Author – Thomas Day
This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Rome, Italy. My study abroad experience was not only a study opportunity to learn the Italian language and culture, but I also interned at an Italian Think Tank, Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale (CeSPI).
On a normal day, I would wake up at my dormitory at 8 am and meet my friends in the lobby to start walking to class. On our commute to class, we walked past the Vatican, which was a mere 5-minute walk away from our dorm, and then went to a cafe where we would order cornettos and cappuccinos. For the rest of the morning, we would attend an Italian class. I found this class to be extremely practical because the instructor knew many of us had no background in Italian and knew that we were only in Italy for the summer, so our professor prioritized learning phrases we would use daily. She also would take us on field trips to cafes and popular squares to speak to Italians on the street. I found this to be extremely useful, and I felt comfortable asking for help, ordering meals, and having basic conversations in Italian by the end of the summer.
After Italian class, I would go to my internship at CeSPI, which was right next to the Roman Forum and a 5-minute walk away from the Colosseum. CeSPI is well-known in Italy for being a leader in migration research and for being one of four Think Tanks that informs the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. One of my jobs at CEPSI over the course of the summer was to write a policy recommendation on an issue that intersected with migration. For me, it was easy to decide the perspective I wanted to intersect was climate change, which has defined most of my undergraduate research at Indiana University. My topic ended up being on Improving Migrant Resilience in the Face of Vulnerabilities Amplified by Climate Change in Italy. I chose this topic because daily, I would interact with migrants on the streets of Rome, where their vulnerabilities are very apparent. Migrants are more likely to have low-income jobs where exploitation is common, insufficient housing, and little access to healthcare. Additionally, migrants in Rome make up a significant percentage of the homeless population and often find sanctuary at places such as the Vatican. My research over the summer focused on how climate change exacerbates current migrant problems and how they will only get more severe as temperatures and climate impacts worsen. For me, this topic was fascinating to research because the subject of the research felt present and so I felt incredibly pressured to ensure my policy recommendations were supported by the research and were viable options to be implemented by the Italian government.
When I wasn’t in class or at work, I was with an amazing group of new friends that I made during my study abroad. We went to museums, ate at popular restaurants, and explored the side streets of the eternal city. Because everyone came from different academic backgrounds and interests, I felt like I was constantly learning and trying new things.
On the weekends, we traveled around Italy either by night bus or train. Some of the main sights included Venice, the rolling hills of vineyards in Tuscany, the beautiful Amalfi Coast, and the history of Pompeii. My favorite moments of the summer were deep conversations with friends under the columns of the Vatican, hikes to the Neolithic caves outside of Matera, and looking at the Milky Way in the heart of the Italian countryside.
The summer was packed to the brim with learning opportunities and memories, both from the academic and social sides. I am so grateful for this experience and to the people involved. I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I would like to thank the Tobias Center for Innovation in International Development for supporting my study abroad this summer and for their continued support throughout my undergraduate career!