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Beeld: Kerk van de Sapienza Universiteit, Lawrence OP

Studenti all’estero: Rachel and Daan about their stay in Rome

For six months, Rachel and Daan, students of Italian language and culture, are studying in Rome on an Erasmus scholarship. Below they talk about their experiences.

Rachel: 'I'm enjoying the mentality here'

'About three months ago I left for Rome to live and study here for six months. On the one hand it immediately felt like home, but on the other hand I'm still not used to the impressive excavations you see everywhere, which the Romans themselves don't even seem to notice anymore. I enjoy the mentality here, less hurried and a bit less strict. I also enjoy the accent that the Romans have when speaking Italian, which I'm adopting bit by bit and which seems to reflect their mentality.'

Kind and understanding lecturers

'When it comes to studying, I am relieved that I almost always understand the lecturers. They are also very kind and understanding when you tell them that you are an Erasmus student. That's quite a nice helping hand for those nerve-racking oral exams we're not used to. The courses I take are very interesting and give a lot of food for thought. The downside would be that you have to read a lot to prepare for exams, but on the other hand we aren't given mid-term assignments.'

Enjoying the thermal baths like a true Roman

'And when there are no classes, there are always plenty of fun events happening. I like to explore the less touristy parts of Rome or go on tours in the mountains outside of the city. Last month I even went on a tour where you could enjoy the thermal baths like a true Roman. During the evening you can often go to ESN, the organization for Erasmus students. They organize fun evenings with different themes that are pretty cheap.'

'In short, I can't be anything but positive about my experiences here (except maybe that you always have to include half an hour extra travelling time, since nobody knows when the bus or tram will arrive). I've even discovered what I want to do in terms of education and career and I'm paying attention to my more creative side again. I really recommend everyone to go on an Erasmus exchange, and if it were up to me: choose Rome!

Daan: 'Day 1 at uni: not a word of Italian'

“Hi, my name is Daan!”
“Hey Daan, nice to meet you! What do you study?”
“I study Italian.”
“Italian?!”

'In the three months I've been here I've met a lot of people and each conversation started with these sentences. But let's go back to the beginning of this adventure.'

'I arrived in Rome on Friday, February 1st. After a weekend of getting used to my apartment, the introduction week of Sapienza started. For those who don't know, Sapienza has a large campus called città universitaria, which is in fact kind of like a village within the city with several buildings of different faculties in one place. It is therefore the largest university in Rome and even the largest in Europe. I was one of the first people to walk into the room and I did not know anyone yet. Insecure, I sat down on a chair in the middle of the room. I thought, I'll see what happens.'

Going abroad to gain new experiences

'At first, I wasn't proud of this tactic. After all, you go abroad to gain new experiences and I don't think a wait-and-see attitude helps. Fortunately, this time it turned out to be the right choice, because the seats around me were filling up more and more. I started talking to people from France, Belgium, Finland and someone else from the Netherlands. Before I knew it, I was walking outside with a group of Erasmus students, going to a pizzeria to have lunch together. Day 1 at uni: not a word of Italian, but going out with at least 15 potential new friends.'

Secretly eavesdropping on the Romans 

'Day 2 at uni: an introduction of the faculty. The person who is speeching decides to hold his talk in Italian. Around me I see a lot of shocked faces, but not me. I study Italian, this is my area of expertise! I notice the speaker's strange pronunciation of the word 'corso'. Where is this gentleman from? Corso sounds more like corzo, a typical phenomenon of the Roman dialect. Like I said, my area of expertise. The rest of the week there were less activities, but meeting new people didn't stop. Do I talk Italian with them a lot? No. In fact, some people don't know a word of Italian and aren't planning on learning it either. Hence the amazement when I say that I study this language. Well, at least my English is getting a lot better and I can secretly eavesdrop on the Romans and learn new words, new expressions, new sentence constructions. From che figo! to annamo a magna'.'

Far from over

'When writing this, I'm about half-way through my Erasmus period. I've done a lot of things, got to know a lot of people, learned a lot, but I'm not done yet. I want to learn to make more typical Roman dishes, I want to see as much as possible of Rome and its surroundings, I want to pass my exams. And I want to speak Italian, because I study Italian.'

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