As my major’s concentration is Ancient Roman history and archaeology, choosing Rome was a no-brainer. I even knew I wanted to go to Rome when applying to the Humanities Scholars program in 2014! I definitely did not make the wrong choice, as there are endless opportunities here for me to pursue. The American University in Rome (AUR), offers many archaeology and classics courses, several in which I am enrolled. While these courses are quite similar to the ones offered at UMBC, they are supplemented by visits to the actual sites where events occurred. For instance, once while we were learning about the suicide of Gaius Gracchus, our professor leaned out the classroom window and pointed at a street, saying “yep, he died right about here!”
One of my personal achievements in this study abroad experience has been the opportunity to learn a spoken language. Having failed miserably at French in my youth, I decided to abandon all modern languages and stick to those only written: Latin and Ancient Greek. However, wanting to really experience Italy has made me study Italian with a passion, and while still quite inarticulate, I have been noticing my proficiency increase day by day. Even with my poor Italian, Rome is a very cosmopolitan and touristy city, so most people know basic English. Along with this, I have yet to really experience major culture shock in Rome so far.
That being said I must touch upon the issue of “Study Abroad culture shock.” While I have not experienced severe culture shock in Rome, I have had a form of it living with fellow American study abroads. I will not write an essay, but I was completely taken aback on the first day to learn many of my peers had not even opened an Italian phrase book or culture guide before coming here. Subsequently, many got quite bad culture shock, seeming surprised and even annoyed that not everyone in this Italian city knew fluent English. All I can say is please be prepared before going abroad, and do not treat this wonderful opportunity as a semester-long spring break.