Rome Sweet Home

WE’RE HERE, WE’RE HERE! Finally after dreaming of this for so long, my first couple weeks in my new home have already come to a quick close. It has been nothing short of incredible and some how, each day has consistently been better than the last – if that’s even possible. I find myself saying “this is the best day of my life” every. single. day.

Arriving to the airport was so exciting, my flight buddy Annie and I could not wait to meet up with the 17 others in our group. The majority of the group just happened to be arriving around the same time on Sunday morning – a little bit jet lagged but smiles and hugs everywhere when we were all reunited! We had been told the cab ride to the center of Rome would be quite the rush and we had no idea what was in store for us. All of us were quickly shuffled into cabs in groups of four, being shouted at in Italian we couldn’t help but laugh as we tried to tell the driver our school’s address. First zipping through the streets of the Italian countryside, into weaving through the tiny streets of downtown Rome, we had wide eyes the entire time. Praying we made it there in one piece I couldn’t believe everything passing my windows was real. It looked like the pictures on the internet, but better if that’s possible. Colored buildings with balconies, flower boxes, adorable restaurants, vespas, – it was all real and I get to call it all home for six weeks. I felt the luckiest.

We then arrived at the ACCENT center which is where we take our classes. We were almost in tears laughing at each other trying to drag our 50lbs+ luggage across the uneven cobblestone streets and up the three flights of stairs. We all checked in and received our very own map of the area, apartment keys and finally our address of where we would be staying! There are 19 MSU students on our program, 8 boys and 11 girls. We have 4 private apartments in Rome, the boys are split 4 and 4, and the girls are split 4 and 7. I am in the larger of the girl’s apartment and have loved every minute so far! It’s a beautiful place in an adorable location with 4 bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms and a kitchen with a little balcony. Its a funny feeling to unpack and essentially “move” into an apartment in Rome. The feeling of walking to and from class each day makes us feel like true residents. Shops become familiar, restaurant owners begin to recognize you, and you start forming favorite places. I cannot think of one thing I dislike about Rome, it’s just feels so comfortable and normal – like I’ve known it my whole life. You could walk the streets for hours and never get tired of looking up. Instead of having our faces locked into our screens, we have found we are constantly mesmerized by our surroundings and making sure we are living in the moment every second of our days.

All study abroad programs vary in the amount of credits, hours in a classroom, and the way they are taught. The 19 of us are taking four classes while we are here and working to receive 9 credits. All of us on this program are studying within the college of communication arts and sciences with a sales leadership minor so our main area of focus while studying here is Communication and Sales but this time, it’s Italian style. Only one of the classes is taught by our advisor Jen who is also our professor from Michigan State. The rest of our classes are taught by equally incredibly intelligent and special Italian individuals. Everyday I am blown away by the fact that I am receiving such a unique education from some of the most extraordinary people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We have a survival Italian to learning basic language as well as helpful tips while living here taught by Mario. Andrea who is a strategy consultant for the top management at NTV teaches our Made in Italy course. Sean is the communication director of the Vatican ( no big deal 😉 ) and he teaches our Italian Communication class. Our class times are scheduled for Monday through Thursday 9am to noon, and 2pm-5pm. Some days these times are spent inside our classroom at ACCENT and other days we are out doing experiential learning somewhere in the city. This is the way life should be lived, there is no better way to learn than to live. One day we are speaking about a place while sitting in class and the next day we are seeing it in person, taking it all in and immersing ourselves in it. It is such a special feeling to have to pinch myself for a reminder that this is real life each day. To say this experience has changed my life already would be such an understatement. I couldn’t be more thankful to be receiving this education while living in a dream.

The first two weeks were filled to the brim with incredible experiences and memories I know I will never forget. For the second half of week two our whole group took a trip into the southern part of Italy to the Libera camp, an anti-mafia organization, for some volunteer work.

Below are a few pictures of my time in Rome so far! Follow my Instagram at siennamohl for more updates.

Sincerely, Sienna

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Exploring the streets around the ACCENT Center between classes.

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View from our living room window.

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The beginning of my gelato addiction.

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Unbelievable. Always has fresh fruit in it.

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My cute group! Love them all so much. This is in front of The Four Rivers Fountain.

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Trevi Fountain.

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St. Peter’s Basilica. Took an amazing tour inside from our professor Sean.

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The Pantheon.

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The Colosseum.

“Paris is Always a Good Idea”

Aside from deciding to study abroad in the first place, one of the best decisions I have made was choosing to travel early before the program started. I was lucky enough to click with someone in my program right away during our pre-departure meetings. After talking about it we decided that Paris was always somewhere we had wanted to visit and starting planning our first trip abroad, alone. It was an extremely daunting thought, we have never been abroad before or flown internationally, we only speak English and honestly don’t know much about France. Despite these fears, I would consider myself independent and confident in taking care of myself. I am not naive, I know the dangers of traveling especially to a foreign country but, I really felt like I could handle it.

