This post is courtesy of Allison Konkol, ASU Study Abroad alumni. Allison studied in Rome, Italy on the partnership program ISA: Summer Business, International Relations & Liberal Arts at the American University of Rome during the summer 2016 months. Allison was also a recipient of the SAO Travel Grant.
I absolutely loved my program with ISA in Rome. ISA does an awesome job before you go to prepare you for the new experiences that you will face in a new country and are super friendly. I never felt like I was out of the loop or didn’t know what to expect when arriving in Rome. The ISA staff stays involved throughout your entire stay and will have events and excursions for you to go on as well. The Rome staff that you get to know are really nice and since they themselves are Italian are a great resource for finding out information about public transportation, good restaurants to go to, easy day trips, and best of all will set up any taxis to the airport if needed.
The nice thing about studying abroad is all the free time you have to explore. I was fortunate enough to have visited a total of 7 other countries with friends that I made through ISA as well as people I knew from school back home who were also studying abroad the same semester. Travel is insanely cheap in Europe and why not travel everywhere! You become real independent after the first trip or two and become more comfortable navigating public transportation in a foreign country.
As for ISA, they have excursions that are free (part of your program cost) to you and so nice after planning your own trips. Practically everything is taken care of (transportation, hotel, some meals, museums, etc) and is a great way to travel with new people. I think they are the same excursions but we went on two weekend trips to Florence and the Tuscany region for a wine tasting, Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii, and they also offered a day trip to a small local town. I highly recommend going on the weekend trips as they are a great way to be a tourist and really learn about the culture.
I met some pretty amazing people while abroad, especially through my program. I got to bond a lot with your roommates and people within ISA. The first week you are there, ISA has its own orientation and events that help you get to know people better in the program and that’s really where you meet a lot of people. You’ll meet people from AUR when you start classes but I personally made most if not all my friends through ISA.
The first month I highly recommend just exploring the city and after the first week you become more comfortable with navigating the buses and using the tram. Those will seriously be your best friends to getting around. When it gets warmer too you can take the train 30 minutes to the beach. As for night life, you are always going to have that group that is constantly going out but between bars and enjoying a nice dinner, it’s pretty open. There is also a lot happening within the city itself every weekend between festivals and different culture holidays, you adapt pretty fast.
My study abroad experience was a crazy, beautiful adventure that was eye-opening in so many ways. I have grown so much from my experience and am thankful for every minute. The biggest piece of advice I could give to anyone considering or committed to studying abroad, say yes to everything! It’s cliché but so crucial to your experience. Try the things that scare you or are out of your comfort zone. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you have to take advantage of the experience.