On February 9, 2018, six Integral sophomores (and a student from the College of New Jersey) will begin their semester-long adventure in Rome, Italy. Traditionally, Integral students have had little opportunity to travel; January Term travel is possible, but since the discontinuation of the Oxford program, semester study abroad has not been possible. This year, however, several students have the opportunity to study abroad in Rome through the Rome Institute of Liberal Arts (RILA), founded by Integral tutor, Gabriel Pihas.
RILA has been as summer program for the past ten years, but this is the first time a semester program is occurring. Tutor Pihas believes that a semester-long program will “…give students more time to get a feel for the language, the neighborhoods, and more time to make friends with the Italians”, which is something Somnath Ganapa, a junior at the College of New Jersey is looking forward to, as well. “I want to befriend some Italians and I hope they don’t dismiss me because of my American-ness or weak Italian skills”, says Ganapa.
When I spoke to several of the Saint Mary’s students, they shared a similar sentiment. Lydia Borrego is particularly excited to meet new people and experience a different way of life, even if it is only for three months. Lydia will be leaving the country for the first time this February and is equally excited and nervous. Carli Mac Mahon says she has fewer concerns and is incredibly excited to meet native Italian speakers and read Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italy. Nick Pappas wants to “consume the Vatican Museums”, so it is nice that our apartments are 4.8 miles from the 54 of them.
We will be living in apartments that many students from an Italian business school live in. Even though we’ll be roommates with other Saint Mary’s students, we will share a floor and kitchen with Italian students, which I believe to be something positive. It’s nice to have the comfort and familiarity of Saint Mary’s friends, but meeting new people and speaking a new language and experiencing new things seem to be a study abroad requirement. If you’re not going to fully immerse yourself in Italian culture, what’s the point? Sure, you’ll be living in Rome, but you won’t be experiencing Rome.
All seven of us are incredibly excited to embark on this journey and start our (three month) Roman life. One week to go!