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A semester in Rome

By Chris Murphy
Globe Staff / January 2, 2011

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Kimberly Nihon, who has traveled to England and France and has family in Belgium, is no stranger to Northern Europe. But for her study abroad program she chose something completely different: Rome, where the food, culture, and history have always fascinated her. Nihon, a junior at Stonehill College, selected John Cabot University, where she took classes in mythology, cognitive and social psychology, and figure drawing as she worked toward a degree in psychology and sociology. All classes at the American university are taught in English except Italian language class, where the professor uses as little English as possible. On weekends, Nihon traveled to Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii, Bologna, Florence, and Venice.

IN THE KITCHEN: “We are not all housed together but placed among native Romans. My apartment is shared with three other girls and it is quite tiny. There are 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and 1 kitchen. There is no TV and no living room. Generally in Italy, the kitchen becomes the living room. It tends to be the place where everyone gathers.’’

WASH AND WEAR: “We were provided with a washing machine but no dryer. Most Romans air dry their clothes either on top of the apartment building on clothes lines or on drying racks often put out on their apartment balconies.’’

HEAD FIRST: “Generally I am not a picky eater and will try anything once. The only thing I find a tad bizarre is that with fish and shrimp and certain other seafood dishes, they tend to leave the heads of the animals on.’’

BACK TO BASICS: “The biggest challenge communicating has been everything for me. When I first came here I knew absolutely no Italian and I still don’t know very much except for the basics. It’s difficult but most of the time you can get by.’’

GREETINGS: “When saying hello it’s acceptable to use ‘ciao,’ however, if they are older you must use either ‘buongiorno’ (good day) or ‘buona sera’ (good evening). To say goodbye to someone around the same age you can also say ‘ciao’ but to say goodbye to someone older it is more socially acceptable to use ‘arrivederci.’ This bit of social etiquette reverts back to the old rule of formality and your elders.’’

YOU ARE HERE: “Occasionally traveling around can be daunting. It’s scary to not know the language and not know the area and have to find your way around. Through all of my travels I’ve found that as long as you are polite and friendly, many people will help you out if you need it, especially when trying to get directions somewhere.’’

CHRIS MURPHY