IES Rome: Great Food, Great People, Great Experience Past Review


IES Abroad: Study Rome - Language & Area Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I had the time of my life in Italy. I learned to appreciate my heritage, while also gaining perspective on my life in America. The confidence I gained from being able to survive on my own in a foreign culture made a great impact on my future plans and decisions. I chose to travel abroad again and again, at every opportunity, because I knew that every new place would offer me something to learn and enjoy and be inspired by. I am about to embark on a year of graduate study at Oxford University, and I know that I am fully capable of handling myself in another country. I recommend study abroad to my students (I teach high school now), and think that everyone should do it!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The teachers were fantastic, and I think they tried to make some concessions for their American students while maintaining the feel of a real Italian university. The classes were taught mainly in English (though you could opt to take classes in Italian), but they held our work to the same high standards as their regular students. The work load was substantial, but as in any college there were some who took it seriously and some who did not--so the experience was really whatever you made of it. I was most appreciative of the enthusiasm all of the professors had for their country and its language, history, art, and sociological characteristics, which were the main subjects of the classes. (It was especially exciting to study under renowned sociologist Franco Ferrarotti!) I was very happy with my experience there, and would recommend it to anyone.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

We were given contact numbers and emergency cards almost as soon as we arrived, and they helped to make our transition very smooth and uncomplicated. All the leaders were extremely knowledgeable about their own country, and many had studied the English language or American History. The program was large enough to have a variety of students, but small enough so that I didn't feel insulated. I didn't know what to expect when I left, but I was happy.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived at 160 Via Nomentana, about a 15 min walk from the campus. There were three other American girls in my apartment, and two more living downstairs. It was an adorable apartment, with two bedrooms, a stocked kitchen with a laundry machine on the balcony, and a comfortable living room. As I said before, it was not in the touristy center of town, so we had plenty of opportunities to interact with locals who did not speak English. There was a convent up the street, and a trattoria, and a food market around the corner. I always felt safe in the neighborhood (though the men were as direct and shameless as I had always been warned they would be!), and I made some good friends there. I was not overly interested in the night life, but popular places like Campo dei Fiori were accessible by bus or subway, as were the more famous landmarks like the Colosseum and Circus Maximus.

* Food:

I found it was much more economical to cook for myself, but I got a lot of great tips from the locals on how best to do it, and I took a supplemental cooking class that was wonderful!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Oh, there were so many opportunities! We took an amazing field trip to Ravenna, Ferarra, and Perugia (chocolate!), and we also visited Assisi. We were taken by local students to a great restaurant that becomes a night club after hours. We were introduced to one of the best pizza places in town. There were football matches to attend and shopping to do and plenty of good food to sample.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

As in any big city, Rome has its pickpockets, its thugs, and other varieties of unsavoury characters. However, for the most part I always felt safe. It is always a good idea to keep your money and passport close to you, and not in an accessible pocket. It is also wise for women to watch where they look: Italian men really do consider mere eye contact a form of flirtation. As far as healthcare, I did have to visit a doctor while there to treat ringworm, which I had picked up in a hostel (another tip: bring your own sheets when traveling). He was very friendly and was able to prescribe a cream for me.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Oh, goodness, I can't remember exactly how much I spent! The exchange rate for the euro was different back then, too, so it wouldn't matter much if I could.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? The best way to budget is to shop the way the locals do, not the way the tourists do. Get the monthly bus pass, find a good market, and buy wine in bottles to drink at home instead of buying cocktails at bars. Cooking at home is always cheaper, and shopping at thrift stores can be a great way to find authentic Italian clothing--you don't actually *have* to buy something at Gucci.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? None
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I am Italian by heritage, so I had heard the language before, but never had I studied it until I got to Rome. I lived in a non-commercial section of the city, which meant that there were no touristy places where they spoke English nearby. I had to pick up the language really quickly, but the combination of an Italian class every day and using and hearing the language in almost all interactions made that easy. By December I was fluent enough to carry on a detailed conversation with my Sicilian relatives, who spoke no English at all.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

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  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Definitely immerse yourself in the culture. Two of my roommates were intolerant of the "Itals," as they rudely called them, and spent too much time (and money) shopping and drinking without getting to know the reality of Italian life. Get lost, meet new people, and learn to find something interesting in every aspect of the culture.