By William Costley
There is only one way to experience Rome and that is to actually live there. The city centre, whilst beautiful with all its architecture and ruins sprawled out in almost every corner, is contaminated by the vast numbers of American and Asian tourists completely outnumbering the local community. When visiting the Colosseum, you will find yourself badgered by selfie-stick merchants, love birds galore, and swarms of travel groups queuing up to take pictures of old rocks which will, most likely, mean nothing to them after a few weeks. When going on holiday to Rome, this is essentially what you will experience. You can have a pizza in front of the Pantheon, or a scoop of gelato outside the Trevi Fountain, but, after spending only 6 months in the Eternal City, this is far from the true Roman experience.
Since I have moved countries 7 times in my life, I am completely familiar with starting afresh in new places and abandoning an old life you spent two or three years building. That said, this is exactly what your Year Abroad experience will entail. After having to adjust to life at university, you will suddenly find yourself in a completely new location with even more uncertainty than ever before. But relax, everything will be ok. I did my study abroad at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, where I went on a mandatory 6 month exchange. Leaving to Rome was exciting and unnerving as I knew the struggle of being the only British person in a community. I had these fears going in, as it was common in Maastricht for the Spaniards to group together, Germans with other Germans, the Belgians with the Belgians, so it was rational I had these fears in Rome. However, the international teams at these universities are switched on and ready to get you involved. Most students are eager to meet new people from other nationalities and you will be going to so many events together, your friends will feel like family.
The only way to really “experience” a country is to live there. Being in Rome as a resident was a once in a lifetime chance to live in Italy and explore all its wonders. So what is this true experience I keep blabbing on about? Everyone’s experience of their time in Rome is unique, but there are unifying features which people can all agree on. Firstly, you will live in a local neighbourhood. There are parts of Rome you simply don’t see when you stick to the city centre. In the suburbs you are more exposed to Roman life, shops, people and nightlife. Surprisingly, if you venture just two or three subways out of the centre, you will find that there are dramatically fewer English-speakers. I found this refreshing ,but if you suffer with languages, then this is unavoidable, wherever you go. Additionally, I rarely found myself venturing into the historic centre, except for clubbing or the odd tourist visit. Living in Rome, or living anywhere for that matter, allows you to separate yourself from the tourist buzz and engage in the authentic daily activities people get up to. Whether it’s drinking on a packed roundabout until 2am, or eating pizza from your local Nonna, what your Year Abroad will do is expose you to another way of living.