By: Yong-Hsiang Frank Cheng, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the Foster School Rome Program
As I left the airport heading to the UW Rome Center, the first thing I noticed was how scary the driving was. Lanes were just “suggestions” and cutting people off was the norm. It was terrifying to see how the driver was driving, but I eventually got to the UW Rome Center, sort of. The driver actually dropped me off at my apartment and gave me very little directions about how to get to the UW Rome Center. With no phone and a tourist map, I wandered around for a bit and eventually found my bearings to get to the Rome Center. That was my first day at Rome and quite an interesting experience.
In the first few days of being in Rome, it felt unreal to me that I was in Europe, in Italy, and in Rome. Rome was only a city I read about in middle school history classes. And yet there I was, with the Vatican and Colosseum only a twenty minute walk away from where I lived. Every street that I wandered to was picturesque and full of history. The cobblestone roads and the decorated churches reminded the people visiting of the history of the “Eternal City.” I was overwhelmed with how much there is to see or do or eat in Rome. And the first week definitely was a week that I took to adjust to Rome as it felt like a dream being in Rome.
As I adjusted to Rome, another thing that became “normal” to me was the nightlife. In the area where my apartment was, Trastevere, there were more people outside at 12 am than there were at 8 pm. And it’s not just young people that are going out; parents pushing strollers with their kids can be seen alongside the Tiber River taking a stroll alongside the many restaurants and bars. Street performers perform throughout the night, ranging from guitarists strumming to comedians joking with tourists. It was lively and crowded, and it was right outside the front door of the apartment of where I stayed.
As for the food, everything was amazing. The “stereotypical” Italian food that’s typically found in the States, like pizza or pasta, has so much more variety and flavor than it’s typically found in America. And there are numerous dishes that originated in Rome and Italy that, unfortunately, aren’t as well-known in the States: Florentine tripe, fried rabbit, cacio e pepe, spaghetti with pancetta, and the list goes on and on.
Reflecting on this adventure I’ve had in Rome and Italy, I feel grateful and happy. The Foster Rome Program had an amazing program director and professors. The other students that came on the trip with me were some of the most interesting people I have met at UW. We visited some great companies and learned a lot about the Italian culture. It was truly an adventure of a lifetime and it has inspired me to plan out my next study abroad trip. I only covered the tip of the iceberg with this blog post about my experience in Rome and Italy; I could write a novel if I wrote out every little detail. You have to experience the Foster Rome Program for yourself to get the full experience; I am definitely not doing it justice. It has been a great adventure and I’m only filled with excitement to see where I go next.