What to (not to) Pack for Studying Abroad

I can’t believe I am back in the United States! I already miss Rome so much, but I am happy to be home. It’s crazy how many little things I appreciate now that I am home–unlimited hot water, oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter, and a clothing dryer. With my semester abroad (and my heavy suitcases) fresh in my mind, I thought I would share some packing tips I learned that I hope will be helpful to future study abroad students (you lucky ducks 😉 ).

Packing for Study Abroad | The Pace

image via Brit+Co

 

WHAT TO PACK

Passport Copies. It is super important to have your passport on you at all times when you are walking around a foreign city, but if you carry your actual passport, you run the risk of it getting taken from you if you were to be the unfortunate victim of pickpocketing. Easy solution: pack a few extra copies of your passport. The best part? These will take up about .01% of your suitcase.

Peanut butter and Ziplock bags. Ok so maybe you don’t consider these things essential, but some do. Make sure you do some research to find out what things are not sold in the country you are traveling to. For example, peanut butter is rarely sold in Rome and when it is, it’s the kind with a ton of added sugar (AKA not the kind I eat). Make sure you make some room in your suitcase for the essential items that your study abroad country does not sell.

Clothing for every place you plan to travel to. Planning a Spring Break trip to Barcelona? Heading up north for the weekend? Keep these climates in mind as you pack for your journey. Of course, you might want to go shopping while you are abroad, but you don’t want to have to rely on buying a whole new wardrobe for each of your travels.

Raincoat. I always wondered how Romans lived off of a diet of pasta, pizza, cheese, and gelato and still managed to stay slim. Now, I know the secret…lots and lots of walking. The amount of walking I did every day in Rome was amazing…rain or shine. A raincoat was a total lifesaver on those rainy days.

Clothing that makes you feel good 😉 I have always heard that Europeans go for the cool and casual vibe when dressing to go out, so when packing for this trip, I didn’t make “going out clothes” a priority. Turns out, I should have considered that aspect of my wardrobe a little bit more. Yes, it’s important to embrace the culture around you, but it’s also important to feel good when you go out at night (night life is a big part of the culture in Europe). I’m not advising you to pack your 6-inch stilettos (you will break an ankle on the cobblestones!!), but packing a few “going out” pieces that make you feel confident is definitely a good call.

 

WHAT NOT TO PACK

Hairdryers, straighteners, and curling irons. The wattage used in Rome is much lower than in the U.S., so even if you bring converters and adapters, you will still run the risk of using too much energy. Energy in Rome is limited and is regulated by the government. If you use too much power at once, you will experience a black out (not fun, trust me). It’s much easier to keep your hairdryers and straighteners at home and just buy them when you arrive at your destination!

Heels. Cobblestones are a real danger and make walking in heels impossible. Instead, opt for heeled booties for a boost of height that doesn’t end in a broken ankle.

Back of the Closest Clothes. You know those clothes that you never choose when you’re getting ready in the morning, but you still keep them around because they were expensive, you got them as a gift, or you just really wish you could pull them off? These are the things you do not want taking up precious room in your suitcase. If it’s not good enough to wear around your hometown or college campus, I highly doubt you will want to wear it around a foreign country. Pack only the pieces of clothing that you like and you feel good in!

I hope these tips are helpful! Packing for a study abroad program is extremely overwhelming, so make sure you take some deep breaths, make some lists, and keep things in perspective. The experience you are about to embark on is so much more important than the clothing you will be wearing on it.

Do you have any packing tips to add?

xo,

Tatum

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Never the Right Time to Say Goodbye

Well this is it…my last week in Rome. Right now, my emotions are incredibly mixed. On one hand, I am so excited to go home—to be back in America with my family, my boyfriend, and my friends, to be able to send texts and use Snapchat on my iPhone even if I don’t have Wifi, to be able to read labels in the grocery store and communicate easily with the people around me. But on the other hand, I am so sad for this adventure to end. My semester abroad has been the best experience of my life. I learned things about this world and about myself that I really don’t think I could have learned anywhere else. I traveled to places I had only dreamed of visiting and saw so many stunning creations of this world and of the people on it. I did things I never imagined I was capable of—good and bad—and learned from every one of them. I met some of the greatest, most fun people I have ever known and made friendships that I know will continue outside of this continent. I also got to known and came to love an incredible city: Rome. Rome drives me nuts…the traffic is absolutely insane, the metro is crowded and annoying, the people selling selfie sticks are out of control, and the streets are dirty—but, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Rome has become my home over this semester and I love everything about it, the good, the bad, and the crazy. Below is a list of the things I will miss most about living in Rome.

