Clóda Scanlon, 22, Irish Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger, UCC Student, Rome.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Erasmus in Rome - Week 1 & 2

Ciao from beautiful Roma, Italia.
It's so surreal that I'm writing this sitting in my tiny kitchen in Rome, because I actually live here!!!
If you didn't already know, I have moved to Rome because I am spending my Erasmus year here.
I fell in love with Italy when I visited as a child - the relaxed lifestyle, the landscape, the weather, the fooooooood! So it seemed like the perfect choice in first year of college when I had to pick a language, that it would be Italian!
Fast forward to now - my third year in college and I have been living in Rome for just over 2 weeks. 

So basically, I've decided to create this little blog series dedicated to documenting my Erasmus at Roma Tre (my new college), life here in Rome and everything in between. I feel like when I look back, it'll be a really cool way to see how I developed throughout the year with my studies and as a person etc. And I just feel like it will be entertaining to see my changes, reactions and thoughts this year.
I have no intention of sparing any details. I won't sugar coat this experience and pretend everything is like one big holiday. I plan to be honest and tell you the good, the bad and the ugly realities of living and studying abroad for a year!

The Move & Settling In

If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen on my stories that I was struggling big time to whittle down what to bring with me. Of course, I wanted to bring EVERYTHING!! So I had to settle for a few big suitcases filled with mainly clothes and shoes and my guitar. As well as that, I packed some of my favourite products such as fake tan (necessary) and my favourite shower gel because I knew I wouldn't be able to buy them here. I got some really good advice from people on what to pack and how to pack - vacuum packs were the best way to go!! I fit so much more items because of them! Luckily, luggage weight wasn't an issue for me going through the airport and now I'm sad that I didn't bring more shoes with me, but I guess I had to be realistic with the amount that I brought! :(

I was lucky enough to have my Mam with me for 3 days to help me move my stuff over and get me settled. We stayed in a lovely apartment for the few days in a beautiful area called Piramide which is close to the college. The location made the initial move super handy because I had my orientation day, appointments with the college and my Erasmus Welcome Week pretty much as soon as I arrived.

The accommodation hunt was a struggle at first. I had set up a viewing for a room and told the landlord I would take it, but the night before the viewing he gave the room to someone else. I was shocked but apparently that's what they do here - whoever pays first gets the room. So I was without somewhere to live and beginning to panic because I only had a few days to find something. I viewed another place which was totally unsuitable and tried to remain positive but I was secretly freaking out. I suppose when we're thrown into those situations, we naturally think the worst!!
Then a website called UniPlaces became my saviour. How it works is you view rooms on the website, request the room you want and the landlord approves you as a tenant. But how I knew it was legit was the fact that there was a booking fee of  €150 to the website as well as my particular room being viewed and approved by UniPlaces.
I applied for an apartment that I knew I would love because it met all my expectations. All I wanted was a nice bright room with a balcony that was walking distance to the college. Low and behold I woke up the next day to an email from UniPlaces stating that I had got the room and I felt such feelings of relief and happiness at the same time! And my Mam actually happened to be leaving that day so she was at ease knowing I had somewhere to live that I loved!!

I have to say, the reception I got from Italians in my first week was nothing only welcoming and helpful. The man who owned the Air BnB apartment we first stayed in was extremely helpful. He gave us the best recommendations for food, sites and even drove me with all my luggage to my new apartment when Mam had left. Nothing was too much bother for him and he was just so kind to us! It was so refreshing to know I at least had him to turn to if I had any problems.
So I got my ideal room and it's exactly how I imagined it would be!! The bonus is that I have loads of space and there's all these quirky little decorations in the room which give it such a cosy, Italian feel. In next week's blog post I'll give a little tour around my apartment so watch this space..

I'm really lucky that it worked out for me because I know some friends here who had very bad experiences with UniPlaces in that their apartment wasn't as described so just be careful if you book something on UniPlaces that it has been viewed and approved by them!

Experiencing Culture Shock

I'm a lover of travel. I get out of Ireland anytime I can because I just crave learning about new cultures, meeting new people and trying new foods. I genuinely believed that moving here would be a breeeeze for me because I've travelled to New York and Africa alone, I've been on a J1 and to several other countries on holidays. But this is another ball game. I read a quote last week and honestly it puts my situation into words perfectly : 'Move to a new country and you quickly see that visiting a place as a tourist, and actually moving there for good, are two very different things'.
It's just a simple quote, but basically describes exactly how I'm feeling.
I'm the ultimate tourist and I love to travel so I thought moving would be a walk in the park but then I remembered, this isn't just a week in the sun and a quick visit to the Colosseum. I live here, I had to organise accommodation, college, and many other things which come with living in a new country.
Almost straight away I had to get a Codice Fiscale - Fiscal Code, which is basically a tax number or security number that secured my place in the apartment as well as forking out money for a year-long metro card etc so with all the fun comes all the responsibility.

