A reminder: by Erica

My dearest Rome,

 

I have lived within you for about 6 months now. You’ve seen my first love letter to you way back in August 2018 https://seekingericafarandnear.com/2018/08/16/the-journey-begins/ , so I want to pontificate (pun intended and all the Vatican stuff) on your other virtues and vices.

Thank you.

Thank you for being unapologetically yourself.

I don’t love all of your garbage and trash that needs to be picked up. I don’t love your endless lines in Coin or even Simply for groceries (there are 3 other people working besides the one cashier, can’t they also help check out?). I don’t love when I give the supermarket cashier a 20 and he/she asks me for more exact change (no I don’t have 2 euros, and even if I did, I want to “break” my 20!).

But I do love you, Roma.

Thanks for the days when I can do this (picture) and rest my hand on all the imperfections of the colosseum and say to myself, “You did this, so can I.”

Love,

Erica

Sciopero… again

Today is another 24-hour mass transit sciopero, or strike, in Roma. It’s at least the third since I’ve been here, and the stated reason is the “health and safety” of workers. As the “24-hour” hour nature of the strike denotes, it seems in Italy they don’t strike “until…” they get what they want, but they strike for a set period of time to show their dissatisfaction.

This all means that I’m walking 6.1 kilometers, or 3.8 miles, to work right now. Given the hour + it will take, I thought I’d write a blog while I’m walking.

Im not very good with directions, so unless I physically go from point A to point B, I can’t imagine the orientation of things and places. I’ve often wondered how to physically walk from where I live near San Giovanni to the Vatican, for example, because I always take the metro. I guess I’m going to find out today because where I work is near the Vatican!

I’m not necessarily complaining, although it is quite inconvenient. But what other city in the world would I rather be “forced” to walk through? None. Zero. I choose this city. After all, I’m walking head-on to the Colosseum 😍 right now. What a commute!

Never enough pictures of this place!

Oh, I just passed a big American tourist group!

I work from 10:30 to 7:30 today. I have a few 1.5-hour breaks, which wouldn’t be enough time to be worth it to go home and back even if the metro was working as normal.

I just passed the Arch of Constantine!

Anyway, my students are in groups of only 2-3 or private lessons, so I don’t teach classrooms of school kids like I did in Reggio Calabria. It’s a change, and obviously there are pluses and minuses to both.

Part of the Roman forum and Altare della Patria/Altar of the Fatherland/Vittorio Emanuele Monument!

Back to the post. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I don’t feel especially passionate or “called” to be an English teacher. It’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it gives me a way to live abroad, which I obviously love, and make money. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, and I’ve had quite a rocky path since law school, but hopefully that path is leveling out now. But that’s for another post (or posts).

Another picture of Vittorio Emanuele from Piazza Venezia!

Okay, I’m going to have to pick up my pace a little bit. Thanks for accompanying me on part of my way to work during sciopero!

Erica

Walking in Rome

I took a late afternoon/early evening walk around Rome on Sunday as I sometimes do. Here are just a few pictures from my walk… and more evidence for my theory that it is nearly impossible to take a “bad” picture of the Colosseum.

Erica

P.S. I want to start blogging more regularly. I still have to finish my Krakow posts and my Istanbul posts. Once I get those done, I want to chronicle more of my everyday life here. Here’s to my New Year’s resolution to start blogging more regularly!

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My “neighborhood church.” This is less than a 5-minute walk from my apartment (and please don’t think this is bragging – I think this is “so cool!”) – See below from Wikipedia

The large Latin inscription on the façade reads: Clemens XII Pont Max Anno V Christo Salvatori In Hon SS Ioan Bapt et Evang. This abbreviated inscription translates to: “Pope Clement XII, in the fifth year [of his Pontificate, dedicated this building] to Christ the Savior, in honor of Saints John the Baptist and [John] the Evangelist”. The inscription indicates, with its full title, that the archbasilica was originally dedicated to Christ the Savior and, centuries later, co-dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. As the Cathedral of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, it ranks superior to all other churches of the Roman Catholic Church, including St. Peter’s Basilica. (the bold is added by me). As a Catholic girl who went through Catholic schools kindergarten-senior year, it still awes me.

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This is an “opposite” picture. I was waiting near the Trevi Fountain, and I was talking to my dad on Skype messenger. He said, “I can’t believe how many historic sights you have within a walking distance.” So after my dad messaged me, I took a picture of the Trevi Fountain of the people taking pictures. So lucky! (I don’t even like the Trevi Fountain!)

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Piazza Venezia during Christmas

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N.B. These are bad pictures (because I’m not a photographer) with lots of glare, but still the Colosseum looks beautiful

Rain in Spain – or Rome… & Poland!