1. 1 Euro bottles of wine

No lie, this bottle of wine costs 1.09 at CarreFour and puts Franzia to shame (#neveragain). I’m not sure how I will afford my wine obsession when I come back to America and have to pay $12 for a cheap bottle of vino. I would be lying if I said I never considered filling an entire suitcase with bottles of red to bring back home 😉

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2. Produce Markets

I love fruits and vegetables more than I love life itself (ok, a bit of stretch…but not that far from the truth). My friends tell me if I were a superhero, I would be Produce Girl. The two produce markets that are on either side of my apartment are absolutely sensational; I can get an entire bag of fresh produce for around 3 euro. It will feel like a sin (and a fatal blow to my wallet) to buy produce from a grocery store again. Plus, I will miss the (limited) Italian conversations I had with the market’s workers as I got to know them during my daily visits.

3. The Scenery

Sometimes, I had to stop and remind myself what I was taking for granted around me in this city. During this semester, I went on runs past the Colosseum, my morning commute to work everyday gave me a stunning view of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the sunlight, and my time waiting for the night bus to take my friends and I home from a night out was spent outside the Vittoriano. These things became so normal to me—just another part of my daily life—but unfortunately, they won’t follow me back to daily life in the United States.

4. Weekend travels

I traveled almost every weekend this semester to cities like Florence, Milan, London, Paris, Prague, Budapest, and Barcelona. Back home, I do not have the privilege of hopping onto a cheap RyanAir flight to another city after class on Friday and coming back in time for my internship on Monday morning. I have come to love traveling, and not being able to do it as frequently will be something I greatly miss (although, I can’t say I will miss flying RyanAir—am I right?).

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5. THE FOOD

I have eaten some of the best food in this city—pizza, cacio e pepe, buffalo mozzarella, bruschetta, gelato, and tiramisu. My friends make fun of me because after every meal I announce: “Oh my god, that was the best thing I have ever eaten in my entire life.” This statement (although dramatic) is true! Every meal I eat tastes even better than the last. Roman food gets 5 stars from me.

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6. My Italian Family

This semester, the students on my program had the opportunity to tutor a child in English and visit the house of a Roman family every week. I was placed with the kindest, most welcoming, and loving family. Going to their home every Thursday to play games with, read to, talk with, and eat dinner with them has been a huge highlight of this experience. This Thursday will be my last visit and saying goodbye will be hard. I really don’t think this goodbye is a permanent one; I will come back to Rome and seeing this incredible family will be a priority during this future visit.

7. My internship at the Vatican

Yes, my internship had me waking up at 6:45am everyday (to get in an early morning workout beforehand), but it was an incredible experience. During my typical work week, I reached thousands of people in five different languages via my daily gospel posts and thousands more through photos on Instagram, spent every Wednesday morning with Pope Francis and thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, and enjoyed the incredible view of Saint Peter’s Basilica every time I stepped out of the office. In addition, I was one of only about 20 press people permitted on the Palentine Hill during Way of the Cross, only feet away from Pope Francis and with the opportunity to take amazing photos of the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in front of the hill, the glowing cross, and of Pope Francis himself. I am so grateful for this opportunity and will never forget it.

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8. My friends

It’s amazing how close you can get with people when you are the only American college students living in a region. The program I studied with is not typical of study abroad programs; we all lived in apartment buildings with local Romans instead of in university housing with hundreds of other study abroad students from America. This setting helped us all to grow close and to build incredible friendships. I have the most incredible memories with my friends on this program and have had some of the most fun and exciting experiences of my life with them. Being in Rome and traveling in Europe is amazing, but without people just as special by my side, my experience this semester would not have been half as fantastic.

