When I tell people that I am spending my semester at the American University of Rome, I can’t help but feel like I’m letting them down a bit by admitting that I’m going to an American university, rather than a completely Italian university. However, I am quick to mention the need-to-know fact that, in truth, the AUR is quite different than the university I attend back home in the U.S. Aside from the fact that you can get an American four-year degree from the school and take all your classes in the English language, going to school in Rome has proven to be quite the unique experience.
1. The concept of lateness and absence.
The American University of Rome has an absence policy (more than 3 classes missed in the semester and you’re busted), but the anticipated and methodical use of these absences is highly prevalent at the school. All of my professors are quite in favor of us students using our three absences and using them wisely- in sickness, but also in times where we got back in at 3 am Monday morning from a weekend trip to Barcelona and just be functional. It is just an understood fact that sometimes we need to miss a class or two for our own mental wellness.
2. Getting to school is an adventure in itself.
The 44 bus is go-to public transportation for getting from my apartment to school, but I sometimes choose to shake it up a bit and walk the 30 minute hike to class. Either way, I’m guaranteed to see something new and interesting happen en route to class. While riding the 44 the other day, the bus suddenly got hit with a massive wave of rampant teens on their way to school. I got shoved about 10 feet to the middle of the bus as they spilled on board, but my headphone cord stayed behind, awkwardly stuck in the door several feet away from my ears (where the buds remained). Luckily, some random schoolboy gallantly got the cord un-stuck, but I remained uncomfortably stuck in the middle of a loud, hormonal charged teen frenzy. When walking to and from classes, witnessing a fender bender is like witnessing a dog peeing on a bush. It happens (often), the drivers get out of their cars, yell at each other in Italian for a bit, get back in their cars, and drive away with their fenders hanging off.
3. Hands-on experience is highly valued.
Something that has always bugged me about the American schooling system is that we are all so set on getting good grades, usually based off of homework and tests. In my classes at AUR, experience and actual hands-on work ranks supreme. In my journalism class, we are doing actual reporting, interviewing, and news writing. In my screenwriting class we are currently in the process of writing 20-25 page screenplays. In my public relations class, I am on a team working towards creating a real PR plan for a small town in Southern Italy that will actually be used. In my Italian language class…well…we’re speaking REAL Italian! Who would of thought, eh?
4. There is a wider range of cultural differences/backgrounds.
In Denver, the extent of diversity doesn’t go too far beyond one person being from New York City and the other being from Beaumont, Texas. Here in Rome, I’ve got classmates from Egypt, Pakistan, Germany, Australia, England, etc, etc. It’s been fascinating seeing the range in cultural differences within the classroom along with getting to hear different perspectives from various points of the world.
5. There is an obvious small community feel of the school.
The University of Denver is “small” enough that you will see at least one or two familiar faces while walking to class. AUR, however, has about 500 students total. While this might seem a little bit too small for some, I have found that having such a small student body makes it easier to create friendships and bond with classmates. The main “hang-out” spot for students at AUR is the garden when we can do homework, eat lunch, or chat with classmates. Something that I always notice when I sit in the garden is the complete sense of community throughout the whole student body- it’s an aspect of studying at AUR that makes a far-from-home study abroad student feel welcomed and comfortable right away.