I am the last person in the world who likes to discuss weather or watch the weather channel. I know many people are fascinated with weather, but I have never found it the least bit interesting. I know what time of year it is, so I assume a range of temperatures, and go with it. This has sometimes been to my detriment, specifically when it rains.

It has rained on and off (mostly on) for the past 2+ weeks in Rome. I don’t remember experiencing a time when the rain has been this consistent for so long. It’s not always pouring, but the skies are almost always gray, and it’s hard to remember a time in the last few weeks when an hour or more has gone by without some kind of drizzle. Even native Romans say that don’t remember a time like this.

The amount of sunlight has always impacted my”mood,” not because of one or two days, but the season as a whole. I have always been generally much happier in summer when the days are longer, while winters usually bring me a tangible feeling of despondency and heaviness. So a combination of ever-shortening days, almost no sun during the day, and the time change may have combined for a not-so-great mix for me.

BUT the last few days have been markedly better in Rome!

Maybe because of this, I wanted to write a quick update.

Teaching has been going well (I know that doesn’t really tell you anything), and I’m slowly getting more students and more hours.

My graduate school essay(s) have ground to a halt. I “over-thought” myself, and I have no idea whatsoever how I’m going to incorporate what I need to say in a short essay – the gaps in my resume, the “non-career-related” jobs I’ve had intermittently, why I’m ready for grad school now, to mention a few. But perhaps that’s for another time.

Which brings me to my most exciting news. Part of the reason I love living in Europe is the ease, price, and shortened (for Americans) duration of travel between cultures (a few-hour flight from Italy to Germany, anyone? 😉). And now that I’m near a hub airport, it’s even easier. So next week I’m taking my first long weekend and going to Poland! I’ve never been to Poland or that far east on the European continent – the furthest I’ve been is Berlin/Vienna/Prague.

Specifically I’m going to Krakow. Every “trip” I take is deeply meaningful to me, but this is different to me in a few ways (yes I know life isn’t all about me and “Oh the Places [I’ll] Go,” but I can only write from my experience.

Apologies for another post that could have been 2 paragraphs that has turned into 9. I need to work on that.

Erica

Almost 2 weeks as a (sort of) ROMAN!

It still blows my mind I can say (kind of) that I’m a Roman – at least that I live here. I hope I never wake up from the wonderful dream that Rome is to me. I mean, I can walk to the COLOSSEUM in about 15 minutes. I can get to the pope’s house in less than 30 minutes using public transportation (okay, by that I mean the Vatican).

I’ve accomplished a lot in the days since I arrived, which I’ll explain in upcoming posts. Right now my focus is going to be on writing my graduate school personal statement because many of the schools are starting to open for applicants around this time.

I’ll keep you updated, but for now, ciao!

Erica

Interviews, Thinking Ahead, & LSE

I’ve had two interviews so far (1 per day since I’ve been here), and I have another at 5 p.m. tonight. The first two interviews went well, but as with most things in Italy, the timing is a little less certain. Both of the places I interviewed are interested in giving me a job, but because most schools in Italy don’t start until early to mid-October, they don’t know what their numbers will look like in classes yet. To add to that, often students don’t sign up for private English classes until a few weeks into the school year. Like I said, I have another interview tonight, and then one on Monday and one on Tuesday next week. Hopefully one of those schools will have something to offer. I can also work for a few schools and cobble together a full schedule if the schools I met with already come back with hours that do not add up to full time. Hurry up and wait!

If I get a job here, I’m going to have to enroll in a school (usually an Italian language school) so that I can obtain a student visa when I return to the U.S. in December. I’m here on a tourist visa, which you automatically get upon arrival, and which is good for 90 days. Technically you’re not supposed to work on a tourist visa, but most schools, especially in Rome, don’t “worry” about that part of the law. I, however, am a bit paranoid about working with the correct papers, so if I do get a job, I’ll obtain a student visa in December when I come home. I already have an appointment at the Italian consulate in Chicago because they book months out. I’ve done the student visa route two other times, so I  know what to expect.

In lieu of an Italian school if I get a job, I have also applied to audit international relations classes at the American University in Rome. I ultimately want to go to graduate school for international relations at the London School of Economics. I applied last year in late March, and they have rolling applications so by the time I applied, there were very few spots remaining, and I did not get in. This year, I want to apply as soon as possible, and the applications open on Monday, October

I will look into other schools because I know that applying to one school, and one of the best in the world that doesn’t accept many students, is putting all my eggs in one basket. But I’ve researched a lot of the American schools, and almost all of them (I can’t think of one that this isn’t the case), take 2 years (LSE is 1 year), and require a foreign language component. Now, I wish I had an “ear for languages,” I really do. It’s one of my biggest faults as someone who loves to travel that I do not (I’m going to write a post in the near future called “Confessions of an Imperfect Traveler,” and that is one of the reasons). I have a lot of guilt that I find foreign languages so difficult because I want to show the people of whatever country I am in, that I am open to their culture, way of life and values, and speaking at least some of the language is one of the “easiest” ways to do this. But I struggle so mightily with this, and speaking English as my native language makes it even “easier” to get away with. For example, in Reggio Calabria, it took me 2.5 tries to pass the first 1-month introduction to Italian class. I guess what I’m trying to get at is I know my strengths, and foreign languages are definitely not one of them. It would be hard for me to justify to myself taking a language for the mere fact that it’s part of the curriculum. I’m trying to justify this to myself, so I’ll stop now.