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I could continue, but I think it is best to get off the computer and get out there to experience my last few days of the things on this list and everything else Rome has to offer. Now, to sign off for the last time from Rome…

Baci, baci (kisses, kisses),

Tatum

The Amalfi Coast

My trip to the Amalfi Coast was different than any of my weekend adventures outside of Rome. During this semester, my weekends were full of hours upon hours in airports, days where my only sleep occurred on modes of transportation or on chairs in airports, and countless miles on foot as I attempted to see and do as much as possible during my limited time in each city. Don’t get me wrong…those weekends were absolutely incredible—some of the best of my life—but for my final trip of the semester, I wanted something a bit more relaxing. With breathtaking views, gorgeous beaches, and natural wonders, the Amalfi Coast was just what I had been dreaming of…and more!

Day 1 of the weekend was spent in Positano. This gorgeous town on the coast is known for a hill of adorable houses and its black sand beaches. With ice cold Peroni’s and sunscreen in hand, my friends and I set out to the beach where we soaked up the sun, laughed, played games, and drank tropical drinks all day long. This was the relaxation all of those hours spent on my feet and in airports were building up to, and it felt amazing. That night, we went into the center of Sorrento. We had dinner at Pizzeria Aurora, where I had the best pizza I have had so far in Italy. Then, we went to an outdoor beer garden, where we danced the night away. This day was the definition of my perfect day. Sun, friends, food, and dancing…what more could a girl ask for?

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On Day 2, we took a ferry into Capri and then hopped onto smaller boats for a tour of the island. First stop: The Blue Grotto, one of the natural wonders of Europe. To enter the illuminated cave, we had to get into small rowboats and lay down, while a sailor on the boat pulled us into the grotto with a string. I was a bit scared of not making it through the cave’s tiny hole, but once inside the grotto, my only emotion was amazement at the naturally illuminated blue water surrounding me. Back inside the boat, we continued to tour the island, taking in the world’s beauty at every turn.

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After the boat tour, we explored the island on foot—but not for long. After enjoying an amazing shrimp pasta dish in creamy lemon sauce at Le Arcate, we headed to the chairlift that brought us up to the very top of the mountain, giving the most incredible views I have ever seen. Breathtaking is the only world suitable for an experience like this one.

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On the last day of the long weekend, we visited Pompeii. We didn’t have any type of guided or audio tour, so it was difficult to know exactly what we were looking at. To anyone visiting Pompeii, I recommend participating in some type of tour so that you can best understand what is around you. Regardless, it was very neat to look at the ruins and think about the history of the famous city.

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I was extra sad for this weekend to come to an end, because as Sunday came to a close, so did my long list of weekend trips. I couldn’t have chosen a better trip to finish off the semester with. Sunshine, great friends, countless laughs, and stunning nature made a weekend I will never forget.

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Baci, baci (kisses, kisses),

Tatum

 

 

 

Barcelona

This trip has been in the books for a while. Ever since I received my internship at the Vatican and was accepted at the Arcadia in Rome study abroad program, Eric and I have been planning our trip to Barcelona. Eric lived in Barcelona for several years when he was young and still has family living in the city, so I was so excited to finally be able to see and experience a part of his life that I never had the chance to before. Plus, I was pretty pumped to have my own personal tour guide who speaks Spanish and is already familiar with the city (I’m a lucky gal, what can I say? 😉 )

We stayed in an Airbnb near the apartment Eric grew up in. We had to climb what felt like a thousand stairs to reach the top floor apartment, but I couldn’t complain…it was just all the more reason to indulge in sangria and tapas during the weekend (am I right?!) During our week in Rome, I played tour guide, showing Eric around my Roman neighborhood and taking him to my favorite gelaterias and piazzas. In Barcelona, Eric took the lead as we explored his old neighborhood, visited tourist attractions (like the Arc de Triompf, La Sagrada Familia, the Magic Fountain light show, and Park Guell), had lunch with his cousins and family members, and walked around the marina and the beach.

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Visiting La Sagrada Familia was a highlight of the weekend for both of us. I have been in many churches and basilicas in Rome, but never have I seen anything like La Sagrada Familia. Antoni Gaudí designed the church to feel like a forest, with the columns acting as trees and the stain glass windows bringing energy and life to the inside of the cathedral. I’m not sure that I know enough about architecture to have a favorite architect, but if I were to have one, Gaudí would be it. Every detail of the church and the atmosphere it created was absolutely breathtaking. Both Eric and I agreed it was an incredible experience and was well worth the price of the ticket of entry.

