By Jake Loel
On Monday, I found myself within earshot of four freshmen, presumably exhausted from orientation and nonstop socializing. Three of them were listening to the fourth, who was explaining how the city of Rome is really just another, very dirty city. He told his peers how aggressive the “hobos” (Roma, presumably) were, how the pizza was “disgusting”, and gave the impression that the Rome semester is probably overrated. Among his more surprising attestations was an explanation to the others that, in Italy, you have to pay for the bathroom because “they don’t have taxes”.
In a way, he has a point. Rome is certainly not as pristine as certain suburban American towns and cities, the Roma can be very aggressive, and the pizza does not taste quite like DiGiorno. He may be mistaken about the lack of taxation, but for a typical Freshman, his conclusion about the Rome semester is not far from reasonable.
The Rome semester, however, is much more than a semester in a dirty European city. For all of its faults, the University of Dallas does not use the Rome semester as merely a way to lure wide-eyed prospective students. “Rome”, to the UD student, is not merely the city of Rome, but a life-changing semester, a semester where the student has all of Europe as his playground. The Rome semester is a semester of personal, mental and spiritual growth.
“Going to Rome”, for the UD student, is more than going to the city of Rome.
“Going to Rome” means pushing yourself to write unthinkably long philosophy papers while on a train back from Germany, where you consumed one too many brats or bars of chocolate, or, in the case of some, one too many steins of beer.
“Going to Rome” means living very, very close to people who you may not have spoken to otherwise, and calling them friends by the end of the semester.
“Going to Rome” means replacing the Church of the Incarnation with the ancient, jaw-dropping churches where saints prayed, confessed,and were martyred.
Finally, “Going to Rome” means taking history courses about things which happened two miles from where you are taking notes.
‘Rome’ is not an easy semester. It is not meant to be a totally enjoyable experience. It is extremely trying to balance homesickness, social struggles and schoolwork with trying to experience each city to its fullest. My semester in Rome was exhausting and I was happy to come home. Neither these difficulties, nor the issues of aggressive Roma or litter in the streets, however, should deter anyone from challenging themselves to survive and thrive during their Rome semester.
Rome will beat you up and Rome will make you cry. But Rome is not a semester to miss.
To the three wide-eyed freshmen who listened to the fourth: yes, Rome is kind of dirty. But if you have desire to grow, please do not let the aforementioned fourth freshman’s views of the city deter you from the happiest, hardest, most beautiful and life-changing semester of your life.
As an aside, the Italian Republic does in fact tax its citizens.