Student reflects on semester in Rome

By Caheil Powell

How often do you get the chance to embark on a global adventure, not just as a tourist, but as a resident of a distant land, free from the constraints of mortgages, parental responsibilities or the complexities of dual citizenship? Not many! Knowing that the window of opportunity for global exploration without serious ramifications was short, I eagerly seized the chance to study abroad during my college years. This past spring semester, I was granted the incredible opportunity to immerse myself in the heart of Rome, Italy, as a student at John Cabot University thanks to the Rider exchange program. It may sound cliché, but this experience was nothing short of life changing.

Living in Rome unveiled an entirely new way of life to me. Each day, I strolled through the enchanting streets of Trastevere on my way to class, savoring local, authentic Italian cuisine, and engaging with fellow international students. Furthermore, I had the privilege of residing in a historically rich area brimming with ancient charm. My education took me beyond the classroom, with on-site classes at locations such as the Vatican, Pantheon and even the Trevi Fountain. To fully take advantage of my European residency, my peers and I explored other countries and cities during our three-day weekends, leading to adventures like sightseeing in Hungary, dune surfing in Morocco and hiking in Croatia.  

Despite the glamour of living abroad, there were initial challenges to overcome. For context, I am a commuter here at Rider and have never lived anywhere but my home in New Jersey. You could imagine how disorienting it was to move out and into a city with an entirely different language, culture, and eight roommates. I was suddenly thrust into the world of self-sufficiency, having to master the art of cooking, navigate unfamiliar streets alone and essentially assume the responsibilities of an independent adult. Surprisingly, as I found my footing, these once-daunting tasks became attractive and empowering. I even grew to love cohabiting with my roommates and building close, lasting friendships with them. 

During my travels, I had the privilege of meeting people from all corners of the globe, hailing from countries like Germany, England and Singapore. The European-style classes I attended offered a novel educational experience and insights into professional settings beyond the borders of the United States. Living abroad and attempting (mostly unsuccessfully) to grasp the Italian language taught me to embrace and actively seek out new and uncomfortable situations for the sake of personal growth. Yes, I may have found myself lost in the streets of Marrakech and incurred fines from the unfriendly “bus police” in Rome, but such adventures are best experienced while youth and opportunity coexist. I wouldn’t trade my time studying abroad for anything, and I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to pursue this life-enriching experience if the opportunity presents itself.

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