For those of you who don’t know, I spent my first semester of the current school year in Europe. The University of Dallas has what is called the Rome Program. A group of 95 students, 5 professors, and a small group of staff live together for four months on the outskirts of Rome. Almost every weekend is a four day weekend, so everyone is allowed to travel outside of Italy until classes resume late Monday morning. There were also tons of class trips made throughout Italy and Greece.
While I had been to Italy before (Milan, Venice and Calabria), I had never been to Rome.
To say I was both nervous and excited is a serious understatement. Not only was I once again in a foreign country, far from my mother for four months (the longest we had ever been apart), I would also be with these 100 something people 24/7 for a whole semester. On a very small campus.
Everything and anything was foreign.
I told myself don’t get attached,
But in my mind I play it back,
Spinning faster than the plane that took you.
It took about a week or two before the dust settled.
We were given both tours of the campus and of the city Rome before classes began. It was awkward, as it always is when you’re around new people in a new environment. People naturally tended to stick to the friends they already had from beforehand and jetlag was a bitch.
Meals were three times a day at a specified time for an hour, freshly made by the Mensa staff led by Nino and Nuccia (mensa means canteen/cafeteria). The Capp Bar, where students can get snacks and drinks, was worked by work study kids led by the amazing Vasile and Alina. A vineyard covered the front of the campus, filled to the brim with grapevines and adorned with gorgeous roses. A few gazebos were placed throughout campus grounds.
My favorite place, however, was the lounge room right next to the Capp Bar. It contains a couple of tables and chairs and four red leather couches great for naps. It was there where I did my studying. Where I had dance parties and karaoke night with my friends. Where I spent late nights with my friends talking about nonsensical things. Where I had my hot chocolate and Sour Cream & Onion Pringles I bought from the Capp.
The majority of my best memories from those four months was in that lounge room.
On the ground level, there is a tunnel that connects the basement with the lounge room and Capp Bar.
It’s called Shakespeare Alley.
On one side there are Shakespearean characters painted onto the wall. Such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Puck and Titania, Othello, King Lear and his three daughters, and a few more too.
Every semester students are given the chance to paint and draw on the other wall whatever they wanted (as long as it was PG-13). From quotes to inside jokes to advice, we would gather together in our free time to paint for fun. I distinctly remember a friend and I on a “mission” to paint something very specific.
Here’s some background info. first:
One of the Resident Coordinators would frequently talk about his “traumatic childhood memories,” typically involving a chicken or at least some form of animal. One of which was a fox he accidentally killed with his vomit. Yeah, pretty gross.
So my friend and I banded together for “Mission Fox Killer.” On the wall we painted a fox with it’s soul going towards the sky (melodramatic, I know) with a horror film font used to write “Fox Killer.” It was perfect for when we would get too stressed and needed an outlet.
That same friend and I also designed our class t-shirt.
Th very top I am wearing in this post.
The Rome Program is directed by two people, one is which is Ben. During a large portion of the semester, however, he was back in the States due to his work visa or something. I like to just joke that he was deported from Italy. The week he left our other leader made a joke, saying “We’ve lost Ben. Have you seen him?” Ever since then students constantly made the joke “Where’s Ben?”
I later thought of the idea of having this be the theme for our shirts, while my friend, an awesome art major, did the drawing portion. After giving some options in terms of design placement, we turned it in and won the design competition!
It’s a perfect inside joke that will for sure put a smile on our faces.
The delicate beginning rush,
The feeling you can know so much,
Without knowing anything at all.
And now that I can put this down,
If I had known what I know now,
I never would have played so nonchalant.
Sometimes we would have lectures in the city.
Since technically campus was on the outskirts of Rome, via driving it takes a little less than an hour and by commute it’s almost two hours (pretty rough). So whenever there was an opportunity to go into Rome via driving, students relished it. From getting gelato to shopping at Tiger, it was always a blast. Tiring, but still a blast. We even managed to attend the Papal Audience! Since this is a hardcore Catholic school, this was particularly a big idea. I’m pretty one of my friends who was standing next to me was almost to have palpitations from seeing the Pope.
Funnily enough, as time went on, walking by the Colosseum and the Roman Forum became the norm. Yes, this is so spoiled of me to say but that was our reality for a whole semester. Going into some of the world’s most beautiful churches, visiting esteemed museums, and so much more was given to us.
My personal favorite is the Trevi Fountain.
It was first introduced to me by the Lizzie McGuire movie (yes, I know), but nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful it is. It’s much bigger than I expected and was just absolutely breathtaking.
And yes, I threw a coin in and made a wish.
What was nice about the program was that almost everyone had the same classes: English, History, Theology, Philosophy and Art History. There was a handful of students, including myself, that took an Italian class and replaced one the other classes with it. That way everyone
suffered studied together.
Every exam felt like a squad mission that we had to complete in order to survive (which is basically true).
Finals week was both the worst and the best.
Worst because, well, finals.
But the best because everyone banded together. It was comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one struggling to retain so much information in a short amount of time.
Plus the study breaks were like mini parties.
It could be playing cards, singing/dancing to music (particularly Thank You, Next by Ariana Grande), or fooling around on the piano that was in the lounge room. It’s always a blast even when it’s serious studying time. Specifically when it gets to the point wherein we’re delirious and laugh at anything.
The semester was by far the most grueling, exhausting, wonderful, exhilarating, experience I’ve had thus far.
Yes, it had it’s downsides. Such as constantly being exhausted (whether from the traveling and/or the intensive classes), or being in close quarters with everyone 24/7, or having to eat pasta 3 time a day everyday, or not being able to see your family.
But it also gave me the opportunity to travel to so many places! From Paris to Vienna to Venice to London, I was blessed to see some of the most amazing and awesome places in Europe.
I will say, however, that it is most definitely the people that can make or break an experience. And the people I was with those four moths are truly spectacular. From the staff to the students to the professors, everyone contributed to making the semester what is was. Whether you were someone who taught me, or I became close with, was someone I was already close to, or even if we only said “Hi” once in a while passing each other in the hallway, I am thankful for you. So thank you for the most incredible semester of my life! There is truly no word or words to completely encompass everyone about the experience.
F(all) ROME 2018
This is when the feeling sinks in,
I don’t wanna miss you like this,
FROME 2018 PLAYLIST
September by Earth, Wind & Fire
Africa by Toto
Thank You, Next by Ariana Grande
Apple Bottom Jeans by T-Pain
Dancing Queen by ABBA
Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
Edelweiss from The Sound of Music
Hey Stephen by Taylor Swift
Love On Top by Beyonce
Jordan Belfort by Wes Walker & Dyl
Come Back, Be Here by Taylor Swift