By Katie Hummel, ’14
Ciao from Roma! I am fortunate enough to be spending my spring semester studying abroad in Rome. Although I’ve only been abroad for about a month, Rome has already started to feel like home as I’ve gotten to know its winding streets, steep hills, delicious food, and (infrequent) public transportation system very well.
Along with me for this experience are four other Honors students—
Steven Johnston, ’14, Ariel Nguyen, ’14, Salvatore Calvo, ’14, and
Katie Boligitz, ’15. We are all studying at the American University of Rome (AUR), a tiny but reputable school located in the Monteverde section of Rome, which is just south of Trastevere. For many of us, this semester is a chance to use some of our electives to take courses that immerse us in the Roman experience. These courses include art history, archeology, and sociology of Rome’s urban development, and they are known as “on-site” classes because each week takes us to a new location around the city rather than the classroom. Already, I have visited two working-class neighborhoods in Rome that were created during the city’s urban renewal projects, as well as the churches of San Clemente and St. John Lateran, which are built on top of extensive archeological ruins.
Living in Rome on my own has provided more of a challenge than any course I am taking here. Student housing is provided by AUR, and we are housed in apartments anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes away from the school. The Monteverde section of Rome is entirely residential, with not a tourist trap in sight, so we are really immersed in an authentic neighborhood where few people speak English. I am living with five other girls from all across the country; my direct roommate is from Montana and has never been outside the United States before. Our apartment is a convenient 20-minute walk from the university, so we don’t have to depend on the bus or tram each morning. However, our apartment is very different from the ones in the U.S. We use a gas stove, cook without a microwave, do laundry without a dryer, and are limited to quick showers at the risk of running out of hot water. I am also learning to manage my own finances, and I have found that the local fresh fruit and vegetable stands provide a much better deal than the larger grocery stores.
The food in Rome is fantastic. Although I typically cook for myself most nights, all of the ingredients are fresh and without preservatives. When we go out for dinner, the delicious options are endless—pasta, panini, and pizza that cannot compare to anything I’ve had before. For dessert, the famous gelato lives up to its reputation and comes in interesting flavors such as Nutella, wild berry, hazelnut, and pistachio. My favorite is stracciatella—vanilla with chocolate chips. I also attended a cooking class a few weeks ago and learned how to make several Italian recipes, including tiramisu, fresh Bolognese sauce, and pasta from scratch. There is a great deal of pride in food in Rome, especially since there is a family-owned pizzeria or sandwich shop on every block.
The university’s schedule includes Fridays off, allowing us to travel on weekends. So far, I have traveled to Naples for authentic margherita pizza, Venice for the
pre-Lent Carnevale celebration, and Switzerland, where I visited the cities of Interlaken and Zurich. Within Rome itself, there is so much to discover. I am constantly reminded of how ancient this city is; there is so much history within one building or one block along the street. I’ve paid my visits to the Roman Forum, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and Vatican City, and I still have only traveled to a fraction of the city’s neighborhoods and sights. I also witnessed the city crowding with journalists and tourists due to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and Pope Francis’ election. It is incredibly exciting to be in Rome at such an important time for the Catholic Church. With so much still to see and learn, I am excited to continue my semester in Rome and see what the next months bring!