I am blessed to have parents who knew I could handle it. I am so thankful to have two people who believe in me and allow me to grow independently but most importantly, parents who trust me. You will never learn how to become an independent adult if you do not take on independent adult responsibilities – this was another chance to practice.

Oddly enough, traveling before the program started brought a sort of ease to the chaos that was preparing to study in Rome for six weeks. We were able to get used to the jet lag of a six hour time difference instead of arriving a day before our classes began. We became familiar with the differences between the United States and Europe – even the little things that you would never think about. Do you seat yourself at restaurants? How much do you tip? What do we wear to fit in? Is there anything we usually do that is considered “rude” here? All of these things we slowly figured out which prepared us for our upcoming short residency in Rome.

You might think traveling to Paris before an already quite expensive program would break the bank, but we definitely did it on a student budget. I found an adorable little Airbnb apartment in the perfect location for only $100 each in total for 3 nights. It was tiny but it was all we needed since we spent all day out exploring, we just needed a safe place to sleep. It was right off of the iconic shopping street, Champs-Elysees where the Arc de Triomphe stands. This was fantastic for us because not only was it in a safe area, it was right near the metro station as well as the bus stops with routes to the airport. Keeping all of these things in mind while searching for a place to stay was crucial. I did so much research before we left on the best ways to get from the airport into the city center, where to buy bus tickets and how to use the metro system so that when we arrived we wouldn’t feel lost and overwhelmed. I had maps printed and highlighted, our flight itinerary and all of our Airbnb information at hand in my purse I started to feel like my mom. It seemed like a lot of work, but being smart and prepared keeps you safe.

We kept in budget by sightseeing and doing things that were of no cost. Visiting monuments but saved money by not paying to go in and take a tour, eating meals at small markets or bakeries instead of fancy restaurants etc. which kept the trip affordable. There was so much filled into our three days we just felt like we did it right! It felt so empowering to accomplish something so big alone and made me feel so independent and confident for my upcoming travels. Below are some of our adventures! You can follow my Instagram for more updates at siennamohl. Up next, Roma!!

Sincerely, Sienna

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Eiffel Tower

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Louvre

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Arc de Triomphe

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Laduree Paris

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Notre Dame Cathedral

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Eiffel Tower at dusk

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Eiffel Tower at night

Ciao For Now!

The Sincerely Sienna blog is about to get a whole lot more exciting! Tomorrow I head out on the adventure of a lifetime. Seven months ago I applied, interviewed and was accepted into a six week study abroad summer program in Rome, Italy. At that point it felt so far away, traveling was something that was so easy and exciting to daydream about but truthfully still it didn’t feel like it would ever be real. But whether I’m ready or not the day is finally here!!

Michigan State University has over 275 programs that take place in more than 60 countries around the world. Studying abroad in college was something that I had always dreamed of doing and more than anywhere I wanted to study in Italy. (Fun fact: I was named after the Italian city “Siena”.) When the time came to get serious about applying for programs and making it happen, I started with going to the Study Abroad Fair at the Breslin Center. Everything was very organized, you could explore by location, major/minor, interests or just browse around. I am a Communication major with a Sales minor so naturally I found myself in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences section. That seemed to be the best part for me – the fact that I could not only experience the adventure of a lifetime overseas, but that I could do it while receiving credit for my major’s graduation requirements. I fell in love with the “Made in Italy” program – six weeks in Rome earning 9 credits while studying intercultural communication, sales and marketing from an Italian perspective. I was told spots were highly sought after so I applied and interviewed right away. Ecstatic to find out I had been accepted, I could not wait to find out who else would be joining me. Beginning in January, our program held bi-weekly meetings where I got to know my fellow “Romies” (who I seem to love already) as well as go over expectations about our summer together as each week grew with more excitement. Actually, we got along well so quickly that a couple of us planned to visit Paris together before our program begins in Rome!

I moved everything out of my dorm room to bring home and had five short days to get ready for Europe. Lots of unpacking and repacking – I’m the worlds worst overpacker so trying to keep my luggage under the 50 pound airline limit has been a real challenge. All these months anticipating the departure but today it’s so odd to say I’m leaving tomorrow. Today, the floor of my bedroom is covered in piles of neatly folded clothes waiting to be stuffed into my suitcase. Today all of my exciting daydreams are now a bit of anxious nerves. Today it’s starting to hit me – this is actually happening.

I know that I will never have an experience like this ever again. Sure, if I’m lucky enough later in my life I’ll travel back to Europe but I will never again “live” in Rome with 18 incredible people my age learning in such a unique setting. I am beyond ready to jump in completely open-minded and up for anything. I could never say thank you enough to my parents for making this possible for me. There is no greater gift than that of life experience. Seeing the world is an absolute dream come true and I will never take these moments for granted.

So, ciao for now! I would love to have you along for the ride, first stop will be a little pre-Rome trip to Paris, France for a few days. You can check back at the Sincerely Sienna blog for updates abroad as well as all of my adventures through photos on Instagram at siennamohl!

Sincerely, Sienna