How deciding to move to Rome at 19 and start university abroad changed my perspective on life
When I tell people that I decided to move across the world immediately after graduating high school, to a country where I don’t even speak the language to study for a year, many looked at me like I was crazy.
I had planned on attending an American University in the midwest and had everything organized for my August move-in date. As the pandemic became even more serious in the summer I knew that my experience as a freshman in university would be very different from that of students in prior years. My parents and I sat down to discuss my options, which included attending school in Europe as my family also holds EU passports. Despite the plethora of changes and obstacles brought up by the Covid-19 pandemic, however, I was still incredibly excited for this new chapter of my life.
One hot summer day my mom casually mentioned the idea of living and studying at an American university in Rome, Italy. My family was also looking into the option of my younger brother attending school in Genoa and playing water polo with a club team near Recco a, a few hours north of Rome. Without any hesitancy, I eagerly applied to a few universities within Rome and about three weeks later, I had enrolled at The American University of Rome. Shortly after I found my new roommate and soon-to-be best friend, Elianne, from Neerijse, Belgium. The day after my nineteenth birthday, my family and I flew from sunny San Diego to Genova. Following the required two-week quarantine, my mother, sister, brother and I explored the remarkable country of Italy, stopping in Milan, Lake Como, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and finally, my new home, Rome.
Having the opportunity to attend university in person, even while wearing masks and taking frequent Covid tests was something that I will forever appreciate and be grateful for, as many, if not all, of my friends studying in the States were entirely virtual for their studies.
I attended school with people from The Bahamas to Switzerland, and found myself learning something new every day, forcing me to think and act outside my comfort zone, not only within the classroom, but within the city of Rome.
Living on my own for the first time without the comfort or sense of safety that my family and hometown provided was rather intimidating and scary at first. While studying in Rome, I was fortunate enough to land an intern position with Romeing Magazine with responsibilities including visiting local art exhibitions and writing articles on them. Although I grew up with a deep love and understanding for art, I had never experienced galleries and museums in this way, as each site was basically free of people, something that has never happened in the usually tourist-filled city of Rome.
Towards the end of my fall semester at the American University of Rome, I had the realization that what I originally desired for a university experience, as well as choice of major, had changed entirely. A few months prior I thought that I wanted to attend the typical American university, with a central campus, a strong emphasis on sports, school spirit and vibrant social scenes.
After attending one year of university in Rome, my desired experience has changed. I have realized that what I now wish for as part of my university experience was not this, but actually an institution that had a very international community; one where diversity and differing opinions were encouraged.
Living in one of the oldest cities in the world has provided me with a whole new mindset regarding daily life. I have gained a new appreciation for food and family, two very important things within Italian culture and life. I have found life in Italy to be much slower and simple in the best way possible, finding joy in smaller things each day like my daily routine of having an espresso and chatting with a friend between classes at university.
After living in Rome for a year as a nineteen-year-old American, I have found some places and restaurants that are definitely worth sharing. During my first semester, I was lucky enough to live in the beautiful neighborhood of Monteverde. My apartment was just a few minutes walk to Villa Doria Pamphili, the largest landscaped public park in Rome.
Between the stunning fountains to the Villa Vecchia, I often found myself going on runs or having picnics in this blissful place. Situated directly across from my university, Gli Archi Bar was the perfect place for my morning espresso and cornetto, as well as celebratory Aperol Spritz following exams.
Living within the vibrant and young neighborhood of Trastevere, my roommate Elianne and I often found ourselves exploring the weekly flea market held every Sunday, featuring delightful little finds like thrifted and trendy leather coats to beautifully decorated and dainty decorative pieces for your home; it was the perfect study break during exams to explore our neighborhood while getting some fresh air.
Living in a city that places such emphasis upon food, specifically delicious but heavy dishes like cacio e pepe pasta and carbonara, my friends and I found some local spots to vary our taste buds. Romeow Cat Bistrot was the perfect place to get something fresh and vegan, serving all fresh and locally sourced produce within their flavourful dishes. My roommate and I found Maybu Burritos to be the perfect dinner after a long day of university; their burritos are massive but incredible, with an array of options.
I am not sure how to sum up my experience living and studying in Rome this past year without sounding cliche and saying that it was truly unforgettable. From the fascinating people I met, to newfound appreciation for the value and importance of slowing down and truly appreciating the little things, like a great glass of wine or a wonderfully sunny day, I will be forever grateful for my open-minded eagerness to new experiences that led me to a city that now has my heart, Rome.