When given the option of studying in two of the most beautiful and intriguing cities in the world, ¿porque no los dos?
1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?
I took two Art History classes and two language classes while abroad, one in each city. In comparison to UCSB classes, I loved the fact that many of these Art History lectures involved the class walking through the city (in Rome and Madrid) and learning in a hands-on fashion as we discussed such things as the Castel Sant’Angelo or Royal Palace of Madrid. The language classes in each city also offered more of a crash course type of material, focusing more on what phrases students would need to traverse the city/region rather than working on various verb tenses.
2. What was your favorite class abroad?
My favorite class abroad was my Art Crime class in Rome because it was an extremely relevant topic in the context of Italian art with new headlines coming out every week about either stolen or newly recovered art. The class also incorporated multiple site visits throughout the 5 week duration which allowed us as students to truly grasp the information being taught to us. One of my favorites was the ancient Etruscan city of Cerveteri which is the home to a plethora of Etruscan tombs and one of the many sites in Italy where grave-robbing by tombaroli (grave-robbers) still occurs today.
3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.
4. How would you describe your host institution?
In both cities my host institution was the ACCENT student center, which is the main building that American exchange students have their classes in, as other students from besides just UCEAP study there as well. In each city there is about 3-4 classrooms where lectures take place as well as study areas and even a library in the ACCENT center in Rome.
5. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?
No student clubs but in Rome there was the paid option of working with the library as a desk attendant as well as an art studio you can join for the 5 weeks there in which you are taught basic painting skills and given a home-cooked Italian lunch. By far my best meals of Rome were in that art studio.
6. Describe your housing situation.
The housing situation in Rome consisted of a shared apartment with 6 other students whereas in Madrid the housing was a double room in a dorm-style apartment building. I enjoyed the housing situation in Rome more because it came with a kitchen, living room with TV, balconies and a washer and dryer for clothes. The Madrid housing was much more modern but lacked a place to cook meals for yourself except for a microwave on every floor as well as a shared floor refrigerator.
7. Where did you eat most of your meals?
In Rome I ate most of my meals at home but would often go out to eat once a day for either lunch or dinner. In Madrid I ate more meals out because of the lack of a kitchen at the residence, however there was also the option of getting a meal plan instead.
8. How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?
An average meal was often under or around 10 euro when going out depending on the meal. I recommend making as many meals as you can when in Rome to take advantage of having a kitchen, especially since eating the same type of food when out can get boring. Going to open markets is usually the cheapest option and splitting groceries with your fellow housemates can make things even easier when budgeting.
9. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?
I’m not sure as I am not one myself but I believe it was easy for anyone who was to find meals.
10. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.
My most memorable dining experience abroad was eating Florentine steak with my friends in Florence. We all split the steak because it was around 80 euros but was one of, if not the best, pieces of meat I had ever eaten. The waiter also happened to have visited Santa Barbara in the past and we bonded over how great a place it is.
11. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?
Of course I miss Italian gelato immensely as we would always get some after class since it was so close to the ACCENT study center but I think the food I miss the most is pasta amatriciana.
12. Describe your host city.
Rome seemed to be this interesting mix of both an ancient and modern city at the same time with trams and buses traversing ruins and buildings that are thousands of years old. The rain is something that surprised me about Rome as heavy rains would arrive slightly often over the 5 weeks I was there and soak you completely if you happened to forget an umbrella. The city is full of energy, well-dressed Italians and sounds of vehicles motoring through the cobblestone streets. Madrid is a much more modern city and could almost seem to be an international city of anywhere in the world. Amazing subway/transportation system in comparison with that of Rome which was often un-punctual.
13. Was it easy to get around?
In Madrid yes, in Rome not so much.
14. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?
In both cities I felt safe but since you are in a foreign country it is always best to at least attempt to blend in with the local crowd. Try not to stop and stare at directions or maps too often or conspicuously in public and always make sure to keep a hand on your bag or backpack when in cramped public transportation as many thefts occur then.
15. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?
Unlimited wine nights in Rome were always a blast as we would pay a flat fee of 15 euros and enjoy wine, a series of appetizers and often a soccer match together in a restaurant. I loved joining the art studio in Rome called Arte in Bottega where I would paint and eat whenever I wanted, being able to practice my Italian with locals in the process. Going to Buen Retiro park in Madrid was awesome as it is beautiful and offers many fun things to do such as paddle boats in the middle of the lake in the park.
16. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.
In Rome it was very rare to see an Italian dressed casually which was a big difference from us California students that were used to wearing shorts everyday. Eating food on the go is also something that is slightly frowned upon in Italy and resulted in some looks when eating while on the move.
17. How did you handle culture shock?
It helped just talking about it with your fellow classmates as everyone is experiencing the same things at the same time. An open mind and attitude to the whole process also helps immensely as seeing things in that way turns it all into a learning experience rather than you just have to deal with or overcome.
18. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
One of my favorite aspects of the host Roman culture is their passion. Not just for football or food but pretty much anything and everything. Just overhearing conversations and seeing their gesticulations is evidence enough that it is a very proud, passionate culture. This resulted in very entertaining cheers of support by Italians in bars when watching football matches.
19. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.
My favorite travel story is when I visited my friends from UCSB abroad in Copenhagen during the weekend gap between Rome and Madrid. I hadn’t seen them in months and it was so fun to reunite in another part of the world and enjoy what that city has to offer. The parks, food and art were all amazing and very interesting when contrasted against my experiences in Rome and other parts of Italy.
20. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?
My biggest fear was how I was going to make friends as I am not exactly the most extroverted person in the world. However, by the end of the first week I had met just about everyone in my program and it never ended up being a problem, especially since I started the program in Rome where I lived with 6 other students and we all became friends in no time.
21. What was your biggest challenge abroad?
My biggest challenge was occasionally the language as I missed being able to understand everything and everyone around me as well as the fact that I was missing all the things my other friends were doing back at UCSB. However I wouldn’t have done things any other way and I am happy I forced myself out of my comfort zone in order to experience things I otherwise never would have back home.
22. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?
I think have matured a lot since my time abroad, having more confidence in myself to get things done on my own and being able to step outside my comfort zone in order to learn new things. I’m more appreciative of everything I have here at home and am more understanding of exchange students who study here as I know what it’s like to put yourself in such a scary but exciting position.
23. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
My advice is to go abroad pure and simple. No matter where you go, you will learn about another region and people of this Earth that are living their own lives at the same time in a whole different culture than what you are used to. Also, be honest with yourself when deciding how long you want to go. If you truly want the most life-changing experience you can get out of studying abroad then I would suggest going for a year as you slowly become a local of a whole different place in the world, branching as well into the other countries around it.