Monday January 30
First day of school.
Sadly my time of being able to explore the city with no homework to do has ended. Now I have to focus on the real reason I was able to come to Rome this semester; school. Today started out at 9 with a meeting about the alcohol policy for the school. They also taught us about general safety and earthquake safety. After this class ended it was time for lunch which was some great ravioli along with bread, salad, cheese, meat and dessert. It was great and super filling. The pefect thing I need before my first 3 hour and 15 minute class. My first class of the week is a film class where we will be analyzing different things about Italian films. Turns out that the 3 hour class doesn't include the time to watch any of the film so thats another 2 hour class on a different day. My film professor seems great. His name is Pino and he comes to campus from the city of Bologna. He likes to make a lot of jokes which is great for helping the time pass. Soon enough it was the end of class and I had a little bit of free time until dinner. For dinner we had chicken (veggie patties for me), cauliflower, rice, bread, cheese, meat, salad and dessert. The cauliflower was amazing. I have learned that lunch will usually be a starch and dinner will be a meat along with a veggie and starch. The first day of class was generally a success and after dinner it was time to get started on all the homework I already had before some of my classes even met. I will be doing a lot of reading this semester it turns out. After studying for a while a bunch of my friends and I got together to plan our trip to Florence for the next weekend. This trip is half through the school and half through us. We pay the school a small amount for our admission to the sights, tour guide, gelato, and a multi course dinner. We are so excited but we have to now figure out where to stay and how we are getting there. But, after contacting some places to stay we decided it was time to go to bed before our first on-site class.
Tuesday January 31
Time to sign up for some excursions
6am- Time to get up and go sit downstairs for an hour in a half before I can sign up for excursions. Duquesne sponsors trips to different regions within Italy where they take us on tours, food adventures, and beautiful scenery. The trips they were offering were to Perugia and Assisi Umbria Italy, Matera and Craco Basilicata Italy, and a day trip to Tivoli and the Lakes in Italy. The trips all sound super exiting and I am hoping I can get into all of them. However, most of the trips only have about 18 spots and there are 57 of us at school right now. The odds are not in my favor to be able to get into all of the excursions but I figured the earlier I wake up, the more likely I am to get into them. I headed down to sit in our lobby and the whole time I was walking down the steps I was hoping that there would be less than 18 people already down there. As I rounded the corner I heard voices and as I got closer I saw there was only 7 people in front of me. I was number 8. I was going to get into all the excursions! I was so excited but now I had an hour and a half to kill. We immediately set a rule that no one who came down later could cut in line but we could go to the bathroom or get food if needed. Luckily, breakfast was going to start being served at 7 so I only had a little time to kill before I could go get some food and much needed coffee.
Soon the time has come and I pull out the pen I had been holding onto this whole time. I signed up for the three excursions, the trip to Florence and a wine tasting they are holding. I am going to come home seeing all parts of Italy and also knowing a lot about wine (hopefully I find one I like but at least I can tell people about it). After the excitement of signing up it was time to head downstairs for the super early showing of the movie assigned for this weeks film class; 1900. This film was..... interesting. 2 hours and 45 minutes later I was finally done with the movie. Well just the first part. The second part of the movie running at 2 hours and 30 minutes is due Monday morning.
After watching the movie it was time to venture into the suburb near us and attempt to get an Italian sim card for our nokias that are virtually impossible to type on after using an iPhone for so long. When we get to the store the first thing we ask is "parli inglese" or do you speak english. Luckily the employee spoke a little english so we were able to get the smallest plan they offered and get out in less than 30 minutes. Then it was time to head back to school to get some lunch before heading back out on the bus to go to our first on-site class.
On-site classes take place at different points throughout the city of Rome. This weeks class takes place at the Capitoline Hill or where the capital of Rome is. We ended up going on a tour of the Capitoline Museum where we learned all about the different sculptures and art located in the building. It was a pretty interesting class and we were able to get some really nice pictures both inside the museum and of the city. After class it was time to eat dinner. On Tuesdays dinner is located at a restaurant in the city where we get vouchers for whatever we want to eat. The only problem is none of us who were walking from class had been there before and we weren't quite sure where the restaurant was located. After many wrong turns we eventually did make it. Todays dinner takes place at the Old Bear which has a lot of pastas and salads. I ended up getting some spinach ravioli which were amazing. They were super light and the filling was really flavorful. It was nice being able to sit at a table with people I don't normally get to talk to and learn all about them and make new friends. Afterwards our group of 8 headed out to find a gelato place before attempting to find the bus stop back to school. After cramming into the crowded bus and waiting over an hour for both of them we finally make it back to school. We were all exhausted and all we wanted to do was sleep but instead I stayed up and started on the massive pile of homework already forming. And tomorrow would most likely bring even more.