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Another highlight of the trip was food (shocking, I know). I think I had some of the best food I’ve had all semester during this weekend trip. My favorite meal is definitely a toss up between our dinner the first night at Arcano and our lunch on the marina at Merdendero de la Mari. At Arcano, the service was amazing, I had the best octopus and salmon of my life, and enjoyed my first glass glasses of sangria in Barcelona. Another fantastic meal was at Merendero de la Mari, a gorgeous restaurant located right by the water. Here, we enjoyed the best calamari I have ever eaten and steaming hot plates of seafood paella that we wished would last forever. Oh, and of course, a pitcher of sangria was the perfect pairing to this meal.

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My weekend in Barcelona was one of the best weekends of my life. I absolutely fell in love with the city and now consider it my favorite city I visited during this semester. It has a little bit of everything…adorable residential areas, streets with impressive shopping and dining, a beautiful beach and marina, incredible nightlife, and some of the most unique and beautiful architecture I have ever seen. Plus, the ease of using the smooth metro system and affordable taxis made coming back to Rome’s insane traffic and extremely crowded metro a bit of a nightmare. In addition to my newfound love for Barcelona, I was lucky enough to experience it with Eric. This was our first experience traveling together, and I don’t think we could have made a better team. I look back on this weekend with only the fondest of memories and look forward to the future with so much excitement: excitement for my next trip back to Barcelona (there is no way I can stay away now) and for so many more trips to come with the best travel partner I could ever ask for.

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Baci, baci (kisses, kisses),

Tatum

Paris

This past weekend has been in my planner since the very beginning of my semester abroad…my trip to Paris! The capital of France has many names and a great deal of significance…”La Ville Lumière” (the city of light), a major fashion capital of the world, and home to some of the world’s most famous art and sweetest treats. I found all of these things to be true about this incredible city, but Paris become something even more to me during my short stay there. For me, my weekend in Paris was a weekend of gratitude and appreciation.

This weekend, in addition to many other sights, I saw the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower. These are things I have seen photos of and heard about for as long as I can remember. But never did I imagine that I would someday have the opportunity to see them for myself. In these moments, I was struck by gratitude and appreciation for this experience and the family who made it all possible.

Without my parents sacrifices and support and my grandparents generosity and encouragement, I would not have been able to see these world treasures first hand. I would not have been able to spend a weekend in Paris indulging my sweet tooth with macaroons from the famous Ladurée and Pierre Hermé and the best hot chocolate I have ever had at Angelina’s. I wouldn’t have been able to visit the Louvre (one of the world’s largest museums), the Notre Dame, the Palais Garnier (the opera house where the Phantom of the Opera was filmed), or the Arc de Triomphe.

This trip was by no means perfect. I spent seven hours in Rome Fiumicino Airport thanks to a very inconvenient flight delay and then was a bit nervous navigating the Paris metro and city’s streets after midnight in search of my hotel. But I am not thankful for this weekend because it was flawless; I am thankful because it happened. Not everyone gets to visit Paris. Not everyone gets to travel to Europe. Not everyone gets to spend an entire semester abroad. I know I am so blessed to be where I am, and I know my family is the only reason I am here.

Paris may have the unfortunate stereotype of being filled with rude and extremely wealthy people, but that’s not what I got from it. I got a big serving of thankfulness alongside my order of escargot…which I decided pescetarians are allowed to eat…or at least this one is 😉

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 And to continue with this post’s theme of gratitude…thank you for reading!

Baci, baci (kisses, kisses),

Tatum

Spring Break

Last Friday, I left Rome with four friends, one backpack, and an itinerary that would take me to five European cities. A week later, I returned to Rome with 5 different currencies in my wallet, a tremendous desire to do laundry, and countless memories that will last me a lifetime. My Spring Break journey was a roller coaster of a ride, to say the least; I went from being freezing in Helsinki one day to sweating buckets in Dubrovnik the next, I fell asleep in every city I visited (in bars, airports, and every possible form of public transportation), I experienced my strongest desire to eat meat, after two years of being vegetarian, in the markets of Budapest and Prague (I survived, meat free!), and I finally had a feel of what it’s like to not be in the minority hair group in Stockholm. If that introduction intrigued you (or maybe just confused you about how the heck I spent the past week), read on to learn more about my Spring Break travels!

