Memories of Rome on Open Campus Block

Programs for this blog post

Open Campus Block

By: Ari Au

Hey everyone, I’m Ari. I attend Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, but I’m from Mililani, Hawaiʻi. I’m a Multidisciplinary Studies major with a focused theme of Exploring Global Cultures. This major allows me to take courses from different fields like Japanese and Chinese Language, Sustainability and Society, Greek Mythology, Literature of Rome and Her Empire, and Intercultural Communication. I first found out about CIEE through a friend from work. She attended three blocks in three different locations and only had good things to say about her experience. Her shared memories convinced me to study with CIEE in Rome, and I hope my shared experience can convince you to study abroad too!

student rome overlooking city street

I attended Fall Block I in Rome, Italy, which ran for 6 weeks from August 24 to September 23. This was my busiest and best summer to date. I chose to study in Rome for its art and culture, primarily due to my Literature of Rome and Her Empire class. We read Virgil’s The Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It wasn’t just the stories and myths we studied that interested me; it was also my professor’s engaging teachings about Roman and Greek mythology and mentions of sculptures like The Laocoön and Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius. 

Flying from Honolulu to Rome took almost 24 hours for me, but I would do it all over again. Before this program, I had never been to Europe. I was nervous about living in Rome for six weeks, not knowing enough of the language and customs, missing my family and friends, and living with strangers. To prepare for living in Rome, I practiced Italian on the Duolingo app, listened to Coffee Break Italian on Spotify, and rewatched the Lizzie McGuire Movie and Eat, Pray, Love. There was a 12-hour difference between Italy and Hawaiʻi, so I ended up only talking with my family and friends through text, but luckily, I didn’t get homesick like I thought I would because my time was filled with exploring Italy. Texting pictures and sending postcards were a good way to keep my family updated on my adventures. CIEE’s ‘Know Before You Go’ Canvas course was helpful. I got to connect with other students in my block and how they planned to combat feelings of being homesick. A piece of advice I was thankful I followed was bringing snacks that reminded me of home. 

rome food

I found out I was going to be living with six other girls in one apartment, and I was nervous how we’d all get along living together. I only lived with one roommate throughout my three years in college, and I wasn’t sure what to expect living with six strangers. I had nothing to worry about in the end because CIEE really paired us up well. We got emotional leaving each other at the end of the block after spending six weeks together. When we shared our favorite memories from our time in Rome, it included our charcuterie nights, watching the sunset, our beach day in Paestum, and bike tour with CIEE, as well as our late-night gelato runs. At the start of the program, we created a shared album because we took a lot of pictures of each other and of cool things we saw when we weren’t together. After the program ended, we created another shared album and a Snapchat group chat to stay in touch after we went our separate ways. I’m so grateful and lucky to have been paired with my Rome roommates and I have CIEE to thank for that.  

I wish I had discovered CIEE sooner because I would’ve liked the opportunity to experience another block in a different location. For me, Fall Block I in Rome, Italy was perfect for several reasons. It conveniently fell during my university’s summer break, ensuring I didn’t miss out on any important events or classes. Although August brought warmer weather, I preferred it to freezing temperatures, making packing easy and allowing me to bring back cherished souvenirs. My roommates and I went on a few weekend trips to Florence, Riomaggiore, and the Amalfi Coast. August and September were ideal months to explore these parts of Italy. 

rome sunset

Above all, my time spent in Italy was better than I could’ve imagined. It was an incredible opportunity where I made unforgettable memories and lifelong friendships. This experience not only enriched my perspective on global cultures, but it also opened doors to academic and career possibilities. This summer in Rome has been lifechanging, and I’m immensely grateful for the impact it’s had on my life.