A Day in the Life of a Rome Maymester Student

Greetings from Rome! It’s been an amazing two weeks so far and I can’t believe we’re halfway through! We’ve done so much so far but still have so much to look forward to! I am just getting back from a weekend trip to Florence so comment if you want to hear about our adventure there and the kinds of trips you can take outside of your host city.

Buongiorno!

Thankfully, Italian class doesn’t start until 10:30 so we get to sleep in a bit and then me and my five roommates walk across Rome and the bridge over the Tiber River to reach the University of Temple Rome where we have our classes.

We first have an hour of crash course Italian with a wonderful local teacher who gives us the basics like learning how to order something or how to introduce yourself. Then either Professor Martin or Professor Seider comes in for the next hour and teaches our ancient history course in Rome. We usually have to do a little homework such as reading a passage and looking up the location of the site visits in a guide, but it is never stressful to complete.

The professors really go in depth to how we view the leaders of ancient Rome and how this affected later time periods like the Renaissance. While we focus on ancient Rome in class, when we go on site visits it’s locations of all ages from 753 BC to today which just goes to show the layers of history city has.

Seeing Rome

After class we are given a couple of hours to do what we want to, as long as we all meet at the site visit afterwards. My roommates and I usually head to our favorite spot: a pizza shop near the Piazza del Popolo and we sit on the steps overlooking the fountains and beautiful domes.

We then walk through the narrow but picturesque streets that are lined with shops and overhear Italian as we make our way to the site visits. While at first we needed maps to get us to places, we are already quite familiar with the city as we walk everywhere and know a general idea of how to go from place to place.

ruins in the Roman Forum

A large part of how we study these sites is not only to look at what is in front of us, but to see what they would have been like back when they were built and why they are important. While we may be looking at ruins, their structure we see today can clue into what kind of life the ancients Romans lived and what they valued most.

The Roman Forum was the best place to see this; the Romans packed so much into this central space like markets, temples, a palace, and the Senate house. We spent a whole afternoon there getting a tour by our Professors, then we broke into groups and learned about and presented on a specific ruin.

Sometimes we have multiple site visits, and maybe an activity at each one. One day we went to a monument to Augustus, Augustus’ Mausoleum, the Pantheon, and the Church of Gesú. It was a lot of walking, but we had different classwork at each like sketching and presenting on an aspect of the monument to Augustus, reflecting on the class reading at the mausoleum, sketching at the church and presenting on it, and just having a chance to admire the Pantheon.

The Pantheon
Outside of the Church of Gesú
Ceiling of Church of Gesú

 

Minke and I showing off our sketches in a Roman bath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While classwork is light, we learn so much from just being present at the site. Getting to see every detail in person and seeing the size and structure for ourselves speaks a lot to the history of the lives of the Romans here. Reading about the Colosseum doesn’t do justice to its sheer size and towering arches nor do pictures of the Sistine Chapel capture the harmony Michelangelo created there.

To truly learn about the impact of the sites both in ancient times and today, one needs to be there in person, and that is why Maymester gives the perfect opportunity to experience this.

School of Athens painting by Raphael in Vatican Museums
View after climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Dome
Colosseum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Class

After the site visits we are tired so we go back to the apartment by subway (which we have mastered by now) and get an hour or two to relax before we rally to go to dinner together. We’ve tried all sorts of Italian restaurants around Rome, crossing off our food bucket list as we go. Italian dinners can take hours (and they start eating late) so we finish the night with gelato down the street and then hang out on the rooftop garden.

There is so much that we do in one day, and we do not waste any time going around for class or exploring on our own. By the end, we are all tired but are excited to continue on the next day.

Gelato with Bridget and Cassandra
Climbing an ancient staircase
St. Peter´s Basilica altar (left to right: Cassandra, Guy, Bridget, Smarika, Keyshawn, Minke, Me, Trishala)

 

Oh the places we’ve been in 3 days

While the first day we settled in and got to know people in our Maymester, the second day is when we started to get out on our own. But soon enough we were navigating the city by paper map and walking miles and miles to see the sights.

While I want to stop and take a picture everywhere, we have to keep moving on the busy streets so I’ve taken pictures of the larger monuments and scenery. But every street is picturesque with the bold shutters against the pale orange and cracked buildings and the cobblestone streets. The smaller streets especially are just as you would picture Italy with bistros every other shop and chiq Italians walking by where you might catch a frase of their elegant language.

