Center for International Programs - Study Abroad

Student Profile: Dana Saraco - American University of Rome, Italy

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Major(s): English; Political Science

Abroad Program: American University of Rome (AUR)

Where & When: Rome, Italy, Fall 2013

Favorite Course: Travel Writing

Highlight: Seeing the Trevi Fountain at night

Best Excursion: Paris or Ireland

Favorite Dish: Turkey Sandwich from the deli near school, gelato, or Tortellini alla Nonna from our favorite restaurant

Least Favorite: Nothing, I liked everything!

Next Destination: Unsure

Describe your most memorable experience while abroad.

The first week I was there, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and homesick. My roommate and I decided to go see the Trevi Fountain, which was one of the major sites I hadn’t seen yet. We took the tram into the city center and got a little lost, but ultimately we were able to find it. I was amazed by how much bigger it was than I expected, and how beautiful it looked lit up at night. It was the first time I truly realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to study abroad.

What did you learn to love about the culture(s)?

It may seem stereotypical, but the Italians really do take their time with everything. I learned to slow down and enjoy long meals with friends or leisurely strolls through the city. At first I was very impatient, but I gradually learned to embrace “Italian time.”

What was a typical day like for you while abroad?

Getting to school was usually a 20-30 minute commute, either walking or taking public transportation including a tram and bus. Once at school, the classes were an hour and fifteen minutes each, and in between I would usually grab lunch with friends at the deli near school which had unbelievable sandwiches. I usually walked home and would either make dinner with my roommates or go out to eat. Depending on what you ordered, this did not have to be very expensive; for example, the restaurant by my apartment offered a 5 euro deal which included pasta, a vegetable, and a coffee. At night we would do our homework, and either relax in the apartment or explore the city. Sometimes there were extra credit lectures at school that I would attend. On the weekends, we would go out and explore the city during the day, by going to soccer games, historical sites, or museums. Some weekends, we traveled to other countries.

Describe your living situation.

I lived with four other roommates in an apartment in the Trastevere section of Rome. We were a fifteen minute tram ride from the major tourist sights of Rome like the Coliseum, Pantheon, or Trevi Fountain. I had a single room and my other roommates had double rooms. The apartment was spacious, with a foyer, living room/dining room, kitchen, and one and a half baths. We were fortunate in that most of our appliances, including our shower, worked well and we had enough hot water. We had to adjust to using a gas stove and lighting it ourselves, and to hanging out clothes up to dry because we didn’t have a dryer.

Describe your best travel experience.

My best travel experience was being able to reunite with my friends in London for Thanksgiving. My twin sister, Christine, and my best friend and SJU roommate, Adriana, both studied abroad in London, and our two friends from high school, Cait and Rebecca, were able to meet us in London for Thanksgiving break. I almost missed my flight to London because trains to the airport in Rome were not operating that day, so I was a bit frazzled and overwhelmed, but seeing their faces when I arrived at Victoria Station in London made it all better. I was grateful that I got to spend the holiday with my best friends.

What was one fear you had before going? Would you have this same fear if you were going to study abroad again? Why or why not?

I was nervous about making friends in my program. If I were to study abroad again, I would not be afraid. During my time in Rome, I met so many amazing people. Though it didn’t happen instantaneously, by the end of my time in Rome, I knew I had made lifelong friends. Everyone studying abroad is in the same boat, so you are bound to bond with people who are going through the same experiences as you are. 

What is one piece of advice you would pass on to a student who is about to study abroad?

Don’t force it. It will take time to adjust to a new culture, and it will take time to make strong friendships. These things don’t happen right away. Don’t write off your experience just because everything isn’t perfect the second you step off the plane. Push yourself to try new things and meet new people, and you will be pleased with the results.