Anyway, I need to write a personal essay for LSE that explains why I want to pursue a master’s degree in the international relations field, how my background has prepared me to be a good candidate, etc. I’m really at a loss for what to write because I did my absolute best on my essay last year, and I don’t know what I can write differently to make me a stronger candidate. Even though this year I’ll be applying early, I think it would appear lazy to just send in the same thing, even though I did my absolute best on my essay last year. I’m going to include the essay below, and if anyone has ANY ideas what I could possibly write differently or more persuasively, I would LOVE to hear the ideas, because I am at an absolute loss. Thanks in advance for ANY ideas or advice you might have.

Erica

LSE essay from my application earlier this year:

As soon as I was given my first assignment as an intern in London in 2008 at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which was covering a  war crimes trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, I put on the headphones to watch the live streaming court video and was plunged into convoluted disputes over military chains of command and technical clashes over communications intercepts.  I spent my first week of the internship pouring over indictments and background documents on the seven defendants, brushing up on the history of the conflict, and wading through the backlog of information an 18-month trial will create. Throughout the four months of the internship, I was able to explore the delicate interaction between nations and aspects of international law. I ventured to a London suburb to profile Zimbabwean exiles in a constitutional fight to get their expatriate votes counted in a contentious presidential election, and I wrote pieces analyzing United States policies towards the International Criminal Court and international justice in general. Now with the benefit of hindsight, I see how this and a myriad of other experiences unwittingly prepared me to excel in a career in international relations.

I have longed to see the world with my own eyes for as long as I can remember, and this inspired me to visit Australia and New Zealand at the age of 12, not with my family, but instead as a “student ambassador” with a program called People to People. The program originated under U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 when he defined an international vision for People to People that sought diplomatic alternatives to the recent wars of the 20th century, which he had witnessed firsthand. This emphasized “personal diplomacy” through contacts between non-governmental citizens of different nations. I applied and interviewed for a spot in the program and, when admitted, attended monthly meetings. During these sessions, I, along with the other accepted students, studied the history, politics and culture of Australia and New Zealand as well as brushed up on our own country’s history so that we would be informed and positive representatives of our nation. The three-week trip, then,  was more of an educational and cultural immersion than a typical sightseeing vacation. This type of travel would provide a template for my explorations of the world thereafter. Half the “fun” in traveling is how I prepare for my trips by pouring over guidebooks where I highlight and underline important historical and cultural information about the destination. For me to fully enjoy and put into perspective the Colosseum, for example, I need to know its storied history and the history of the place and the people who created it.

It was on the trip with People to People on an island off the coast of Australia where I first identified a metaphor for my “need” to see the world. I was lying on a grassy hill staring at the stars, and instead of seeing the familiar Big Dipper constellation, I was gazing at the Southern Cross. I realized that though I was staring at the same sky I did at home in the Northern Hemisphere, the change in my location and perception gave me the opportunity to see an entirely different part of the heavens. Likewise, any number people can look at the same issue and interpret completely different realities depending on their vantage point. For me, to travel and immerse myself in cultures that seem “alien” to that in which I grew up is to break down barriers and see the vast similarities all around the world while also celebrating and acknowledging the many differences. Since that night on a grassy hill off the coast of Australia, I have visited more than 25 countries, and this has honed my ability to adapt to new situations and ideas, find creative solutions when challenges inevitably arise, and interact with people from all types of backgrounds.

My desire and aptitude to study international relations doesn’t end with my unrelenting urge to travel. From a young age, current events, politics and history fascinated me. At age 8, while most kids were watching cartoons, I devoured news and my favorite show, the investigative current events program, 60 Minutes. Even then, when I discovered a topic that interested me, I would pull down the relevant volume from my parents’ set of World Book encyclopedias and pour over the entries. For example, my interest in the Middle East, particularly since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, resulted in still dog-eared pages of encyclopedia volumes such as “I” (Israel), and “P” (Palestine), because of the number of times I read and referenced them.

