How Rome Made Me Ready for Study Abroad at Oxford

Roman history

What can Studying in Rome Teach you about Studying Abroad?

On a whim, I entered an essay contest in my final year of college to study history at Oxford—and I won. Initially, I thought having a study abroad at Oxford on my resume would open doors for me upon graduation. While it surely didn’t hurt, the doors it opened were not necessarily career-oriented. That solo trip to Europe ignited a fire in my belly—a passion for travel that still burns. It all began with a week of studying history in Rome.

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How did I apply for the Study Abroad Program at Oxford University?

When I was a junior at Columbus State University in Georgia, I applied for a Spencer Scholarship to stude history and architecture. Soon after, my husband Steven got reassigned to Colorado Springs, so I applied to the University of Colorado and was awarded the scholarship there. The Spencer family and the University of California at Berkeley sponsored the scholarship. In my term paper, I discussed how the UK uses video surveillance software much more extensively than the United States. I also pointed out that this technology doesn’t guarantee our safety and isn’t as popular here. However, I argued that it’s likely to become more common in the US because our Constitution doesn’t guarantee privacy as a fundamental right.

How a Week in Rome Made Me Ready for My Study Abroad at Oxford.

Discovering a Passion for Travel

Studying in Rome was an incredible opportunity, especially for me as an architecture student. The city is a living museum, filled with buildings from various historical periods, which really helped me understand how architecture has evolved and the factors influencing those changes. This experience also sharpened my ability to observe details which helped me in class.

I found a passion for travel and a real need to test the boundaries of my comfort zone. The award paid for my tuition, roundtrip, lodging, and food while I got to study history at Oxford in Rome. I had no idea I’d be studying History & Architecture in Rome one day. And neither did anyone else.

But my family all made it work. My husband couldn’t watch the kids, so my mom moved down to help out. And my husband put a plan together for me to have a modest Grand Tour of Europe beginning in Rome.

Bumped Off My Flight

When I left Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport it was 93˚. When I landed at London’s Heathrow Airport it was a chilly 59˚. But London was not my final destination. My study abroad at Oxford didn’t start for a week. So I was taking this opportunity to visit the top city on my bucket list. Rome. I had the chance to study at Oxford University, and this trip to Rome was a perfect prelude to my academic journey. Luckily, my connection to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport was overbooked. I had no one waiting for me in Rome. So I gave up my seat for 250£ or $400 and a later flight. I knew I’d be able to use that extra cash later on.

Robbed on the Bus

I had never been to England, but I heard the temperature could really fluctuate. So I brought everything I thought I would need. I was seriously overpacked. My mom helped me pack. I had two large suitcases, a backpack, and a rolling weekender. I got to meet the local color as soon as I arrived, on a packed bus no less.

Fifteen minutes into the trip to my hotel, I thought I was being scolded. An old man in khaki shorts, black socks, and sandals yelled at me. I had no idea what he was screaming about until he pushed three teenagers off the bus at the next stop.

He gently touched my shoulder, smiled, and pointed to my feet. In all their shining glory were at least two dollars in American coins. Those girls had unzipped purses. Oh my God. I hadn’t even started my study abroad at Oxford yet. Nothing screams you’re a tourist like being robbed 30 minutes into your trip.

Traveling Cheap

I’m Not the Hostel Kinda Gal

It took two transfers and a long walk uphill to reach what I thought was a budget hotel. I was shocked to see the small sign over the arched doorway that read the hostel in bright red letters. The lobby was tiny, more like a large foyer, But I was happy to see it was staffed. The woman at the desk turned the radio down and smiled; Stacey Peters, she said in such a thick, almost undistinguishable Italian accent. She said her name was Daria. She hugged me, kissing me lightly on each cheek.

A Hostel Too Far from the Action

“She handed me a padlock and key and directed me to #5, a closet-like room with shared access to a bathroom. I’ve never seen a room locked with a padlock on the outside and a deadbolt on the inside. However, the room was clean. And that’s about all I can say about that room. Except there was a pretty little vase on the side table. It had tiny rosebuds and delicate lattice-like etching that formed the base.

I heaved my bags into the only empty corner and sat on the edge of the bed for a closer look. Surprise, surprise, it was glued to the tabletop. I scanned the room for a phone. No phone. After a quick bathroom tour and meeting some of my fellow hostel mates, who were also on their study abroad journey to Oxford, I had seen enough. I decided to use that 250£ I got from British Airlines to upgrade my hotels.”

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Searching for a Hotel Room with a Phone

After shooting off a quick email to my husband, I spent most of the night on the computer in the lobby. I was booking a hotel closer to the city center, with air conditioning, my own bathroom, and a phone. Something I thought up to that point would have been a given. It was only my first day, and I was learning I had a lot to learn.

That was my only experience with a hostel. I didn’t sleep very well that night because I was beyond my comfort zone, which was ok. However, I might have felt differently if I had been a traditional college student in my early 20s. First thing in the morning, I called a taxi.

My New Hotel Overlooking the Forum

My new hotel near the Plaza Venezia was a considerable step up on the European scale. It was an actual hotel with a real lobby. It’s a room I could walk around on three sides of the bed: a working air conditioning, a bathroom, and a phone. In addition, there was a business center with several computers and a rooftop terrace with a spectacular view of the Coliseum, the Victor Emmanuel monument, and bits and pieces of the Roman Forum.

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An Education on Roman ATMs

The first thing I did was try to call my husband back in Colorado, quickly finding out I needed a phone card. I grabbed my city guide. I dropped off the 5-pound key at the front desk and stepped out the double glass doors into history to buy one.

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