Hi there. My name’s Blair Payne, and I’m a junior studying abroad this semester in Rome, Italy. Last semester, I was the co-Arts and Entertainment Editor of The Eagle. This semester, I’ve gone from “In Control Editor” to “Clueless American Student in a Completely Foreign Place.”
Since this study abroad column has been bestowed upon me this semester, I guess I’m in control of what I choose to write about. And since I’m still adjusting to the time change, getting over the plastic-tasting plane food, and trying to figure out just how to take a shower in a 2-foot by 2-foot box, I don’t have too many stories to share thus far. So, instead of trying to center a column around the cobblestone streets outside of my apartment, I’ll outline my goals for this column.
For the sake of the student body, I promise that I’ll try not to write too much about the flower pots on my neighbors’ window sills or the rolling hills of Tuscany (although I do think that both of those things are beautiful). Hopefully, you won’t find too many descriptions of the cute awnings above little sidewalk cafes or of an old man who sits on his balcony every night looking at the stars above the city. Just because I might be moved by these sites doesn’t mean that they make for good or particularly interesting material.
Instead, I hope to provide AU with a good look into what it’s like to be an American studying in a foreign country. So far, the first two days here have felt like the first two days of freshman year. The first day I met my six roommates, tried to find my way to the main strip in Trastevere (the section of Rome that I’ll be living in until May), unpacked my suitcases and went out to that first awkward dinner filled with typical small talk about hometowns and families.
I think that the language barrier is going to be the hardest part of living in Rome. Already, people in the program are resorting to pulling out Italian dictionaries to try to create some kind of communication with the shopkeepers. Most Romans seem willing to politely nod as someone scrambles to find the word for “vegetable” in his or her dictionary, but others simply throw their hands up and turn their backs, only to laugh as the Americans walk out the door. John Cabot University, the school with which AU’s study abroad program is affiliated, is an American school with classes taught in English, and won’t enable us to practice our Italian with other students, as I had previously hoped for.
But who am I to complain? I’m living in a five-bedroom apartment in the trendy part of Rome, I can drink wine in my bedroom with the door open without having to worry about a potential trip to the Public Safety office and I have the opportunity to travel anywhere I want in Europe. So, only one question remains: Will the adventures of Clueless American Girl be a hit? We’ll have to see.