On Saturday evening, the sprawling museums across the Italian capital opened for an event called ‘musei in musica’. Amidst towering frescoes and delicate sculptures, various orchestras, groups and singers played a series of intimate performances stretching through to the early hours of the next day. There can be so much confusion and chaos living here, but occasionally the city delivers something so spectacular that you forget about the added complications that come with living in this great city.
With each person only writing once for this column we will get a fantastic glimpse into people’s lives all around the world. The year abroad is fundamentally both a challenge and opportunity to experience something different. Despite what the Instagram filtered highlights might suggest, you don’t avoid the day to day struggles of life by jumping on a plane and living in a different city. Most of us are blindly working things out, trying to grow some roots in a place we don’t know and a culture we don’t fully understand.
I’m in Rome studying at Sapienza, Europe’s largest university, where I am the only Edinburgh exchange student. The university experience is best described as archaic; it is both a social wasteland and an organisational farce. There is no student union, no student halls, no societies and no sports teams. While academically there is no online portal, no lecture slides, no essays, no personal tutor, no library open past 5pm, no seminars and nothing to dissuade you from the reality that you are completely online to fight the system. I have five two-hour monologues in Italian for lectures and a dreaded 20 minute oral exam in January which you take in front of hundreds of your classmates.
The above is plainly not ideal and there have been some moments in these first 3 months where I have found life exceptionally difficult. Routine is crucial and one of the ways I have tried to be proactive is with the ‘Roma Leones’ Lacrosse team. We’ve been training three times a week since the start of September in preparation for the Italian championship next year. They are a great group of guys, all Italian and all are older – mostly in their late 20s. We recently went to Belgium on tour which was surreal but also a lot of fun. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to be a part of this group and they are always keen to help me improve on my Roman slang which is very different to what I experienced from gentle seminars in Edinburgh.
The beauty of the year abroad is essentially being afforded a bit more time. I’ve managed to work my way into a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence, read a lot more than I could ever hope to Edinburgh and taken a few days off to travel to Ponza, where a friend and I rented a boat to explore the island. For too much of this semester, however, I don’t think I have made the most of one of life’s most valuable assets, concentrating instead on difficulties and not opportunities.
I would describe my time away so far as raw. It has been both exhilarating at times but also pretty bruising. Christmas break is next week and it will be refreshing to have some time away before coming back in January to start all over again.
Tim Pemberton is a 3rd year Italian and Philosophy student at Edinburgh.