Eliza Smith Rome

Entry #1 - January/February


Hello, my name is Eliza Smith, and I am a part of the class of the 2023 cohort of the Sorin Scholars. I study psychology and global affairs with a concentration in peace studies, and I have minors in Italian and cyber safety and security. During the spring 2022 semester, I am studying abroad in the heart of the eternal city, Rome, Italy. I arrived in Rome at the beginning of January, where I was immediately taken aback by the sheer grandeur of the ruin-filled city. It was amazing to see a city so perfectly balanced between the modern metropolis and the ancient city that still breathes into every person that witnesses its magnitude. I chose to live at the University of Notre Dame Villa, which is a mere two-minute walk from the remarkable Colosseum, and I could not be happier with my decision. I have been blessed to live with some of the brightest and kindest young adults. I only knew two of my roommates before my arrival, and I can confidently say that I will cherish all four of them and the memories we created for years. 


Unfortunately, I was quarantined after a mere twenty-four hours in Rome due to a confusion with my personal. I do however believe I managed to make the most of it. I used the time to get a head start on my classes and cultural experiences; I also finalized my onboarding tasks for my internship. During my free time, I FaceTimed my friends and family at home and held virtual movie nights. Each night I received food deliveries from my roommates, which many times they made themselves. After I left my travel quarantine, I immediately hit the ground running after a negative COVID-19 test. I traveled with my required All Roads Lead to Rome course to a small town outside of Rome named Orvieto. While there, I met my entire cohort of Rome students. While in the city, we visited the underground used during wars, toured the Duomo, and took in the amazing views of the mountainside. 


After returning home, I quickly joined a group to a symphony concert in a small church in a nearby town, which was promptly followed by a dinner and gelato run with the villa residents and resident assistant. This fast-paced return only began what is now a never-ending whirlwind of adventure. In this one month, I have been hard at work for my classes. My coursework includes Italian, cognitive psychology, philosophical ethics, theological saints, Roman history, and Italian immigration. I also started my duties as an intern with Inter Press Service (IPS), a humanitarian media organization. With this internship, I am able to stay educated on the global news in various topics like development aid, energy, women's rights, environment, and human rights. I have acquired new skills like mastering search engine optimization. One night, I took my first ever Italian cooking class, where I learned Italian staples like homemade tiramisu and fettuccine with students from different universities. This month concluded with a legendary trip to Florence, Italy with my roommates. We visited the most beautiful duomo I have ever seen, where the exterior takes anyone’s breath away. The Uffizzi is still my favorite museum from the sheer number of art present and the gorgeous decorations making the gallery. We made sure to witness Michelangelo’s David, and it was tranquil break from the constant visitations. Our trip was filled with great gelato, shopping, and picturesque views.


In February, my busy schedule seemed to only get busier. My theological class and my Notre Dame class started to incorporate more trips into the curriculum. They have easily become the best parts of my week. Through these classes, I have seen the way Rome has developed through the ages. I have also had the opportunity to visit both major and minor visitation sites across the city like various churches, piazzas, museums, and galleries. Some of the highlights of these tours include the Roman Forum, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Roman Catacombs, and the Colosseum. In my other classes, we have been particularly focused on group discussions, participation, and presentations. This has been beneficial to continuously build and defend arguments in topics relating to current ethical dilemmas, Italian culture, and psychological research. Another highlight of my time abroad is the ability to refine my language skills through spontaneous communication throughout the country. I have also experienced the differences in language and culture around the country through my personal and sponsored travel. Each weekend, I pushed myself to go somewhere new, so I visited Bologna, Verona, and new areas in Rome like the Vatican City. In each city, I was sure to visit local cafés to pursue small conversations and detect the differences in dialect. I tried delicacies specific to the region by talking with the restaurant staff. Of course, I also made sure to visit the local churches, monuments, and shopping centers. One of my favorite things to see was the house and tomb of Giulietta which inspired William Shakespeare to write Rome and Juliet. I was very excited to see the tributes to Shakespeare, since I have been a fan and analyzed his work for years. I did also continue my cultural experiences through concerts and more cooking classes. I am so appreciative to be able to spend such a long time in this country and to be able to grow as a global citizen to further my future aspirations. I am excited and ready to continue my adventures and immersive education while in Rome for the semester.

