Looking back, I realize that I had been totally unprepared for this semester. Initially, I decided to come to Rome just because I did not want to stay in Ithaca for all 4 years. I thought- what’s a better way to get Cornell credits in a non-Ithaca campus? In fact, I fully utilized the Planning Department’s resources that I had spent a whole year studying abroad. In the Fall 08 semester, I participated in the Metropolitan Studies in NYC Program, while in this semester, I am in the Cornell in Rome Program. To my surprise, the two programs were completely different in terms of program structure, city setting, daily life and classes.
Apart from applying for student visas, I basically did not prepare anything for this semester, as I was enjoying my busy and fulfilling city life in New York City. As such, when I first arrived on the Italian soil, I was a bit unaccustomed to the Italian signs which I did not understand. At that moment, I realized that I was actually going to live a very different life in the coming four months.
I must admit that, at first, I was a bit intimidated by the historical surroundings of Rome. I consider myself as a strongly pro-modernity person. Looking at the ruins, the old churches, and a myriad of old buildings, I asked myself, “Did I come to the wrong place?” However, as time passed by, I became more and more used to this interesting environment, and now, facing departure, I think I will actually miss this historical surrounding, which I have, by no means, experienced before.
Being used to living in the efficient and “fast-food” way of life in Asia and America, I am really glad that I have had this chance to live in Europe for a while, and experience its relaxing lifestyle. Initially, I complained about people’s inefficiency, the weak public transportation system and the lack of “fast-food” restaurants here in Rome. However, as I have lived here longer, I realize that there is absolutely no need to be efficient or fast in this city. Indeed, in my usual daily life, everything goes too quickly. Living here therefore gives me a chance to relax and enjoy the “slow food movement”.
The field trips and classes, in my opinion, are the two best parts of the program. As Anna Rita said, the places we went are those that we wouldn’t have been if we just came to Italy for a week. If I were merely a visitor, I would in all likelihood have just been to tourist spots like Florence, Venice and Rome. In reality, as a Cornell in Rome Program participant, I went to over 20 cities and small towns. To me, small towns like Siena and Verona are actually even more appealing than the big cities like Milan. Also, even when we went to the hot tourist cities, we did much more than what a typical tourist would do; not only did we attend presentations by planners of the cities (e.g. to learn about flooding control and immigration in Venice), we also traveled to the cities’ peripheral areas to see new development projects (e.g. Rome’s peripheral neighborhoods). As a planner, I also got to know much more about architecture and art through the mandatory visits to museums and churches.
As for the classes, all of them, to me, were very interesting and rewarding. While the planning studio allowed us to study real Roman neighborhoods in professional fashion, the EU Seminar has provided me with a lot of new knowledge pertaining to international affairs and politics. Additionally, as I had already wanted to learn about photography, I particularly enjoyed the photo class, during which we took many different types of pictures, including night photography, portrait, still object and, embarrassingly, self-portrait. Nevertheless, I am really glad to see that I have actually produced a portfolio of my Rome experience. Finally, the Italian class, taught by our amazing instructor Francesca, was always full of fun. I still can’t believe that I actually sang an Italian song with my partners in the oral exam!
Perhaps the only thing that I dislike about Rome is its dining options. Italian food is surely good, but I think there are not enough choices. To eat economically, there are basically only two choices, pizza or panino. However, eating pizza or panino every day is definitely not a healthy diet. Another cheap option is “Chinese food”. However, they are actually so Italianized that I wouldn’t even want to consider them as “Chinese” food. If you want some decent food, restaurants definitely have them, but it can easily cost more than 15 euros (in fact, I think Anna Rita’s cooking is even better than most of the restaurants here!). Given this “hardship”, I (as well as many other students here) have actually started cooking this semester. Unbelievably, I am now able to cook a variety of foods (I even tried to make tiramisu, yet I failed…). Hence, this shortcoming is in fact a great opportunity for me to practice cooking. As such, after all, it’s not too bad.
I really cannot believe that this semester is already reaching its end. I will definitely miss the Cornell center, the classes, my huge room, Tratsevere (where I live), Bullicante (the neighborhood I studied for my studio), pasta, fish pizza, cornetto con choccolato, capuccino, cannoli, Anna Rita’s cooking, speaking Italian to Italians, taking pictures around, the field trips, writing this blog (which I won’t update anymore) and, most importantly, my fellow URS classmates, whom I would not have known so well without meeting them here in Rome.
Although I would not say Rome is my favorite city, I must say partaking in this Cornell in Rome program is one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. The entire thing broadened my horizons and made me become more mature and sensitive to the rest of the world. If I could choose again, I would still go for this once-in-a-lifetime program.
Ciao Ciao Roma! This semester will always be a great memory for me.