I arrived to Rome, Italy of January 13th with majority of the University of Illinois students who are on the same program as me. We traveled in a group, so this made the flight more enjoyable and stress-free. This was my first time traveling to Europe, so I initially did not know what to expect. The flight was extremely long, but seeing familiar faces along the way was very comforting. As a group, we arrived and were dropped off at our different apartments.
My first experience in Rome was ordering at a restaurant called Sette Oche. The initial language barrier was a little frightening at first. I did not know any Italian, so communicating with the waiter was not easy. Even when I asked a simple question, “What is a popular item on the menu?”, I was surprised to learn that trying to speak in English would not get me very far. Secondly, we experienced some cultural shock when we received the bill. Restaurants in Rome charge a sitting fee as well as a water fee but they do not tip. This was a little confusing. The smell of the restaurants carried down the street. The food smells so amazing, and I felt like I could taste the freshness on the tip of my tongue.
Now with being a month into my program, this process that was once chaotic is now very easy. After our first overwhelming day in Rome, it was nice to get in a routine with orientation and classes starting. I remember feeling excited to start taking Italian classes so I can try to communicate with locals at restaurants, cafes, etc.