Going abroad presents tough choices


Double click: “Italy-Edu-Study Abroad.”

I imagined it. Sitting in a piazza surrounded by narrow cobblestone streets lined with small, outdoor cafes and cooled by a Mediterranean breeze. A dark, olive-skinned waiter leans over to take my order, as perfect Italian flows from my lips.

I am going to study abroad in Italy next spring, an adventure for which I have been waiting for the past six years. I have daydreamed this scene all through high school and GW Italian classes, which could explain my broken Italian. And here I fantasize, with only one semester left before I depart for.where? My summer project of discovering my one true Italian dreamland (and, oh yeah, school) from the seemingly endless list of choices is more difficult than I believed.

So now I am in front of my computer after midnight, after hours in the Study Abroad office reading “Peterson’s Guide to Study Abroad,” after an advising session with my Milan-native aunt, to find where I will spend la primavera.

As most of my searches begin, my first reference was Yahoo.com. It sent me to a site for the Perugia Umbra Institute, located somewhere between Rome and Florence. Skipping over academics, I clicked on “Student Life.” Wooed by the talk of excursions to Rome and Venice, I read Perugia is a “great city for walking” with “its share of inclines.” My cafe-fantasy quickly transformed into a walking nightmare. I imagined it. Sweaty and book-laden I haul myself up the Apennine Mountains to class, as Fiats whiz by on the twisted mountain roads, the word for help long forgotten.

Pushing my fears aside, I checked out the academics. Reminiscent of Colonial Inauguration, I was faced with a placement exam right there on the Web. The first few sections looked easy, my confidence building. I remembered the word for help and decided I was an Italian genius. Then I saw it: “Fill in the subjunctive or conditional tense.” There is a subjunctive tense in Italian? The word for help once again lost, I decided to wait to take the placement exam until I had a refresher course this fall.

With a swift click of the mouse I left Perugia and moved to Rome. From one capital city to another, I thought. Rome is where I wanted to be. According to goabroad.com, American University offers a program in the Eternal City. I entered its Web page and pictures of the Colosseum and ancient ruins awed me. Yet I got the “housing lottery butterflies” when I read American University had no residence halls in Rome but several “housing options.” I was relieved when I read there were apartments, and not home stays, which conjured up pictures of a new Mafia lifestyle.

The only disadvantage I found to American’s program was the 12-minute bus ride to campus. I had taken “the cheese bus” more than I would like to admit in high school. I decided there is no way I am going to travel across the ocean to do it again.

I moved on. Temple University’s Rome Web site intrigued me. As a Pennsylvanian, the in-state tuition made this program enticing from the start. And to add to its glory, glowing in black and white, the Web site boasted, “located one hour from the Mediterranean beaches.” My spine tingled at the thought. About to double click on “academics,” technology reared its ugly head and booted me off the internet.

Was it fate keeping me from finding out that students must take biochemistry in Italian? I do not know. I eventually would have found something to scare me out of the Temple program too. Yet, I remembered as a lowly high school senior, although dying to begin college, little things about every school caused me to worry. That is what happens when you leave the comfortable. Although the search is not over, I think I will apply to all three schools. Maybe one will be my Italian dream come true.

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