1.Holding a “real world job”
Interning for the Food and Agriculture Organization is night and day different from most student-worker jobs on campus. You are given projects at the beginning of the week (or month) with very little guidance, higher expectations than you are use to and may not see your supervisor again for days. Learn to be independent. Don’t rely on your supervisor to tell you how to do every detail. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion or just run with it!
Make friends with other interns and consultants. This is a must! Talk to them about where they are from, enjoy being able to hear about their culture and experiences before coming to FAO. Having them to explore Rome with at night and on the weekends or just having a group to eat lunch with everyday really helps when you’re trying to survive a long day/week.
2.Adjusting to life in Rome
Being from a small town, moving to Rome was a bit of a culture shock the first week here. However, you will find that this is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Live away from the tourist attractions. Immerse yourself in the “true Roman culture”.
Learn basic Italian BEFORE coming to Italy. I was told this before coming, but didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. It’s nice now being able to order a slice of pizza, telling the person behind the counter that you will eat it now, but want to take it with you (trust me this gets confusing if you can’t understand them and they can’t understand you).
Coffee: First things first, do NOT order a cappuccino after lunchtime. You will definitely get the “you’re from the U.S. look” that you have been trying so hard to avoid. Second, café does NOT translate to coffee in English, it is an espresso. Third, always accept a coffee break invitation. Networking is why you are here and doing it over coffee is the most common way.
Gelato: Stay away from the touristy areas (this goes for just about any food or coffee). Research, find the ones that actual Romans love to go to. Try different flavors, even the crazy ones!
3. Being a Tourist
There is so much history here that you could spend months just visiting all the museums, piazzas and historical landmarks. Walk around during the weekends and at night. You’ll be surprised at how beautiful places like the Trevi Fountain are at night.
Go to more than just the normal tourist destinations. Take a Sunday morning stroll through Porta Portese Market with the locals (and tourists)!
Travel! Even if you aren’t comfortable or can’t afford trips to other countries in Europe there are still plenty of places to go within Italy. Florence, Tivoli, Pisa, Venice, Naples and Milan are just to name a few. It is so easy to travel within Italy with the regional and high speed trains (and cheap too!). However, if you can I would highly suggest visiting other countries around Europe. Immerse yourself in as many different cultures as possible. It may be nerve-racking landing in a city that may only speak French, Dutch, or Spanish (when all you know is English and a little bit of Italian), but do it. You’ll be so glad you experienced their way of life for a few days.
Don’t be afraid to travel by yourself. If there is somewhere you want to go…then GO! Have fun, be a tourist and do what you want to do.
Every minute counts. Your time in Rome will fly by faster than you can imagine. Have fun, learn a lot and experience a new way of life (you never know, you may fall in love with a city halfway across the World).
Thanks and Gig’em from Roma, Italia!
FAO Intern – Food Safety Division