Difficult Transitions When Studing Abroad in Rome


It seems pretty obvious to say that there’re a lot of differences between Italy and the US. Going into study abroad I knew that there would be a lot of differences. I looked up manors and how to tip and all that before heading to Italy so to not put my foot in my mouth when eating out. However, looking back I didn’t find anything specific to moving to Rome for a few months. Like what kinds of things, they do differently.


On top of that, there was also transitioning to not living so close to home. Honestly, I didn’t think too much of it when I was leaving other than that I would miss my family. But there have been a number of things I’ve had to adjust to with that as well.


So on those topics, here are a few things I wasn’t expecting (even if I should have) before studying abroad in Rome.

Adjusting to Rome:

  • Walking and eating at the same time isn’t a thing
    • You can walk and eat gelato or Roman style pizza (they give it to you like a sandwich) but anything else is very odd and even rude. If I need a quick caffeine fix on my way to class I’ve figured out getting a coffee flavored gelato does the trick because it has real espresso in it so it works the same.
  • Pharmacies are NOT where to buy toiletries like CVS is
    • I made this mistake the first day and still feel like an idiot. They are CRAZY expensive and have no label on the prices so you don’t even know until you check out
  • Sweets for breakfast
    • Honestly not that bad to transition to. But when you want eggs or some kind of protein for breakfast you’ll need to make it yourself or search out an American breakfast bar
  • Heat goes off midday
    • Not an issue in warmer months but we had a really cold few weeks (even got snow!) so it’s not so fun then. This is also really only in homes. They do this because the price to heat a house all day is crazy expensive so no one can really afford it.
  • When you turn something off you’re expected to unplug it
    • This is for the same reason as the heat. It’s just too expensive to have things using power when they’re not being used
  • Literally, no one has dryers (except some American university dorms)
    • Again same reason as the last two. Everything is just hung up to dry
  • Wifi kind of really sucks
    • Not totally sure why on this one but really just everywhere it doesn’t work too well. I have a theory it’s something to do with how old the buildings are. Like the material make it had for the signal to get around or something like that.
  • You have got to trust people on Vespas because jumping to the side is more likely going to get you hit than avoid getting hit.
  • Everyone dresses so nice all the time
    • I just wanna wear a sweatshirt and leggings and not feel like a bum
  • Most places to eat have a sitting fee
    • Usually a €2-3 per person depending on the place. a lot of places will put the cost on the menu.
  • Ignoring people isn’t rude it’s the only way to not be harassed into buying a selfie stick
  • Salt and vinegar chips aren’t a thing here, same with Cheetos
    • Really just a personal issue but I do really miss them.
  • Eating or drinking (not water) in classes is actually really rude
    • If you’re going to an American university with American professors they probably won’t really care but if they’re Italian maybe ask
  • Generally, multitasking isn’t a thing
    • As someone who’s used to doing everything walking or eating or any other way of condensing everything I need to get done this was a rough one to transition to
  • Very slow walking
    • People just take their time getting where they’re going
  • Italians especially Romans dress for the season, not the weather
    • This means in winter months (Dec-Feb) you wear your winter coat every day. Not matter what. I’d recommend having a lighter coat you can wear instead of your winter one when it’s a warmer day. But I have literally seen people in parkas, scarves and hats and it’s 65 degrees out. This extreme is pretty odd though
  • You can’t do an ‘adventure trip to Europe’ type of thing every day
    • This doesnt mean you’re wasting your time, give yourself time to recharge so you don’t burn out


Adjusting to being far from home

  • Not being a 3hr drive from my parents
    • I got sick a few weeks ago and at the start of it, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a bad cold or the flu and I had this moment when I realized “oh my god. If I have the flu my parents can’t just come pick me up and take care of me or bring me soup” maybe that sounds kinda babyish but just knowing that it’s a possibility makes me feel better.
  • You miss a lot of stuff when you’re always so long
    • Good and bad stuff happens and it’s tough to miss out on big moments for friends or family but the best to help with this I found is to make sure you make time to facetime your family and freinds regularly.


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