Blogging From Rome

The Life of an Undergraduate Student

Approximately 30 Catholic Studies students each semester go to Rome to study at the Angelicum and live in community in St. Thomas’ Bernardi Residence. Since Fall 2005, one or two undergraduate students have volunteered to blog about their Rome experience. Katie Lahti, a senior majoring in business leadership and management and business communication and minoring in Catholic Studies, offered her insights during spring semester 2009. Here is an excerpt taken directly from her May 23 blog entry, “A Day in the Life.”

For every day that passes, it gets harder and harder to think about writing a blog. Actually, this update has taken me over a week from start to finish. How do you put a day in the life of an American study abroad student in Rome into a few paragraphs? Especially when every week is full of new adventures completely unlike the ones before! I can attempt to work backwards and recap the graces of this experience, but like Easter, words cannot begin to do it justice. This time around, I’m going to illustrate a day (or a week) in the life of a Spring ’09er at Bernardi.

When the morning comes, I wake up and head downstairs to the chapel or to the surprisingly noisy basement dining room for a cup of coffee, some Special K and choco-flakes cereal, and the choice fruit of the day. I don’t know if it is the Bernardi dining room or the Spring ’09 clan, but there seems to be a lot of laughing and storytelling in the early morning! Over breakfast, consider the time and decide the route to school: walk the 40 minutes or find a bus on the way. Off to class! Most likely, you choose option one. You will find yourself walking past the Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Gregorian University and finally the Angelicum. The “Ang” is our final destination, on the top of a short but steep hill. The feeling of achievement after reaching the top of the hill hasn’t faded yet — walking through the doors to the open-aired courtyard is just as exciting now as it was on day one back in February!

Time for class. At break time, grab a quick cappuccino at the bar and use the remainder of your 15-minute break for chatting and socializing in the courtyard with classmates. If it’s Monday or Tuesday, you’ll have time to grab a panino, pasta or pizza for lunch and rest in the Ang garden. The other days of the week are a bit more open. You’ll have time to check out another must-see destination, catch up on homework, picnic in the park or, even better, relax on the Bernardi terrace.

Back home, Wednesday was hump day. Here, Wednesday is community day! The day is generally free – some of us cut vegetables for the Missionaries of Charity, some of us work in the garden and build furniture for the Little Sisters of the Lamb and others attend the papal audience. Often, a few people will initiate a game of Ultimate Frisbee, football (or futbol) in Villa Borghese park.

No matter the events of the week, the peak of the week is, without fail, Wednesday’s community night: 5:30 adoration, 6:30 mass, 7:30 discussion, 8:15 dinner. We all gather, 32 students, 6 members of the chaplaincy and a handful of guests for a formal night of prayer, bonding and good eats! It is our time of the week together as a full community — something truly unique to the study abroad experience.

As the week comes to a close, whether Thursday or Saturday, off you go! Tour the city or take a day trip to the coast. Find a new Italian destination or maybe even a transcontinental cheap flight! Two weeks ago, I took a glorious pilgrimage to Padua and Venice — two very different places but gorgeous in their own right. Padua was perfectly peaceful and full of devotions to St. Anthony of Padua. We woke up to the quiet rustle of people, attended mass in the Basilica of St. Anthony, meandered through the markets and visited the famous Scrovegni Chapel with Giotto’s wall frescoes. It was a refreshing oasis.

We then took a quick train trip and a riverboat “bus” to our apartment in Venice. The city is like nothing you have ever seen before! It’s a maze of side streets and mini-bridges connecting the major ports to the tourist destinations. We quickly located the famous San Marco – it is a giant piazza with an unmistakably gorgeous basilica. Apparently the rest of the population had the same instincts we did. Venice is a widely known tourist destination. The only native Italians I saw were the polo-wearing sun-tanned river taxi drivers and the gondola rowers. Last weekend, I enjoyed the less popular sights of Rome. In the lush Vatican Gardens and the huge park on the Janiculum hill, I was participating in the weekend life of a Roman. Now, I am on a nice Eurostar train to Milan, en route to the beautiful Lake Como on the border of Switzerland. I have been blessed!

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