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest doesn’t attract tourists like Paris or London, but it is definitely an up-and-coming travel destination. I was interested to see what this city, that received raving reviews from my friends who had visited and that earned the title of the popular George Ezra song, was all about. Fortunately, our 2-day stay in Budapest was the perfect amount of time to accomplish this!

First things first, Budapest was not always one and used to be two separate cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. Now, the two cities are one, connected by bridges such as the Chain Bridge, but are still referred to as their respective names. On Day 1, we explored Buda. The Buda Castle and the Fishermen’s Bastion, the major attractions in this section, are both up on a hill, so we saw amazing views as we made our way down this side of the river.

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The wind that day was strong and relentless so after a few hours in it, we decided to retreat to an underground, wind-free tourist attraction: the Labyrinth. This was one of the more interesting parts of our journey, although, we’re still not sure if this Labyrinth was an opera museum (complete with music and wax figures in costumes), a ghost chasing adventure, or a historical tour of where Dracula was imprisoned. Our conclusion was that it was a mix of all three, plus a perfect way to spend an hour before dinner at Pest BudaIMG_7832_2 IMG_7836

The highlight of Day 2, which is also a highlight of the entire week, was our time spent in the natural thermal baths, made possible by the thermal springs Budapest sits on top of. The baths were unreal: the only way I can describe them is as a pool-sized hot tub full of old men playing chess, bachelor parties in matching swimming trunks, and my friends and I having the time of our lives.

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Our last day in Budapest couldn’t have ended on a better note. We found an authentic Hungarian restaurant where we dined like kings on the budget of peasants. If you are ever in Budapest, I recommend Pipa Etterem for an authentic meal at an awesome price!

Prague, Czech Republic

I traveled with four other friends and we went to five cities, so we decided to each become an “expert” of one of the cities. We were in charge of researching sights to see, restaurants to go to, traditional food to try, and even some of the city’s history. Prague was my city, so by Day 3, I was in tour guide mode! It was a rainy day, but even through the clouds and rain, I found Prague absolutely adorable and charming; it was love at first sight! We arrived in early evening, so we had time to explore Old Town Square before heading to dinner. I had read great reviews about an authentic Czech restaurant with great prices and amazing food that was full of locals: U Rudolfina. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to have our first dining experience in Prague! The beer (Pilsner Urquell, of course) was the perfect pair to my Czech potato pancake and my friends’ Prague Feasts. We were all so full that it hurt to take another bite, but we couldn’t leave even a bite on our plates because the food was so good.

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Day 4 was absolutely gorgeous! We went to the John Lennon Wall for countless photo ops, read thousands of messages from past visitors, and left our own mark. We then went to the Prague Castle and toured its most famous sites, including the St. Vitus Cathedral and the Old Royal Palace. After touring the castle, we took time to just stop and appreciate the beauty of the city. I think finding the balance between hitting as many tourist attractions as possible and taking time to just “take in” your surroundings is such an important part of traveling.

Our morning and afternoon adventures involved a lot of stairs, so needless to say, we had worked up an appetite. Enter…the most amazing thing I have ever eaten in my entire life: “grill cheese” from Old Town Square. This heavenly treat is literally a grilled piece of cheese on top of bread and topped with jam. Whoever invented it should be sainted.

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Of course, our last day in Prague wouldn’t be complete without a stop to the Prague Beer Museum. A “museum” that involves sitting with friends and trying tasters of the pub’s 30 beers on tap is my kind of museum 😉 As if this day could get any better, I ended it by discovering my new favorite bar in the world. Hemingway Bar is had an incredible, sophisticated atmosphere, servers that made us feel like princesses, and drinks that topped anything I have ever had.

