A Guide to Studying Abroad in Rome

By Kaitlin Hurtado on March 18, 2018

One of the most discussed college experiences is studying abroad – you will always hear people that have studied abroad rave about their experience endlessly because rarely do they ever regret studying abroad during their college experience. There are so many destinations to choose from and a multitude of factors that go into your decision on where to study abroad (costs, contract lengths, study courses, friends going on the trip). If you’ve come to your decision and find yourself counting down the days to studying abroad in Rome, here’s a guide to get you one step closer to have the best experience studying abroad in Rome as possible.

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

Spend time researching before you start studying abroad in Rome 

While you certainly do not want to be confined by a strict itinerary that you spend hours making before studying abroad in Rome, you do want to put some time into researching the opportunities you can come across while studying abroad in Rome so you can make the most of your time studying abroad in Rome. You don’t want to get to Rome and become so overwhelmed with all the possible activities you can take part in and spend more time deciding which ones to actually do than actually partaking in sightseeing.

Start with big, general ideas of what you want to do while studying abroad in Rome – like the ones outlined in this article – so that you have a starting point. By starting with general ideas, you can get an idea of what you really want to get out your experience of studying abroad in Rome – learning Italian better, getting to know local spots, or eating all the food you possibly can. There’s always plenty of time to do other things, but outlining what you really want to do before studying abroad in Rome saves you the stress (and time wasted) figuring out a plan on what to with your time abroad.

Having a list of things you want to do while studying abroad in Rome will also help when you’re feeling indecisive on a free day by yourself or in a group of people, unsure on what to do with a bunch of options. Researching before you start studying abroad in Rome will allow you to also know what activities will require more planning or efforts in terms of paperwork, purchasing tickets in advance, or similar time-sensitive issues. If you know you want to book a guide of a specific landmark or museum, you can reserve a guide beforehand to ensure you will get a guide even on the busiest of days.

Experience the city’s history 

While you may think you have earned plenty of Roman history through your World and European history classes, there is nothing like experiencing history firsthand by visiting the city’s historic landmarks. Have a “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” moment and visit the Trevi Fountain – the largest baroque fountain of Rome – on your own to take part in the tradition of throwing a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain for an ensured future return to the city.

Regardless of your own religious views, many religious sites offer beautiful architecture up for your appreciation. Saint Peter’s Basilica or Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano Roma are a few starting points of religious sites that you may want to visit during your time studying abroad in Rome.

Guided tours are also a great way to get through the city’s historic landmarks as not only can you appreciate the visual aesthetics of the landmarks, but you will also be taught of the historic significance to the landmarks you are viewing by an experienced guide and will get a little help on working off all of the carbs you’ll surely be indulging in while studying abroad in Rome when your spending hours upon hours exploring Rome.

If you are more of an indoors person or prefer museums, Rome offers options to let you experience history/culture in your own way with a visit to Musei Capitolini or the National Gallery of Modern Art to let you view modern and contemporary that you can experience on your own time or through guided tours.

Photo by Cel Lisboa on Unsplash

Eat all the food you can eat 

Dreaming of all the amazing food that you can eat while studying abroad in Rome? Start writing down dishes you are dying to try, either after reading up on countless Rome guides or after seeing pictures from foodie blogs or Instagrams. There are plenty of food guides catered to Roman tourists, outlining the city’s most popular dishes – from more general lists of your typical pasta and pizza to specific dishes and sauces, like Cacio e Pepe, a blend of pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper on pasta. Indulge your inner foodie by compiling a list of dishes and restaurants you want to visit over the duration of your study abroad experience and cross it off one-by-one as the days pass.

If you are living with a host family, you’ll definitely be able to experience signature, homecooked dishes that can be even better than the ones you can experience by dining in the city’s restaurants. Living with a host family will also allow you to learn how the dishes are made as you can always offer your help in the kitchen in gratitude of the housing opportunity and to get to know the city’s dishes firsthand.

If you aren’t living with a host family and in student housing, you can always turn to the locals you might befriend while studying abroad in Rome if they can host a dinner at their home as an event within your friend group. You can start the day with a tour given by locals, dinner at their home, and then a night out on the town.