On the third day is where my apartment mates and I started exploring, and our first stop was the Piazza del Popolo (the Plaza of the People) after our first day of classes. The most ornate white marble arch gave way to a huge plaza surrounded by all kinds of domed buildings, elaborate statues of Roman gods, and a large tower in the center engraved with old Latin surrounded by lion fountains. Within this plaza was places to sit so we grabbed delicious pizza and sat on the steps while we took in the scenery.

It was a perfect lunch before continuing on to our classwork of the day which was to find our assigned Roman ruin and sketch it while learning about it for the day. We were in small groups of three, but we teamed up to find all of our sites through identifying them on a paper map and following it through the whole Roman city. The twisting streets along the way were captivating, and suddenly we would turn the corner to find famous locations like the Pantheon or temples.

We then met our whole class and rode an elevator to the top of the highest building: the Altare della Patria, and looked over all of Rome at sunset. It was gorgeous and we could see everything below from the nearby Colosseum to the villas way in the distance. On top of this monument we gave our short presentations on our sites (ours was Octavian’s Mausoleum) and then we were free for the day.

Later I explored the Vatican city which is only a couple blocks away from our apartment. I followed the Vatican wall that extends all around the streets until I reached the entrance of St. Peter’s square which opened up suddenly before me to reveal a gazing sunset over St. Peter’s Basilica where the Pope resides. To be in such a spiritual center with the white marble columns and a gorgeous building before me was breathtaking.

Seeing all these sights reminded me of the reason I came on this Maymester: to adventure. While we are learning, we are also exploring the city. This piece of having a first hand look at history while studying it has been a piece that I feel is missing from so many classes.It brings together the experience of learning while being present in the moment for unforgettable memories.

left to right: Cassandra, Bridget, Minke, Me, Smarika

These are my apartment mates who are amazing people to travel Italy with! They will probably appear in many of my photos. Ciao!

 

A Roman Holiday Begins

Greetings from Rome at last!

The flight over was wonderful, and I got my school work finished on the plane and was thankfully able to sleep so that way I would not be too jet lagged when I arrived.

As we were landing I could see rolling fields of green below with the deepest green trees, it was like nothing I had ever seen before.

I’ve have done a bit of exploring already so I’ll jump right in to some cultural differences we’ve learned to manage so far by the help of local professors…

 

A picture is worth a thousand (foreign) words

Getting out of the airport was funny since we were already by ourselves without our family which was different, but on top of that all of the signs were in Italian! So I learned my first trick of the day which was to just follow the pictures on signs to understand what they are saying. This was also useful as we were figuring out how to enter our apartment building where we will be staying, where we had no clue what the street signs were but could figure it out by following other people and the pictures they showed us of how to get in.

 

Stare them down.

On our walk to school at Temple University in Rome we follow one main street until reaching the Tiber river and it is right across the bridge. But on our way we encounter many crosswalks, which is pretty dangerous considering Italians rarely stop to wait. So we’ve been told to stare down any drivers who come close and they will stop. And it has worked!

It’s also a small cultural quirk that Italians like to stare at anything strange, including American tourists who wear things like flip flops on the street. So if you feel uncomfortable: stare right back and they will look away.

 

Be prepared to eat a lot and awhile

I was prepared to sit down and enjoy the best Italian food of my life, but when you’re sitting down for a meal be prepared to sit for two or more hours. Dining is an experience here, and you are meant to enjoy meals with friends and family as an event. Honestly, it has been a nice change of pace from us Americans rushing through our meals to get to the next place.

On the first night, the apartment held “Super Big Party Boom!” (that was the four words the owner knew), where I got to know my apartment mates over 2.5 hours and 6 courses from bruschetta to a whole roasted pig to fresh gelato. It was the best Italian food I ever had, and it was made even better by having the chance to slow down and enjoy it with new friends.

Eating pizza in a piazza. (top left to bottom right: Cassandra, Minke, Bridget, Me, Smarika)

 

When in Rome…. treat it kindly

The city is like antique that gets passed down through generations: it is the oldest city I have ever seen yet it has new additions added on and a beauty to it that comes from the care that hundreds of generations have put into it. Rome has layers of the ages with the bustling mopeds on streets where grandparents still run bakeries which is all crammed next to ruins where the ancient rulers like Caesar used to rule.

With this beautiful scenery laid out before us it’s most important to remember: we’re tourists here. No matter how comfortable we may become with the city there will still be cultural barriers. And we need to take care of the city to preserve it for the next generation and the next tourists who come here so they will be able to have the same experiences like we have, and maybe you will too.

