A wonderful aspect of this trip is that you truly get to feel like a Roman, an actual resident of the city. Many of my other friends did Europe tours, hitting up all the major tourist areas when visiting and then moving on to the next, but the part that stuck out most to me was feeling myself assimilate to the culture by interacting with it at every moment. We not only were able to learn about parts of Rome’s history, architecture, and landscape, but also function in it just by living there for six weeks. Every day I would take a new route home, fill notebooks of sketches, and meet an interesting new person to chat with. I felt that I was learning bits about Rome that maybe Romans didn’t even know, and I loved how we were able to learn in the morning on our walks, and then revisit the most interesting areas to us in the afternoons and develop our final weeks’ projects more. Studying abroad is a truly unique experience that you can only have as a student, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world!
I received Keith and Linda Monda International Experience scholarship which definitely took a large chunk of my fees away. It is important to have someone review your scholarship application essay early on so that you can make necessary edits before submitting. Be sure to mention your passion and how that is realized in the Rome trip (it always helps to show excitement and a personal connection to where you’re going), if you’ve been abroad before, and what you are currently doing to fund your trip. Again, if they see that you are trying hard to fund this trip in any way possible, they will be more inclined to help you out.
It really helped me to also make a spreadsheet of any and all scholarships I could find that I could apply for, I listed the scholarship name, due date, and parts needed to complete. Another thing that I did, which is quite small, was collect pocket change and found change in a jar labeled “ROME” so that every day I saw this jar and remembered I needed to be saving up for my dream trip abroad. It definitely worked because I gained almost $150 from that jar, where I otherwise would have spent that money! I also picked up more shifts at my internship, skipping a big spring break trip, and any other times of spontaneous traveling in order to save up to go abroad. That money was used for weekend trips, souvenirs and extra gelato scoops (so worth it!!).
I also feel that buying your plane ticket early, and not being picky about your connecting flights will save you money. I made the mistake of NEEDING to fly through New York and got my ticket quite late, causing me to pay much more. It turns out that navigating the massive JFK airport was much more difficult than I expected, and would have been worth it to save a few dollars and just transfer someplace else.
Overall though if students are able to fund weekend trips, and make time for them, I highly recommend doing so! I experienced unforgettable times in Rome, but what really rounded out my trip was exploring Italy on the weekends. I can’t count how many times I had to run to catch a train in Termini. I experienced butterflies getting off the train in a new place (Milan, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre), and returning to Rome on Sunday evenings felt like coming home. I really wanted to do it all while I was abroad, and not all of my colleagues were that ambitious! Many did stay in Rome on the weekends and attend religious ceremonies, flea markets, and experience night life there.