By Skye Day ’24, architecture student

As a former military child, I have moved around a lot and have lived in vastly different places. So, when the opportunity arose to study architecture abroad for a semester in Rome, Italy, I was eager to accept. However, this experience has been so much more than I could have ever imagined. Having never been out of the country before, I was extremely anxious about living on another continent for four months by myself, but these fears were quickly alleviated when I arrived in Italy. Studying in Rome as part of my education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been such a wonderful opportunity since it contains thousands of years of ancient history, both socially and architecturally. I’ve learned about how architecture can define and rule an entire culture or society through different styles, shapes, and defined uses.

Since the University of Arkansas Rome Center, which hosts RPI’s program, strives to give each student the opportunity to have a well-rounded experience in Italy, I’ve been lucky enough to take trips to Cinque Terre, Pisa, and the island of Sicily. In Cinque Terre or the “Five Lands,” I was able to hike between the five distinct towns as well as swim out to see the Christ of the Abyss statue in San Fruttuoso.

Seeing the leaning tower of Pisa was rewarding as well since our tour guide taught us about the engineering behind the construction of the tower and the town. Over the fall break, my peers and I were able to tour the island of Sicily. The main towns we visited were Palermo, Ragusa Ibla, and Siracusa. We were able to see many different aspects of each town and experience them, including trying the famous Sicilian arancini and visiting beautiful churches and ancient temple ruins.

One of the parts of living in Rome I am enjoying most is my day-to-day interactions with others. For example, a mechanic shop next door to my apartment has two shop dogs, Eros and Brenda, and seeing them as I come and go from my apartment is my absolute favorite part of each day.

I’ve made friends with several small business and restaurant owners who help me with my Italian and I help them with their English. We may come from different cultures, but we are able to bond over small things like food, the weather, the neighborhood cat, etc. By fostering these relationships, I have been able to enjoy Italian goods, such as handmade glass sculptures, genuine leather items, homemade pasta, fresh mozzarella, and more.

Although I want to spend every euro I have on the trinkets I see visiting different cities and have to hold myself back from having two to three cups of gelato each day, getting to experience Italian culture firsthand is truly a surreal and once-in-a-lifetime experience. Though I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss certain aspects of home, including my family and Chick-fil-A!