There is more than one way of experiencing culture shock but I think everyone does at some point or another. For me, the biggest difference to home was trying to figure out the college timetable. It didn't matter what I clicked into on the Roma Tre website, I couldn't find any times or venues for my various lectures. Well I freaked (again), and I texted so many Erasmus people I had met during the week and everyone was in the same boat. Yet I felt like the only one sitting in my bed on the Sunday night - the day before I was to begin college - not knowing where to go or even if any of my lectures were on. Suffice to say, I shed my first tears lol and felt like a failure for not figuring it out . Only for a lovely girl that I met here who had a link to the different lecture times, I would have had a breakdown. 

I also had problems with figuring out how to buy metro cards, how to use vending machines etc. and just felt totally out of my depth during my first week here. It's so weird because in those moments your mind is spinning and you make yourself think that you shouldn't be here because you can't do the simple things right. By now, I'm slowly adapting but I guess I am a bit of a panicker when things are new and foreign to me. I need to learn to go with the flow!
I'm totally out of my comfort zone, but that's the best place to be, isn't it?

College and Erasmus Life

So I suppose I should talk a bit about why I'm here - I'm studying Sociology and Italian Culture in a new language in a completely different University system.
Yes, my lectures are all taught through Italian.. Do I speak good Italian? No
I can grasp about 60 % of what the teachers say in lectures, and can understand text etc. but my weakest link is definitely my spoken Italian. It's very limited and I'm not confident at all.
Thankfully, there are language courses being offered at Roma Tre and I have already began to take them so I can only get better!

Other than all of the settling in, culture shock and general responsibilities, the life of an Erasmus student is a good one.
 The weather has been fabulous most of the time. 
The food as you all know is bloody phenomenal. I'm drowning in Pizza, Pasta and Gelato - and this is exactly how I imagined life in Italy would be.

I tried red wine for the first time - my French friends recommended I start on a semi-sparkling wine like this one^ and I actually enjoyed it. I reckon I'll be a wine drinker yet!!

The city is so so so incredibly beautiful. I can't even put it into words. I'm constantly looking around and taking it all in and have to pinch myself that I am lucky enough to call Rome my home for a year.
When I first saw both the Colosseo and Fontana Di Trevi, I was just completely and utterly in awe of how HUGE they were. My God, pictures really don't do these monuments justice. They don't even look real. There are just so many wow moments and I am out here trying to live my best Lizzie McGuire life!! (If you know, you know haha).

I have already made soooo many friends from France, Germany, UK, Portugal and many other countries, most of whom are also Erasmus students. It's an amazing feeling to instantly click with strangers because we are all in the same boat and totally at ease being in each other's company. It's hard to explain but I feel like some of these incredible people who I have only known for 2 weeks are like my best friends already. They're making this experience so much better because I always have someone to hang out with, or text or plan things with and that is so comforting.

There is a fantastic organisation called ESN - Erasmus Student Network. They are a voluntary organisation across the world who dedicate their time to making sure we have the best Erasmus possible.
Already they have organised several nights out, city tours, international picnic, trips to Hotsprings and Wine Festivals as well as some other really exciting trips to come!! They truly are making this the best experience possible for us - at a discounted price - the most important factor for a student haha!
I'm just feeling so lucky that the ESN exists because already they have filled my first two weeks with so much joy and brought me so many new friendships.

I also have to thank my fellow blogger gal, Ciara, who has pretty much been my rock over the last year. Ciara also went on Erasmus to Italy a few years ago, lived in Catania last year, has an Italian boyfriend and is completely in-the-know when it comes to all things Italy. I have sent her sooo many voice notes, and panic messages at all hours of the day and she's just been the best and continues to check up on me daily. I'd be lost without you Ciara so thank you for making this experience better for me!!

So Week 1 & 2 have been a whirlwind to say the least. I have had moments of panic, moments of mayhem and moments of pure contentment.
All in all, while it might only be a 3 hour flight from home, it's still a huge change. I am having the time of my life as I figure out my way around this  crazy city and immerse myself into Roman life.

I can't wait to bring ye along with me this year as I document it and I really hope you will enjoy my Erasmus Diary-esque series.

As always feel free to message me with advice, questions and requests re this series because I can't wait to hear your feedback!

Thanks for reading,
C. x

1 comment

  1. Nice post! It sounds like you are having a fab time in Italy apart from the first few issues but hey nobody said it was always going to be easy!


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