Wednesday February 1
I can finally sleep in! Today my first class doesn't start till 11 am and its my only class of the day. I took full advantage of being able to catch up on sleep and slept until 10. It felt so good to be able to catch up on all the sleep I have missed. My only class today is a cultural awareness class where they basically teach us about the Italian culture. It was very interesting to learn different greetings in Italian to say to people. Soon enough that class was over and I had the rest of the day free. I used that time to organize my room and get all my school stuff set. I also decided it would be a good time to do some laundry. Laundry here costs 2 euro a wash or dry cycle which is so different than in Pittsburgh where its free. Luckily they give us 50 euro of laundry money but I am starting to wonder if that will be enough. Turns out I didn't shut the washer correctly so I ended up paying twice to wash one load of clothes. And then I learned the dryers are a lot weaker than home so they weren't even able to completely dry my clothes. I ended up laying them out to finish drying. At least I wasn't like some other students that spent 10 euros for a single wash and dry cycle. After the failure of laundry was over I had dinner and then spent the rest of the night watching the second half of 1900. I would have to say I definitely do not recommend this movie and have wasted 5 hours of my life in watching it. I wonder what the class discussion would be like. I will find out on Friday because while usually we don't have any classes on Friday we have all our Monday classes again to make up for the fact we have a Monday off for Easter later in the semester.
Thursday February 2
Today starts off at 8 am where I get onto a private bus for my second on-site class of the week. Usually we are expected to take public transportation but since we are going to a location outside the city they give us a ride for this class. It was nice being able to sit comfortably while listening to our professor talk and be able to take notes on our lap. Our destination this morning was the Catacombs. The catacombs were very interesting. Some of the paints that were done on the ceiling and walls were spectacular. The technique they used left them with only a couple hours to finish the complete design. Sadly we were not allowed to take any pictures so I don't have any examples to show. After the class ended our professor was nice and asked the bus driver to take a slower way back to campus but one that allowed us to see different parts of Rome we otherwise might not have. We even drove past where the hotel I stayed at the last time I cam was. The tour was great and we got back just in time for lunch. After lunch was time for homework before heading into the city for dinner.
Thursday is another day where we are provided a voucher for dinner and this time it was at a pizza restaurant by the Vatican. We took the metro there which a much better way of traveling than the bus. I ended up getting cacio e pepe pizza which was pretty good. (Not as good as the pasta from last time though mom. ) We even had enough money left that we could get dessert so I got a chocolate mousse that was so rich I could only eat a couple spoonfuls. After dinner when we were stuffed we headed back to the metro so we could get home and do more homework before bed. It seems like I will be staying up late most nights. Good thing I am in a place with really good coffee.
Friday February 3
Back to my film class. The discussion turned out to be more of a history lesson than discussion of the movie which was nice but boring at times. Soon enough class was over and it was time to sprint up stairs to grab our bags. We had 15 minutes to get to the bus stop to catch our bus that would take us to the metro. It was time to go on our first trip outside of the city! We were headed to Florence. Stay tuned for how the weekend in Florence is!
Sunday January 29,
Today was the day where we would be lead on tours of the city. I was so excited to finally be able to see the monements Rome is known for. The day started out with breakfast at 7 am where I felt like I was still half asleep. It was a good think I packed my bag with everything I would need the night before like money, copy of my passport and water. Today was also the first time I would be riding the Rome bus system.