If you’re up to feeling more creative and the housing you have has the right kitchen for it, try your hand at making some of Rome’s signature dishes on your own – you’ll never know how much of a great cook you are and will later appreciate your ability to bring a little bit of Rome back into your life when you return home and can recreate signature Roman dishes on your own.

studying abroad in rome, infographic,

Infographic by Kaitlin Hurtado

Put effort into developing a better understanding of Italian 

You can’t expect to go to a foreign country and hope for everyone to be able to understand and speak to you in English and if you know little-to-no Italian, your time studying abroad in Rome may be harder than you would imagine. Asking for directions and figuring out how to get to where you want and/or need to be will be much easier if you can speak or understand Italian, or things like knowing what exactly is in the food you are ordering will be done a lot more efficiently if you know more Italian.

If you are going into your study abroad experience with less knowledge of Italian than you would prefer, enroll in an Italian course during your study abroad experience. If you’re going to be spending time in class while in Rome, you might as well be studying something that will allow you to enrich your study abroad experience by helping you get a better understanding of Italian.

If you can’t manage to enroll in an Italian course, try to communicate with your fellow classmates or other locals in Italian instead of English. One of the quickest ways to learn a language is to actually practice it and relying on your knowledge of Italian and constantly practicing it in your daily conversations will enable you to get a better grasp of the foreign language in a shorter amount of time, making your study abroad experience all the easier.

Make a home away from home

Going away from home while you are in college may get you homesick – even going away for a week can be enough to make you miss nightly snuggles with your pup or hugs from your mom and dad. But studying abroad in Rome is a completely different story when you find yourself struggling to make time to call your family on Skype for a quick catch-up on the other’s daily lives. You can find yourself homesick even when you are having the time of your life studying abroad – to avoid dampening your study abroad experience with overwhelming homesickness make Rome a home away from home.

Just like you would in student housing back home, make friends with the people you meet in your housing situation as they may be feeling homesick too. Talk about home over breakfast and explore the city together – combatting homesickness with another person can help immensely when you feel less lonely in the company of another that may be sharing the same feelings as you are.

Befriend locals to give you a better sense of belonging in a foreign place. This may be befriending locals your age over common interests, allowing them to give you another view of the city through the eyes of someone that has experienced the city extensively by living there themselves. Spending hours reading tour books can help plenty, but getting a taste of Rome from the eyes of a local can give you a great experience unlike any other.

If you become at a regular at a cafe or restaurant close to your campus or housing, you may find a little bit of home in the space as you become close with the establishment’s workers and other regulars to help you establish a sense of belonging in a place far away from home.

via Pixabay

Document your time while studying abroad 

You definitely want to live in the moment while studying abroad in Rome, but you do want to keep some experiences documented in at least some type of way. If you are more of a writer, keep a private journal that you could write daily logs into, or just jot down into whenever you want to document a certain memory – a meal, museum visit, meeting a friend, etc. – for later. Daily journals will allow you to give time to yourself from a busy lifestyle that comes with studying abroad and pause for a moment of reflection and appreciation for the experience you are having – something that may be hard to do when you are trying to do as much as possible in a short time period.

Take the daily journals one step further by creating a blog to document your time studying abroad. Making a blog will also allow you to update friends and family while making your journey abroad easy to come back to when your blog has its own space on the internet. If writing isn’t exactly your favorite thing in the world – try opening an Instagram or YouTube account dedicated to documenting your study abroad experience. Make it a goal to upload daily posts – selfies with friends, landscapes, or your latest foodie trip – or compile random clips into vlogs to upload onto your YouTube account. Making a digital account of your time studying abroad in Rome makes it easier to follow for both yourself and others you may want to keep update from back home.


The thought of studying abroad in Rome may leave you nervous or excited – or a mix of both – but either way, just like all study abroad experience, will leave you with the experience of a lifetime and grant you the experience of witnessing a foreign place, culture, and history firsthand instead of on your social media feed or history books.

Whatever went into your decision of studying abroad in Rome, you will definitely want to have had done some prior research into studying abroad so that your study abroad experience will go as smoothly as possible. Regardless of the itinerary you plan to follow – make sure to follow what you want to take out of your study abroad experience to make the experience yours.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a second year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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