Rome is one of the most popular destinations for study abroad students and tourists alike. The city is overflowing with delicious food and wine, ancient history, and breathtaking sites. The intense popularity of study abroad in Rome can create a difficult barrier when trying to become immersed in the Italian culture. Things like only spending time with other exchange students or attending a university that teaches only in English can create a bubble.
Want to truly do as the Romans do while studying in Rome? Then follow these steps and don’t get lost in the crowd.
1. Live With A Host Family
Host families are the best resource for international education while you study in Rome. They provide a personal cultural guide for international students in Rome. They know what neighborhoods to avoid, appropriate dress for the occasion, and the best restaurants. They can even offer up tips on where to meet other Italians and how to save some euros. They already have social connections in the community so use them!
2. Speak Italian
Immersion during your study abroad program in Rome cannot happen without knowing at least a little of the language. Get a tutor and study as much as possible. Students that have some prior Italian language experience should look for a program where at least some of their courses will be taught in Italian. If that’s not possible, apply for an internship or volunteer where the language is used on a daily basis and for extended periods. It will get easier after that initial hump so dive in and get as much practice as possible.
[KEEP READING: 8 Things that Will Surprise You While Studying in Rome]
3. Volunteer Or Intern
In addition to language immersion, internships and volunteerism are a great way to build a network with local Italians. The road towards obtaining them may be frustrating, but students who are able to do it often end up with priceless connections. Host universities are a good place to start when it comes to finding the right opportunity. However, most information can be found online. Rome is great because there is a multitude of government, embassy, NGOs, and other international offices looking for help. Fluency in Italian is not necessarily a prerequisite. Many are happy to have native English speakers!
If you are unable to obtain an internship while you study in Rome, contacting these groups and offering to volunteer for an event is a great way to still get involved. Remain persistent, patient, and flexible as you navigate the Italian system. Expect to reach out multiple times without hearing an answer and don’t give up! Those who contact an office multiple times are more likely to have their resume read. Before applying, make sure to convert your resume to the standard European (CV) format. Also, check the eligibility requirements because some are only available to European Union citizens.
4. Join Clubs
Schools abroad usually do not have clubs or sports affiliated with the university, so find a local community group that sounds appealing and ask to join. Italians are very outgoing, but an effort still has to be made in order to convince them that you’re serious. One great way to break the ice is to ask a classmate to go to a Roma game.
[YUP, IT'S SO TRUE: 10 Things Your Program Provider Wish You Knew About Study Abroad in Italy]
5. Create a Daily Food Routine
Start the morning off at a local café and plan to visit regularly. Like the stereotypical American bartender, the Italian barista is usually a friendly and patient listener. Become friends and they will help you become comfortable with local customs and the language. Cook at home for other meals during your time studying in Rome. Not only will it save you money, but exchange students can find out so much about their Italian neighbors by visiting the local market or grocery store on a regular basis. It’s basically an international classroom. It is a great place for practicing beginner’s Italian. Plus, who knows, you may make a friend asking about produce!
6. Avoid Tourist Traps (Sometimes)
Campo de Fiori is great for its daily market while you study in Rome, but for those looking to get the genuine Italian experience, it should be avoided at night. The piazza is surrounded with rowdy American-style bars and expats. Instead, explore Trastevere to meet locals. Wander the cobblestoned streets, relax with a three-hour dinner complete with local wine, and finish the night by people watching in one of the many piazzas. If the restaurant offers you an English menu—leave.
[Having trouble picking a Rome study abroad program? We can help!]
7. Take An On-Site Class
The Roman Forum is impressive by itself, but looking from the perspective of an on-site class really gives an extra level of understanding. Professors may also share their favorite lesser-known sites that would have been left undiscovered. If the class is in photography or drawing, you will have genuine souvenirs to take home. If an on-site class is not offered, ask a professor if they can arrange a class trip. Also, these classes will commute everywhere on foot. Not only will this help work off all those calories from delicious Italian pastas and pizzas, but it is the best way to feel more comfortable with the layout of the city.
8. Travel Outside of Rome
The Italian boot is endlessly diverse! Traveling from the heel and up the calf will only create a deeper perspective on what makes Rome, Roman. When searching for accommodations read the reviews carefully and pick the safe, clean hostel that offers more than a place to sleep. Many of them will have staff who will be excited to show you the area.
9. Write a Blog
Spending too much time talking with family and friends back home can take away from the immersion experience and increase homesickness. Let a blog take care of it. They help exchange students think more deeply about the experience abroad while it is happening. Then after returning home it provides a reference for processing the experience, not to mention a treasure trove of memories.
[KEEP READING: 5 subjects you MUST study in Italy]
10. Stay as Long as Possible
Rome wasn’t built in a day! There is so much to explore. When it comes to studying abroad in Rome, a year is better than a semester and a semester is better than a summer. The longer the stay, the greater the learning opportunities. It may take a few months just to immerse yourself so if more time is a possibility definitely do it.
The best programs for Rome study abroad
You wanted it, and we got it. Here's our go-to list of the best of the best when it comes to Rome study abroad. Don't settle for average!
An exotic collegiate experience that still allows you to earn American college credit — you know, the kind that is easy to transfer back to your home institution. Wahoo! Consider this program if you want to take courses directly at a university or have international students from all over the world double as classmates.
Tackle Rome study abroad with powerhouse IES Abroad, who provides both semester and year-long programs in the capital. Take courses that allow you to simultaneously explore Ancient and Modern Rome, such as art history, religious studies, international film, and more. There's much to look forward to!
Is your goal to double your Rome study abroad experience by tacking on an internship in your free time? Then Temple Rome is the program for you — beyond it's four academic Temple Rome courses of Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Liberal Arts and Italian Studies, Visual Arts, and International Business, you can also add an internship to your course load. You go-getter, you!
Another excellent Rome study abroad option is John Cabot University, which offers year-round study abroad programs in Italy for international students. This means semester, summer, and gap year students are all welcome! As one of the most popular universities in Rome, it's up to you to come see what the fuss is about for yourself.
[None *quite* right? Check out the only comprehensive directory of programs to study in Rome]
Don't delay — it's time to study in Rome!
With enough photogenic fun to keep even the heaviest of Instagrammers panting and barely keeping up, Rome is the modern study abroad student's dream. There's history. There's culture. There's blow-your-mind-delicious cuisine. There are kind locals, and incredible coastlines. All that's missing from the equation is... well, you!
And, because you're amazing and we REEEAAAALLLY want to help you study abroad in Rome, here's a quick checklist of things to do:
- Pick your program (If you need advice, we've got you)
- Choose your classes
- Book your flights to Italy
- Pack your bags (don't forget fat pants, because pasta)
- Get on that plane and Andiamo!