We head out as a huge group of 30 with some stragglers behind us. While we walk to the bus spot which is only a couple feet outside the campus, one of the Assistant Resident Director (ARDs) taught us the rules of the buses and crossing the street. Her first rule was that you have to cross in a cross walk or else if you get hit its your own fault. Simple enough, look for the white lines on the road and walk over them. Well, turns out it wasn't that simple as about only 1 or 2 lines are still visible and the rest have faded away. It appeared as though the ARD chose to cross the street at a random shrub until I asked her once we were one the other side and she pointed it out. Rule 2: Cars don't stop to give you a clear path. You have to walk with confidence and make eye contact with the driver so they slow down. This goes against everything I have been taught about crossing the street. Why would I want to start crossing when there is still a car speeding at me rather than at a complete rest letting me know I could go. This method of crossing the street will take some getting used to as my heart pounds every time I have to attempt it. When we finally get to the bus stop we were told that on our stretch of street there is only 1 bus to take us into the outskirts of town where we would then transfer buses to get into the center of the city. Yay, I have to take 2 buses to get anywhere... Well it turns out the 905, or the first bus I have to take, is very unreliable and comes about every 45 minutes... I hope I never miss it when I have to go into the city for class.
When the bus finally pulls up it is already half full. It turns out only half of our 57 students would be able to make it on so we would have to wait for the second bus to take the rest. However, since we had not already been split into our predetermined groups, we got stuck waiting for the rest of the school at the other end of the bus for 45 minutes until they arrived. Not the end of the world. The ARD with us was able to give us some good advice and we could ask all our questions we had so far.
Finally the other students arrived and it was time for us to break into 3 groups and go on our tours throughout the city. The tour began with a explanation of the bus system. The ARD explain how the signs worked for what route we needed and how electronic signs show estimated time of arrival. We were then shown the metro system which is honestly super easy. It only has two lines that go in a north-south and east-west direction compared to the crazy squiggles all the different lines the DC metro makes. We were then show the train station and how to book/ catch a train. Easy enough. My next stop however was my favorite one of the day. We got out at the metro stop for the Colosseum and after ascending the escalators we were greeted by the Colosseum. It was right in front of us!!! It was amazing! We were given time to take pictures which was great. I later learned that while my group got to visit the landmark Rome is known for, the other two groups visited the Trevi Fountain and a glass escalator that gave you a view of the city. I however, am happy with the attraction I got and am happy I ended up in that group.
After our magnificent view we walked through he Forum to lunch where I had my first Italian pizza of the trip. It had roasted vegetables on it and it was amazing. It was even better considering Duquesne paid for the meal. We then went to the Pantheon and admired its open ceiling and architecture before we continued on to Piazza Navona to look at its fountains. Finally it was time for the best food of the trip; gelato. We arrive to find a ton of different flavors. Duquesne was paying yet again and we were allowed to get a cone with 2 flavors and whipped cream if you wanted. I ended up getting chocolate and pistachio with whipped cream and it was amazing! It was honestly some of the best gelato I have had. As I am standing outside enjoying my gelato, the ARD breaks the news that she is leaving and we have to find our way home. We have one bus ticket left and have no idea where we are besides in Rome. That was a shock but I understand their motives behind it. They had shown us before places where we could catch the bus and while they may have walked us in circles to make it seem like we were far away, we were actually relatively close. We just took out our maps and after a couple wrong turns we were at the stop where we literally missed the bus by 1 minute. Guess well be waiting another 35. In that time though, another group met us so we rode the bus back together. The ride back was interesting because in Italian culture, the bus is silent. However the 30 students from the US get on, we are loud and annoying. We received a bunch of stares from other riders. After an hour and a half we made it back to campus. Just in time to go to the restroom and then head down to dinner. After dinner we then went to plan our travel scheulde for weekends while we are here because sign up for the duquesne excursions starts at 8 am on tuesday. There are so many places I want to go but so little time! Well, we will see what I get a spot to and plan from there cause its time for bed after walking throughout Rome all day.
PS check out my photo section by clicking the 3 lines at the top right corner and choosing the photos page.
Saturday January 27. I made it to Rome today!!! I am so excited for what this semester is going to hold. However, after that 9-hour plan ride where I got about 5 minutes of sleep I am exhausted. However, there is so time to rest as I should go to the grocery store to get something for my Rome like soap and shampoo. The school is located on a street that you just have to walk less than 10 minutes to get to a grocery store that’s kind of like an Aldi, a convenience store thing that sells everything from shoes, to clothes, to towels and electronics, and what I didn't know at the time but have since learned was also in the center a store like a Walmart. A big group of about 6 of us headed out for our first European shopping adventure, but before we could even shop we had to cross the street. Now, why would crossing the street be a problem? Well, in Rome all the cars drive extremely fast. On the bus from the airport while I was enjoying the scenery I was also staring at all the near collisions cars were having on the highways. Cars will random switch lanes, drive like the are late for something important and on top of that you have motorcycles just driving in between two lanes. People drive crazy here. You can now image my worry as we have to cross a two-lane street that is on a straight. This is great for us because we can see all the traffic coming, but as you know, straight road means drive faster.
