movie after your first month. Wait a month to watch it because you will actually recognize the places in the movie better this way. We all cried watching it. It was great.
- Eat until you’re full, and when you’re full then just keep eating. You won’t eat food like this again, so eat all of it as often as you can. Who cares that you probably won’t have access to a gym.
- Don’t forget about school. Yes, it will feel like a vacation, but you have to remember that you’re here in Rome to study. Don’t lose track of your courses and fall behind. Find a balance.
The CEA Rome center plaques when you enter the building. The computers in your CEA center are awesome for speedy internet purposes.
- Make lifelong friends. You will leave Rome with friends who shared a unique experience with you. Stay in contact with these people, it will be worth it.
- Buy the things sold on the streets. It’s cool and you can tell all your friends you bartered with a man for a few minutes, even if the fake Ray-Bans broke after wearing them 3 times.
Buying clothes off the street is a unique experience.
- Dress to blend in a little. When we landed in August, it was over 100 degrees and it was miserable. We wore shorts and tank-tops every day to stay cool, but we stuck out like sore thumbs. What we realized is that Italians dress for the season, not the weather. So end of August/September means fall: black jeans, black boots, black sweaters in 100 degree weather. It didn’t make sense, but we tried our best to blend in anyway.
- Don’t go outside with wet hair. You will have several heads turn and stare at you.
- Don’t let the cab drivers scam you. They will, but stand up for yourself. And if they get really angry with you then it’s not worth the trouble just better luck next time. The worst cab drivers are the ones at the airport. Make sure it has a set cab rate!
- Learn the metro. It is so easy, trust me. Use it a lot instead of walking.
- Accept that Italians don’t eat breakfast. A cornetto and a shot of espresso is an average Italians breakfast. Just get used to it and say "bye-bye" to pancakes and waffles.
Eateries are always beautiful and have outside seating. Don't forget to explore.
- Travel a lot. It will be a long time until you are living in Europe again so take advantage of cheap flights to other countries. Travel as much as you can. You can see Rome during the week, so use open weekends to see Germany or Ireland.
- Do things in Rome that tourists don’t know about. Go to the MAXXI art museum or try walking down new streets and trying small bistros. Do things that a tourist might not think about doing when they come to Rome. You’ll find great hidden secrets.
- Eat the chestnuts on the street when it’s their season. Best decision I ever made trying them--they’re amazing.
Be open to try new foods! Chestnuts are delicious and are sold all over the streets of Rome.
- Don’t be afraid of the Italian nightlife. Just be smart about it. They’re young adults looking to have a good time just like you!
- When people approach you in the streets trying to sell their restaurant or a selfie-stick, just politely walk away. Don’t be rude about it.
- Keep every ticket and brochure. It’s another souvenir that’s free and another way to hold a memory.
- Go to a Papal Audience on Wednesday mornings at least once. You will be within 10 feet of the Pope and you will feel #blessed for the rest of your day and it will be incredible. You will also score a cool selfie with him.
- Learn about the history of Rome. Rome is called the "Eternal City" for a reason. It is so rich in history and I have never been to a city that is so proud of the thousands of years of history. Learn about emperors and battles; it's so interesting. It is like watching a movie but it actually happened, right here, in Rome!
- Put your phone down. It will be hard to not have your phone every second of the day, but you will learn to part with it. Part of the reason why my relationship with my friends grew so strong this semester was because we were forced to avoid our phones and communicate. It’s incredible how a phone can distract us from being social or looking at the incredible views in front of us.
Enjoy Rome--it is the most incredible city I have ever been to!
Sarah Viens is the Fall 2015 MOJO Photographer in Rome, Italy. She is currently a junior at Providence College.
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