As my undergraduate degree in journalism suggests, I had first imagined that my “mark in the world” would come via the glossy pages of a magazine or on the crisp paper stock of a book. Then, I thought my place would be in a courtroom debating the nuances of laws. And while I gained invaluable experience and knowledge in both degrees, something was missing. Nothing could quiet the restlessness that I had inside of me my entire life: wanderlust. Thus after law school I spent a few years traveling the world, specifically throughout Europe and the Middle East, dabbling in part-time jobs to earn money Stateside in between travels. Still not sure in which direction my life would go, in 2015 I moved to Italy to teach English. This second experience of living abroad solidified my desire to pursue an education in international relations because even though Italy is a developed, westernized nation like the U.S., I was still able to view the world through a different prism.  That is, my diverse mix of education and experiences drove me to thoroughly evaluate different career tracks and occupational fields before I finally obtained a firm understanding of my personal passions that resulted in my decision to further my education in international affairs.  With this goal in mind, I returned to the United States, and I interned in the U.S. Congress to gain exposure to the political world. Following the internship, I moved back to my hometown to apply to graduate schools, and I found a job working part-time at a Motel 6 as a Guest Services Representative. While this job may not directly relate to my desired future career path, I try to find value that I can apply to future jobs in interacting with the varied clientele whether the guests are from China or if they come from two towns over.

My education and background in journalism and law has prepared me to excel in the international relations field. Journalism school enhanced my ability to clearly communicate information and ask questions as well as to carefully comprehend new information and the diverse thoughts of others. Additionally, my three years in law school further refined my ability to present diverse and complex topics in a clear and simplified manner as well as critically consider and analyze multiple sides of an issue. The coursework necessitated that I often work independently and manage my time and study responsibilities on my own. The very nature of a legal education requires extensive reading and examination of often controversial and in-depth material, and it presupposes that the reader will challenge even conventional assumptions. Both journalism and law have given me opportunities to engage in critical thinking through a type of learning that reinforced my natural inclination to ask questions, especially when those questions do not have concrete or obvious solutions.

The London School of Economics’ International Relations Master of Science program exactly tracks what will prepare me for a career in international relations. The coursework suggests a practical and relevant approach to international affairs rather than a study of lofty, abstract ideas and theories that do not translate to practical application in the real world. Coming from a legal background, I appreciate the encouragement at LSE to question and debate ideas with people from a vast array of backgrounds and ideologies. Moreover, the variety of elective courses available will allow me to focus on my specific interests in the Middle East and conflict and peace-making while obtaining the necessary grounding in international affairs through the foundational International Politics class. The location of LSE in such a diverse “city of the world” undoubtedly leads to a pragmatic interchange of ideas between the school and the outside world, which will make my studies practical and relevant beyond the classroom.  Having studied, lived and interned in London, I cannot imagine a better “living laboratory” to further my education and propel me to an international relations career.

As with my first assignment at IWPR in an internship in London, my skills, experiences and strengths – a love of politics and current events, an eagerness to learn, passion for travel, and the ability to work independently as well as a member of a group – will make me a valuable contributor to the LSE community.

 

“When in Rome…”

Ciao!

I’m sorry for the title to this post, I know it’s one of the biggest cliches in the English language, but it was too irresistible to pass up! I’ll try to be more creative in the future.

Just a reminder that I would love for you to sign up to get email updates of my blog. You can do that by the “Subscribe” or “Follow” button on the right side of the page if you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop, and if you’re using a phone, scroll all the way down to the bottom and enter your email into the “Subscribe” or “Follow” box. Whether you see “Subscribe” or “Follow” will depend on if you have a WordPress account, but it accomplishes the same thing.

Anyway, I’m finally in my apartment shared with two other girls in Rome. One is from Denmark is “studying abroad” for her political science master’s degree and is here until January, and the other woman is also the landlord. She is Italian (actually Calabrian, but at the northern border), and she works at a travel agency.

To get the details “out of the way:” My flights were mostly good – I’m lucky I slept through much of both! – but my second flight from London to Rome was 15-30 minutes delayed. Not bad.

It’s a little past 8 a.m. here, and I forced myself to get up at around 6:30 so I can quickly acclimate to the time change of seven hours.

I have an interview at 3 p.m. today, and I hope to get unpacked and organized in the morning. I’m planning on walking around my area to explore what’s around me. I’m very near to the center of Rome, and I really love the area from my previous time here. And I. Need. Coffee.

This was a bit of a short “catch up” post. I hope to make the blog more about my unique experiences, perceptions, anecdotes, and more in the future! I definitely don’t want this blog to evolve into a sterile account of, “Today I did this, and then I did this, and I saw this, and then I went to bed.” I am lucky/privileged/blessed to have visited Rome so many times, and I feel so comfortable here, I am very much looking forward to jumping into being a Roman as much as possible. I’m still, and probably always will be, in awe at this city, its history, past, culture, and meaning to western civilization. That I am a resident here – even if it’s temporary – is something I still cannot wrap my mind around. How fortunate I am to be able to sacrilegiously worship at the altar that is my Rome every day.

Erica