School to Study Abroad

Greetings from Massachusetts! I leave Sunday for Rome, and I couldn’t be more excited, but I have a lot to do until then…

Unpacking school to repack for Maymester

To be honest, my room is a complete mess right now with all of my belongings from my dorm room having just been moved out while at the same time I am packing for Rome. I can transfer a lot of my belongings from moving boxes to a suitcase, but I also can add in some new summer clothes for Rome. I hope I won’t stick out too much as an American tourist, so I did some research and it turns out Italians wear pants and long skirts– even in the scorching heat. While I was not expecting that, it just means I’ll have to pack accordingly.

I’ve talked to lots of other people that have traveled and they all say the same thing: pack comfortable shoes. From what Professor Seider and Professor Martin mention with all the places we will be going, I have no doubt that most of the day we will be walking around. But exploring a new city on foot is half the fun, especially since we will have our professors as guides. We also have a nice 30 minute walk everyday (yes, I calculated it on Google Earth) from our apartments to the school building so I will be prepared with comfy shoes and a cup of good coffee.

 

Getting Some Work Done

As nice of a vacation this will be for a month in Rome, I do have to remind myself I am still taking a history/art course and have to prepare. We have some light work to do beforehand like reading Professor Martin’s Ancient Rome: From Romulus to Justinian, some excerpts, and study the map of Rome. We are all doing the majority of the work now so when we get to Rome we can learn and explore the sites without having to do book work.

Additionally I have been working my usual job at a local grocery store trying to save up some spending money after paying off this trip. I have my eyes set on an expensive Italian dinner and maybe a leather jacket, but we’ll see how much I can save up.

 

Excitement and Nerves

While I am definitely excited, I also have some nerves. This year has taught me how to live semi-independently, but living in a whole different country will be completely new. Since I will be gone for a month it’s a good amount of time to see how studying abroad for a semester would go, but I still get to enjoy traveling on my own for a couple of weeks.

Traveling alone can make anyone uneasy, but thankfully I have other students who are familiar with home on the Hill to help me through it all.

 

This week, I have said hello to my friends from home just to say addio again, but they’ve been so supportive as I talk through my nervous excitement about my trip. The next time I post I will be away in Rome so I cannot wait to update on my experiences thus far and post some pictures:)

Why I Chose Maymester and Why You Should Too

Hello everyone, greetings from Worcester! Less than month left until I leave for Rome, and I wanted to share about how I got involved in the Maymester program.

First off, what is Maymester?

It is one of the study abroad options Holy Cross offers each year for students, where for about a month in May you study in a foreign country. There is a variety of different places from England to India so there is always somewhere new to travel. Or if you are looking to return somewhere you get the bonus experience of taking a summer class taught by professors from Holy Cross. You live with a group of other Holy Cross students too so you can still get that sense of being in a group while traveling independently.

Why I chose Maymester in Rome

Early when I first was looking at colleges I was thinking of what kind of opportunities each could connect me with. I’ve always been interested in adventures in foreign countries, but I did not think I would be able to study abroad my Freshman year. Holy Cross is the only school I looked at that offers a summer study abroad to all class years so I was thrilled when I learned I could participate.

There are so many program options to choose from, and I chose Rome In History and Imagination. As a Biology major on the pre-med track I know I have tons of science courses to look forward to, but I felt I wanted to do some exploration in history in a country I’ve never been before. And what better way to learn Roman history and art while being exactly where it happened? We’ll learn about the Colosseum or St. Peter’s Basilica or any one of the sites while we are standing in the middle of it all. That is an experience every student should have.

So why else should you participate in Maymester?

With busy class and sports schedules, a lot of students worry that they won’t have time to study abroad for a whole semester or year. Holy Cross gives the chance to study abroad during the summer and fulfill a class requirement so you gain a memorable experience while lightening the class work.

Also, these Maymester programs are taught in English so you can study abroad without knowing the native language, unlike the semester or year programs.

The best part is that you have the chance to fully immerse yourself in a culture for a whole month without feeling like you are too far from home because you have the support of other Holy Cross students and professors.

So if you love to travel, want to experience another culture, love history (or the arts or social justice or any of the classes offered), then Maymester is the perfect opportunity for you.

 

For now I’m finishing up the spring semester, but in the meantime I look forward to eating a lot of delicious gelato!