All the rush and hype of arriving in Rome has definitely settled down now that we’ve been here for three weeks. You’re preparing, packing, planning, chatting, and imagining, and then, all of sudden, you arrive. You step outside the airport doors and find yourself sitting next to taxi driver who can’t speak english and is taking you to your new home. And that’s it. From there life just becomes normal again. Well, a new normal, that is. I may come from an Italian American family, but as hard as this is for me to admit, everything in Rome was immediately very new to me (aside from traditional dishes). So, I may have a vowel at the end of my name, and I may be able to blend in if I’m not carrying my book bag and camera, but I definitely needed a crash course on how to “live like the Romans do.” And that’s exactly what all twenty-eight archies received in the first few weeks.
Living in an apartment. I live in an apartment with five other students, and we all feel pretty spoiled. Everything is great from the furniture to the air conditioning and the location in the historical center. So far, we have struggled with Italian trash regulations, wacky washing machines, strange stoves, confused neighbors, and tiny, old fashioned elevators (we may have gotten stuck between floors one or two times). All in all, our apartment feels like home and its great place to unwind at the end of the day.
Italian lessons. A group of twelve students, including myself, will be taking Italian lessons for the whole semester; but for the first two weeks everyone participated in an intensive course. We learned everything from how to order in a restaurant, buy clothes, ask for directions, and most importantly, how to not act like obnoxious, touristy Americans.
Our first day trip! On the Saturday before classes started, our class went on a walking/bus tour of the city with our program director, Jeffrey Blanchard, and our studio director, Val Warke. It was great to walk through the sites with people who are familiar with the area and could tell us more about them then the common tourist brochure. It was a long, hot day, but definitely worth it
First week of classes. The first week of classes was exhausting. Since Fridays are reserved for field trips, our lectures meet once a week for four hours and studio meets twice a week for six. It takes a lot out of you to be in classes the entire day versus our Ithaca schedules, but our classroom is the city, so how can we complain? For instance, my first drawing class was spent sitting at the Termini (train station) and sketching for two hours followed by visiting the National Roman Museum, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. It’s really an unbelievable experience to forgo your text books and to just look at your surroundings instead. In my first history class with Jan Gadeyne, I learned that the Rome that Americans know and love, the one with the Colosseum and the Pantheon, only makes up about ten percent of what Rome actually is. I haven’t even begun to discover that other ninety percent yet, so I know that along with my classmates, I will be surprised daily by my findings, and my classes will give me the tools to think critically about them.