Erasmus has always been something I looked forward to doing - the foreign country, the independence of living alone, and general cultural diversity being the main factors which attracted me. There are many aspects to Erasmus life, and the clichés associated therewith often tend to be true. We do have to get by on a teeny budget, at least if we stick to what is given to us as by the EU via our government. Rome is expensive so my grant doesn’t even cover my accommodation - let alone utilities, travel, food and, last but certainly not least, drink.
However, as a student one learns to be resourceful, and since in Italy knowledge of the English language seems to get you places, I was lucky enough to find a very casual and enjoyable teaching job. The money isn’t great but it’s been an interesting way of meeting locals other than the students at my university. I’ve also managed to get an internship which allows me to get a more hands-on approach in my field of study, law.
Since I’m studying and living in Italy, I’ve tried to develop an interest in the society around me, a task I’ve succeeded in mostly thanks to the newspapers conveniently scattered around the metros and buses. The media has been inundated with reports on the numerous protests and strikes in Italy what with the Alitalia situation, the public transport and education disputes being on the lips and television screens of all the locals.
The protests and demonstrations do puzzle me a little. Its not that I don’t think they’re healthy, its probably just because I’m only used to two kinds of protests in Malta - those regarding hunting, and those against immigration. The strikes are definitely annoying as a non-car owner here, but just like everything else, one gets used to such happenings.
One does acquire a certain knowledge regarding student life in Rome, and as the sayings go, ‘knowledge is power’ and ‘its always nice to share’. First, be ready to have an almost one-to-one lecture with your ageing professor when there’s some form of strike going on. Second, don't ever use the word 'definitely' when making plans requiring public transportation. Third, inform your seven-year-old nephew that the people he might see chanting and marching in the street when he visits you are friendly and that they do not, in fact, want to hurt him.
But I’m not complaining, or at least I shouldn’t be. I have another three months of Rome to go and am dead set on making the most of them before having to fly back to good old Malta. Even the more mundane parts of daily life seem to have more colour in Rome - waiting thirty minutes for the night bus comes complete with a full view of Il Vittoriano with the Colosseum nicely lit up in the background. 15 February 2009- I loathe you already.
Catch our next rendez-vous on 5 December with a Madrilenyo in Grenoble - part four in our six-part Erasmus series