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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

The Right Directions

Awaiting Hadrian's Villa

Here in Rome we have a lot of orienting to do. Being an abroad student means having an excess of excitement and child-like wonderment in the simple things… like the fact that doors to shops open in the opposite direction, that dogs walk without leashes here, and that a smile doesn’t necessarily follow a look. At Cornell in Rome we were lucky enough to be paid a visit by the US Ambassador to Italy for a US Embassy Safety Orientation. He kept it short and sweet with some pretty good advice: If you want to have a safe and fun time in Rome make sure to 1. Avoid fraternizing with members of the opposite sex, 2. Don’t drink alcoholic beverages, 3. Lights out at 10 o’ clock (22 o’ clock in Italy, that is!) Pretty solid advice, I’d say (and I’m sure Mom would agree). A foreign service officer also debriefed us on the work she does at the U.S. Department of State (mostly emergency renewal of passports) and how to avoid pitfalls while abroad. Everyone was very friendly and down to earth, they even cracked some jokes. Lastly, we were visited by a psychologist and professor. She addressed something that I think is really critical and deserves repetition. There’s a lot of pressure being abroad! Cornell’s program is intense and stimulating while being placed in one of the most amazing places in the world! Needless to say, your friends and family are expecting you to have a good time, because duh, you’re in beautiful wonderful Roma and there’s so much to learn! However, the psychologist brought to our attention that being abroad can sometimes be overwhelmingly lonely, due to huge rift of physical and emotional distance between human relationships (6 hour time difference, 4,320 miles, and culture shock, oh my!!!) So if for any reason you feel lonely or down, it’s nothing abnormal! Your reactions and feelings are natural extensions of your experiences, our psychologist friend informed us (I personally agree; if you’re having a sucky day, your day has been sucky! ain’t nobody got to tell you otherwise). Your abroad experience is your abroad experience and whether it’s positive or negative or undulates like the levels of the Tiber river is the way YOU experience it and YOU perceive it.  The pressure of your friends who might guilt you for not “having the time of your life!” is nothing more than a pressure. And I think I speak for all Cornellians when I say your Rome peers are more than willing to have those deep conversations that you’re craving over a cappuccino… or if you had a raincloud following you all day, they’re more than willing to help hash out those problems with you. I want to end with one comment relative to all this experiential-speak: the overarching theme in these past few weeks has definitely been to open yourself up. Explore new things, conscientiously of course, and take advantage of the abroad experience. And unanimously each orientation leader has begged of us one thing: please, please, please, just…don’t spend time all your time in Campo de’ Fiori. While the market is cool and pretty, remember that you’re in Rome now and there’s plenty of enriching cultural diversity that exceeds the wet tee shirt contests and other American phenomena they provide there.

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