The time has come. We have made it all the way down the street and see our destination in sight. All that stands between us and shopping is the speeding rows of cars. We stand at the crosswalk that is marked with lines on the ground, a crosswalk signal above and blinking yellow light. No one makes any attempt to stop or even slow down to let us cross. I am confused. At home, while it may take a couple cars to be nice and let you go, someone always does. However, it does not appear as though anyone will be stopping anytime soon. We end up waiting there for a gap big enough that we can sprint across the street to safety. While my head was still pounding on the other side of the street, I still couldn't understand why any of the cars that passed us wouldn't let us cross. And I still had to do it again when I went back to school.
Back at school I learned that in Italy you cross the street by making eye contact with the driver and walking confidently. They then slow down but don't typically come to a complete stop. This is so different from the way that I was taught to cross the street. The look both ways to make sure there are no cars and when the coast is clear then you can cross. Or when a person comes to a complete stop and waves at you then you can cross. I never imagined that moving to a suburb in a different country would mean learning an entirely new way of crossing the street. The fact that something I believe is so simple cause me panic and made me become flustered is why I realized that I can learn from these experiences. I learned that when you integrate yourself into a new culture that nothing is guaranteed to be the same. This also makes me think about when people come to our country. How it’s not customary for someone to just walk in front of a moving car and could cause a car accident. Different countries mean different cultures and customs. Because of this traveling results in expanding of your cultural perspective. While I may still stand out as being a foreigner because of my looks I am hoping that by the end of this experience I can be more accustomed to the culture of Italy and the places I visit.
I have arrived in Rome!!! It is so beautiful here and nothing like America. The drive to the campus was full of speeding cars barely missing hitting each other, trees that look like they belong in Africa and beautiful scenery. I am already having a blast and I am still jet lagged so I cannot wait until I am use to the time difference.
Thursday Jan 26
My mom and I decided to head to Philly on Wednesday so that way there was no way I could miss my flight on Thursday because of traffic or have to spend over 15 hours traveling. Turns out that was a good idea because while at lunch on Thursday (6 hours before my flight) we looked at the tv to see protests in the center of Philly and Air Force One was landing at the airport where I will be leaving from.I was so happy that we stayed in a hotel outside of the city and that was close to the airport so that we could get there easily if there was traffic. As we were driving back to the hotel from lunch I even saw, from a distance, Air Force One parked on the tarmac at the airport! Who would have thought that the start to my Roman adventure would begin with seeing the president (well I guess just saw his plane but still).
2 PM. Time to check out of the hotel and head to the airport. When we got to the airport parking was a mess. The garage was a confusing maze full of yellow poles that barely allowed you enough room to make a turn. Good thing I wasn't driving (sorry mom). When we finally got a spot after tons of circling and failed attempts at parking in sports with really short cars pulled up we finally found an open spot. When we got to the ticket counter there were zero people in line! I am able to get my ticket with TSA precheck in minutes. Now it is time for me to leave my mom. I cannot believe that the time has come but I am about to go to Rome. I get in line for TSA and theres 1 person in front of me. I get through in a breeze. It is also around the same time that everyone who flew in from Pittsburgh has landed so I will only have to wait a short time at the gate before I am joined by others. 3 hours and I will be boarding the plane for Rome!
The flight: I was soon joined by all my friends after they landed. I was even able to change my seat to be next to one of my friends and around the rest of the group. I even got an aisle seat! Boarding happened with no problems and we were able to take off only 40 minutes late which was great for an international flight. I spent the flight watching the Secret Life of Pets (which was a cute movie) and attempting to sleep but only ending up getting about 5 minutes for the whole flight. And then we landed in Rome! I made it and am about to have the best adventure of my life. Well, first I have to get through customs. Now, the customs line was a completely different story than TSA. The line was soooo long at 2 people in front of me! I think I was through in about a minute considering the customs agent didn't ask me a single question. Now it was time to get our luggage and hope that all of it made it. Luckily all of mine and my friends did so it was off to meeting the representatives from Duquesne.
