Italy | Roaming Around the Eternal City

By Jessica Helfond

Our first day in Rome. Slight jetlag, slight nervousness, and extreme excitement was in the air. We met at our apartment building in the morning with our program director and professors and they took us to the study center where classes were held so we would know how to get there. We got on the tram, took it 7 stops, and then walked through buildings until we got to the study center. There was even a giant open air market near the study center that had super fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a wide variety of pastas and olive oils. It was so cool to walk through and see all the fresh Italian cuisine.

Once we got to the study center, we had a short orientation about program logistics. Essentially, they told us who to contact if we had any issues or questions and gave us a rundown of everything we would be doing throughout the program.

After our orientation, we all walked to a nearby restaurant called Fattoincasa. And let me tell you, we were not prepared for the meal we were about to have. They came out with 5 rounds of appetizers. JUST APPETIZERS! They started with bruschetta, then went to bread rolls with eggplant meatballs and tomato sauce, then prosciutto and mozzarella, bean soup, and fried zucchini. After that, they finally served us pasta. We could choose from 4 different pasta dishes, and I chose penne pasta with a basic tomato and basil sauce. But let me tell you, the taste was anything but basic. All of lunch was so delicious, and we knew if that was what our first taste of Italian cuisine was like, we were in for a MAJOR treat throughout the rest of our month.

After we were done with lunch, we were able to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. So, naturally, we roamed around Rome for the rest of the day. We started walking and ended up in a giant piazza (which we later found out was called Piazza Navona). There was a huge fountain with an obelisk in the center of the piazza, along with a giant building with beautiful architecture. At this point, we had been walking for a while and it was very hot, so naturally, we had to stop for gelato. We stopped at what was supposedly one of the original gelato shops in Rome called Giolitti, and let me tell you, we were NOT prepared for how good it was. I got caramel gelato that, in hindsight, was one of the best gelato flavors I had while in Rome. It was so creamy and cool on a hot day and was exactly what we needed.

After gelato, we wandered further and eventually ended up at the Spanish Steps. We walked all the way up to the church at the top and were able to admire the view. After that, we wandered around some more, before eventually taking the tram back to our apartments. And that concluded our first day in Rome. There was so much excitement in the air about being able to explore a new city and try new foods, and it was a great first day of what proved to be an even greater month.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. 

Italy | Acing Academics Abroad

By Jessica Helfond

A big portion of studying abroad is the actual “studying” part. I took 9 units in 4 weeks, and while it was challenging, taking these classes abroad was very efficient and enriching. 

During our month in Rome, we could take 2 out of the 3 following courses:

  1. Italian 1: Beginning Elementary Italian (4 units)
  2. Italian 42A: Saints and Sinners in Early Modern Italy (5 units)
  3. Italian 191: Medieval and Renaissance Italy in Pop Culture (4 units)

We could also enroll in Italian 199, which was an additional 4 unit class on a research topic of your choosing. Italian 1 met from 9:30am-12pm Monday-Thursday, Italian 42A had class from 2-4pm on Monday and Wednesday, and Italian 191 had class from 2-4pm on Tuesday and Thursday. Classes were held in the ACCENT Study Center, which was about 30 minutes away from our apartments. To get to class, we took the metro for 7 stops, and then walked for 10-15 minutes to get to the study center. 

The study center was two stories that were fully equipped with air conditioning. On one floor, there were classrooms that could fit around 25 students, bathrooms, a silent library for studying, and a faculty lounge for office hours. Upstairs, there was the student lounge (equipped with a microwave and refrigerator), a computer lounge, and desks to study or complete work at. There was also fast wifi and a printer to use in the study center.

I took Italian 1 to get started on my language requirement and Italian 42A to fulfill my historical analysis GE. I’m going to be honest. Italian 1 was VERY fast paced. After Week 1, we had a quiz. After week 2, a midterm. After Week 3 we had another quiz, and after Week 4 we had our final exam. We took all of the quizzes and exams online with an online system that monitored our computers and surrounding environment. However, taking them online meant we were able to take them whenever we wanted before the deadline (which was usually Sunday evening). This meant we could study as much as we wanted before taking the exams, and take them whenever we felt we were ready.

Although the class was very fast paced, it was very possible to succeed in. Our TA did an amazing job of teaching us the most essential concepts during class, and then giving us homework to reenforce the concepts. As long as you asked questions on what you were confused on, did the homework, and studied before the exams, you were able to succeed in the class. Besides learning the Italian language, we also learned about Italian culture. We played fun games, and on our last day of class, our TA brought a variety of sicilian cannolis for us to try.

Italian 42A consisted of learning a lot about the history of Rome, which meant a lot about the history of religion in Italy. The best part of the class was actually being able to visit locations that we talked about in class. For example, we actually got to go see the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City instead of just looking at pictures of it in class.

Although taking the classes in a month abroad was very fast paced, actually being able to take them in Rome made them so much more enriching. It was way easier being able to learn a language while being immersed in a country that speaks it, and actually visiting locations we learned about in history class made it way easier to put meaning to the information we were learning. I loved taking these classes abroad, and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to fulfill requirements in a more enriching, fun way.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019.