Entry 2 - March 


March marks the midway point of my time abroad, and I am struggling to grapple with the idea of leaving this amazing country. I have been so honored to experience this new culture and life, and I wish I had more time. Wishing for more time, though, cannot take precedence over living in the moment. This has been my main priority this semester. I want to be able to look back on this semester and know I took every opportunity I could and made the most of time abroad.

March began with a quick trip to get my European Union Green Pass. This process was made possible by the Rome Global Gateway. I simply had to go across town to the ministry of health and convert my CDC Card to the green pass. This conversion made it easier for officials, restaurants, and transportation to verify my vaccination status. The Super Green Pass is given to those who have had the COVID-19 booster, and this allows them to travel internationally, use public transportation, eat in restaurants, visit museums, and participate in other activities of daily life in public. It is extremely easy to use the Green Pass over the CDC card because it requires only a quick scan of the QR code and no reading. It is also recognized across the EU, making travels within the EU even easier. In my opinion, I have enjoyed this change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel safer in Italy knowing that the Green Passes are used and verified on a regular basis. A hilarious benefit of using the Green Pass over the CDC card is most people will believe I am from Italy now and will continue speaking exclusively in Italian. This has encouraged me to speak more Italian.


My first weekend trip in March was to Bologna in northern Italy. This was a casual day trip for me to relax, go shopping, and experience a new city. During this trip, I visited multiple sites like Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, Chiesa dei Santi Bartolomeo e Gaetano, and Piazza Maggiore. I did not plan a strict itinerary for this trip because I wanted the city to lead my experience. This is completely outside of my comfort zone, but I am so grateful I took the risk to do this. I found what might be my favorite café in Italy with friendly staff, detailed architecture, and amazing cappuccinos. I decided to go shopping under the famous porticoes, and I found the cutest shops that I have never seen before. I bought some new jewelry, clothes, and souvenirs for my family and friends back home. Throughout the day, I stumbled upon small churches away from the busy tourist areas, but I did make sure to photograph the popular piazzas in the area. For food, I was able to find a small restaurant to try my first authentic bolognese sauce, and I can be the first to tell you there is a difference. I also always try to find a neighborhood gelateria to compare the different gelatos in the area, and Bologna had a strong contender, but Florence still has the first stop. The day was so relaxing, beautiful, and rejuvenating, and it ended with a surprise upgrade to first-class on the train home. 

My second trip was to the Lombardy region in Italy. The most notable city in the area is Milan. My boyfriend, Alex, came to visit me during the trip, and we decided to rent a boat at Lake Como. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but it was absolutely exhilarating. Alex surprised me by informing me that he had his boating license, so we toured the lake without a skipper. I even steered for a bit. The price of the boat was extremely reasonable and completely worth it. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the classic Italian breakfast, seafood, and apertivo of the city. The rest of the trip was spent in Milan. Witnessing the grandeur of the Duomo was absolutely breathtaking. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was intricately designed, which matched the luxury brands placed there. We toured the shops in the area before finding a pastry shop, where we split some cakes and small pastries with cappuccinos. The food was spectacular at each restaurant, per usual. We did spend some time shopping and viewing the works of art in the area.


My last week and half of March was my spring break, and for the first time in our college experience, my best friend from home had the same spring break. We spent our spring break touring Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and Salerno. We visited the tourist attractions in Rome and the Vatican Museums, which was a fun way to see the city through a new lens of my friend. Naples was a great place to enjoy seafood and see how other Italian cities influence the architecture of others. We also took the time to visit impressive castles in the area that at one point served as prisons. Pompeii was my favorite stop of the break, I enjoyed the tranquil and kind new city alongside the ruins. I tried my first Neopolitan-style pizza alongside some other seafood dishes. The ruins were incredibly informative and intriguing, especially the mosaics, the theatre, and the influence of the pagan gods. Salerno had beautiful sunsets, gardens, and views. When we returned to Rome, my parents came to visit. While they were here, I was their tour guide and their translator. Thankfully, I still was able to see new things with them in Rome and try new restaurants and gelato flavors. During that time, 1e visited all four major basilicas, and we attended the General Audience with Pope Francis! Both of these moments were extremely fulfilling for me, and I was so grateful to experience with my parents.