Stockholm, Sweden

For one glorious day in Stockholm, I was finally not part of a hair minority group! I actually have zero Swedish blood in me, but as I walked around and saw blondes everywhere, I felt that I belonged! We only had a day in the city (Day 5), so we set out to explore as much as we could. Stockholm is not very touristy like the previous cities we visited, so the experience was much different than the first several days of our Spring Break. We climbed up to a lookout that gave us incredible views of the city, went to one of the world’s most famous hot chocolate cafes, Chokladkoppen, awed over the artwork that decorates many of the metro stations, and had an amazing dinner at a trendy restaurant, Nytorget 6. I loved our time in Stockholm, because without a long list of tourist attractions to see, we were able to focus on experiencing and observing the hip and trendy capital of Sweden.

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Helsinki, Finland

During the 6 hours of Day 6 we spent in Helsinki, I may or may not have said: “If someone hated me, they would send me to Helsinki and never let me leave.” Okay, so maybe that was a tad too dramatic, but I am not the biggest fan of the cold and this city puts the C in COLD. The temperature aside, I thought Helsinki was a pretty cool city. We ate in one of the cutest cafes I have ever been too, Café Engel, and we popped in and out of adorable shops. I probably won’t make a huge effort to ever return to Helsinki, but I did enjoy my time there…well, I enjoyed my time spent indoors 😉

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Breathtaking is the best way to describe this city. The water is piercing blue and crystal clear and the views are absolutely stunning. On Day 7, we walked along the walls that surround Dubrovnik’s Old Town and had to stop every five seconds to stare at the beauty that was around us. We were blessed with an absolutely beautiful day, without a cloud in the sky, which we very warmly welcomed after freezing our booties off in Helsinki. From going on a run alongside the water, to sweating as we climbed up and down hundreds of stairs trying to find the best beach, to finally lying on the sand in my swimsuit, this was the perfect ending to my Spring Break adventure.

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Never did I imagine I would have the opportunity to travel to these places. I am so thankful for this experience, the amazing friends I traveled with, and my family back at home whose love and support is the only way this trip was able to happen. I officially have caught the travel bug, and I love it.

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 Peace and love,

Tatum

Welcome to Rome!

Ciao! Well, I am finally here…in Rome! Despite Winter Storm Juno’s threats of delaying my flight, I made it to Italy all in one piece, without any lost luggage, and on time! These first several days have been filled with so much that I can hardly believe it hasn’t even been a week yet! I’ve had my first tastes of real Italian food, got my first glimpse of the Coliseum (after spending an hour and a half getting totally lost), and had about five freak outs over how cheap, fresh, and delicious fruits and vegetables are from the open-air produce markets that are found on what seems like every corner. These experiences have been made even better with the company of the other students on this program. It’s only been a few days, but already I feel close to my new friends on this trip.

My apartment is located in Garbatella, which is south of the center of Rome and about a twenty-minute walk away. My five roommates and I (along with everyone else on the program) live among local Italian people, which really helps us in our goal to immerse ourselves as much as we can into the new culture around us.

I thought the “Ah! I’m actually living in Rome” moment would happen when I was eating my first plate of pasta or taking my first steps on the cobblestones of the city, but the moment happened when I didn’t even expect it. On Friday, a group of us were on the hunt for gelato when we ‘stumbled’ upon the Basilica di San Paolo. We walked inside, hoping to catch a quick glimpse of it, but we had no idea what we were in for. The basilica was breath taking and stunning. As I walked around, finding more and more to look at around every corner, I finally felt it…I am in Rome—A place of history, culture, and beauty. I am so excited about where the rest of the journey will take me.

Check out some photos from my first several days in Rome and follow me on Instagram for even more!

 

Italian Pasta | The Pace

First meal in Rome!!

Coliseum | The Pace

The Coliseum

The Roommates | The Pace

My lovely roommates on our first night out in Rome!

Gelato | The Pace

The first of many cups of gelato…Nutella flavored 🙂

Basilica di San Paolo | The Pace

Basilica di San Paolo (these photos do not do this justice!)

Basilica di San Paolo | The Pace

Basilica di San Paolo (the photos do not do this justice!)

Basilica di San Paolo | The Pace

Basilica di San Paolo (the photos do not do this justice!)

Basilica di San Paolo | The Pace

Basilica di San Paolo (the photos do not do this justice!)

 Until next time! xo,

Tatum