Friday January 27
The bus ride into Rome:
We were led to 2 buses where we barely stuffed all our luggage from 57 people under the bus. It was just a short 20 minute ride to the campus. The whole ride was beautiful scenery and struggling to stay awake. Soon we were at the campus where we were greeted and told which our room assignments. Now it is time to unpack. The worst part of traveling. The rooms and nice but on the smaller side. We were given 4 hours of free time with the suggesting of taking only a 30 minute nap max or else we would not fall asleep that night. I decided to go shopping and get a couple groceries for super cheap.
After showing and relaxing it was back to the bus to head to dinner. After a 30 minute drive with some near misses of hitting other cars we arrived at the restaurant. There we sit down to one of the best meals I have had. When we walked in we had no idea how many courses we would have but it ended up being five; a small 3 bite piece of bread with cheese, a huge antipasto platter with all types of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, a pasta course, a meat course, and dessert. It also included 2 wines. It was amazing. I was served a vegetarian meal for every course which included the best eggplant parmesan I have had. At the end of the meal I was stuffed! 4 hours later we were back on the buses falling asleep on the drive home. After 33 hours awake I was finally able to go to bed and it was one of the best night sleeps I have had.
Saturday January 28
7:30 am, time to wake up for breakfast. I slept amazing which I am so grateful for. It was then 3 hours of lectures packed with information and icebreakers. Then lunch and then time to pick up our textbooks that the school rents out here in Rome. They are huge! and it looks like I will actually have a lot of work. It was the off to Mass at the North American College where after we were lead on a tour by the building. On there terrace we were able to get an amazing view of the city where we were able to see St. Peters Basillica. It was amazing. I could not believe how great a view we got. It was then off to dinner.
Dinner at Ristorante Spirito DiVino
We arrive at the restaurant after a short drive. We enter and are greater by the family who owns the restaurant. We end up sitting at the table with the director, assistant director, visiting professor from Pittsburgh and his family. It was interesting hearing the conversations they had and recommendations for things around the city. The owner of the restaurant soon greats us to the facts that the building we were sitting in was the oldest standing synagogue that was built in 9080. Its cellar dates back to 80 BCE! Each step down represents 75 years. It is 150 years older than the coliseum! The chef was amazing at cooking and she was also a nobel prize winner!
Besides the amazing history of the resturant there was also great food. We again had a 5 course meal but this time there was only one type of wine. The food was great however, I think I enjoyed the food of the first night better. After dinner we headed back to the campus where we were able to get to bed for our early day Sunday of exploring Rome.
I cannot believe that in 3 days I will be getting on a flight across the Atlantic Ocean to head to Rome. I never imagined when I entered an accelerated physical therapy program I would be able to to study abroad for a semester but I soon will be. However, I am now faced with the difficulty of packing. How can I pack what usually takes the whole trunk of my dads Chevy Tahoe and fit it into 1 large suitcase, 1 carry-on and a backpack? I am learning what the true necessities are.
Today I packed up my whole life for 90 days. I was worried that I wouldn't make it all fit but I was pleasantly surprised that I could fit everything in my carry-on and suitcase with room to spare. I still have more than 15 pounds in my checked suitcase for souvenirs (the important part of traveling). I keep finding a small thing here or there that I should make sure I pack but overall I have everything. Online I see the pictures of my friends back at school while I am still home packing my life away. When I started winter break all I could think was I still have a lot of time, but now I'm left with just days before I leave.
These last few days before I leave are full of saying goodbye to my friends and family, laundry to make sure I have all the clothes I need, cleaning, copying, and making phone calls. I am so excited to get going. The only thing I'm worried about is whether my suitcase will end up on the carousel at Rome. Hopefully with positive thinking it will happen (and the fact that I chose bright colored suitcases so no one mistakes them for theirs).
I'm Sabrina Kirsch a sophmore physical therapy student at Duquesne University. I will be spending the spring semester of 2017 in Rome, Italy where I will eat my way through all the gelato and pasta they offer. My goal is to see everything possible and visit as many countries as possible.