March was filled with exhilarating and relaxing trips all month long. It was also filled with midterms and continued education in my subjects. The classes are becoming more comfortable to discuss more complex topics, and it has been beneficial to do a check-in on the work we have done thus far. I continued my work with my internship with IPS which included more tasks with SEO, research, and write-ups. The villa has continued to be a source of family and fun. We even held a formal to celebrate the students studying in Rome. Although I know my time here is dwindling, I hope I can still focus on the positive and make the most of each day.




Entry #3 - April

It boggles my mind to believe this is truly the last month I have in Rome, Italy. As I am writing this blog, I have less than 10 days before I am expected to board a plane to South Africa. Although it is another new country for me to explore, I still feel sad to know that I will be leaving Europe. This month, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how grateful I am to have spent so long here. I am also very grateful for the people who made this possible, and I am thankful for the time I have spent building stronger relationships with my friends and significant other.


I do not want my final blog, however, to be filled with sadness, so to start off, I will share my first adventure of April. The first weekend of April I went to Vienna, Austria for the first time, and I absolutely fell in love (I still think about that place, and I cannot wait to return). I originally wanted to spend that weekend in Germany, but due to COVID-19 concerns,  it was not possible. I did find out that Vienna, Austria is incredibly underrated. It is one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities I have ever been to. I have been using my free time this semester to study the German language as my fourth language, and even though I am nowhere near fluent, it was incredibly enjoyable to see German used all around me. I was able to visit the Belvedere Museum to look at some of the most prominent pieces in art history. Not only that, but I visited two palaces and learned about the history of Austria. Also, I feasted on food that reminded me of home because of our German heritage, like Beef Goulash. I recommend everyone to go to Vienna at least once in their life.


My second-weekend trip was to visit the Greek islands. My first day in Athens was filled to the brim with history at the Acropolis. Unsurprisingly, I have a newfound obsession with Mediterranean food. I was delighted to enjoy a Greek salad, Moussaka, and Saganaki. This was the first time I went to a country without knowing a single word of the language. Thankfully, though, the Greeks were incredibly friendly and welcomed us with open arms. I took a ferry to Mykonos, which was both larger and more comfortable than I had expected. The weather that weekend, unfortunately, canceled the boat reservation. My partner and I made the most of it by renting an ATV. It was my first time driving an ATV, and it was an amazing experience. We were able to see the entire island this way, with hidden treasures along the way. We also enjoyed remarkable fish and other types of seafood.


Back in Rome, my classes were doing darling to a close, but we made the most of it. Some highlights included visiting the Jewish quarter, the Jewish museum, and the Jewish Synagogue in my All Roads Lead to Rome class. I learned so much more about World War II, the Jewish community within Rome, and the Holocaust than I had in prior classes. It was an eye-opening experience that I am thankful to have had. We were able to visit churches in my Mystics, Saints, and Sinners class that I would have missed if not for my professor. They were beautiful and equally magnificent as some of the most-visited churches across Italy. In my Italian class, I believe I have really seen the impact of living in the culture and language every day. I feel so much more comfortable engaging with people around my area by speaking Italian than I did when I first arrived. Furthermore, when I went to Sicily for another weekend trip this month,  I really saw an improvement in my Italian language since I had to use it so much there. Obviously, I have also seen an improvement in my mastery of Italian grammar in the classroom.


Unfortunately, the end of my semester means the end of a new internship that I had with Inter Press Service. I really benefited from being able to look at humanitarian crises and aid through a different lens, journalism and social media. I was able to work on a project focusing on Twitter and engaging with other Twitter accounts like the United Nations.  I was also able to write a couple of short pieces on topics like inflation and energy access in Africa. These topics I researched for my internship were both personally and professionally beneficial to me. I am sure that I will use this knowledge in my future endeavors working in international relations and human rights. Additionally, I am really appreciative of the lessons I have learned as a professional working remotely.

To conclude my final blog post for my semester abroad, I just want to employ anyone reading to go abroad. I believe going abroad has the potential to change a person in a variety of ways, whether that be professionally, academically, or personally. I am so thankful for the amount of growth I have seen in myself these past few months. I am also incredibly grateful for the University of Notre Dame for sending us across the world to have these distinct experiences with other cultures. Not only that, but I am appreciative of my opportunity to work with an international company for the first time, as well as have professors from across the world. I thank Italy for all the lessons it has left on my life, even in this short time. I hope to do it justice by continuing to be an active global citizen and engaging with cultures through my work, studies, and life. Arrivederci Roma!