I have experienced so many beautiful things so far in Rome that I am terrified of being spoiled by them: centuries-old churches; art pieces previously seen only in my Latin textbooks and on classically-themed Wikipedia pages; paintings of saints on street corners. I can still hardly believe that my daily walk to work takes me alongside the perimeter of the Vatican wall.
But I am equally invested, if not more so, in the patchwork of details around me, out of the way of the major landmarks downtown. I’m living in a residential area with three fellow interns in the neighborhood of Prati, a placement that reminds me of the way Dickinson positions students in its study abroad programs in areas away from central tourism. I observe grade-schoolers lobbing balls across the subway terminal and young professional women who gather outside Paideia’s office (located in the same neighborhood) on lunch breaks to smoke. There is a distinctive scent here–a mixture of sweat, jasmine, history, and laundry detergent. And so, in the spirit of everyday things, these are my first two weeks at my internship and elsewhere, as told by things that have, at some point day-to-day, been in my bag:
My laptop, with thirty tabs open at any given time for LinkedIn and Google Sheets. Work first: I’m on a team with three other interns managed by two of Paideia’s development officers, bouncing around an assortment of tasks on a 9am-5pm schedule. So far we’ve been trained in how to add information to a customer service database, drafted annual appeal letters for fundraising, written social media posts, and researched events for a monthly newsletter. As for the LinkedIn tabs: we’re looking out for potential new members of Nexus , a professional network for classics BAs in careers beyond academia. I feel like I’m getting a taste of the full range of work you can do in this area of a nonprofit, and I can’t wait to get into some of the bigger projects that are being hinted at for next week.
My work notebook, with at least ten recently scribbled pages. On the first day, one of my supervisors gave our team a crash course in Paideia’s operating budget and fundraising strategy, which now takes the form of a mangled flowchart in this notebook. But not everything is directly Development-related. On Fridays, one member of a different division of Paideia leads a lecture and discussion on their topic of specialty. So far, I have notes about leading a humanities nonprofit and technology in the classroom that have given me a lot to consider from an Educational Studies perspective (that I hope to write more on later!). Interns can also drop in on Living Latin program lectures on Tuesday nights, so my jottings on Paideia’s financial stats share page space with a list of the archetypes of Roman comedy (which definitely seems like an example from a liberal arts brochure).
A Roma pass. A perk of this internship is an unlimited pass for the Roman Metro system! I love walking everywhere here, especially the numerous routes across the Tiber into the city (“going over the river”, as it’s been dubbed by wandering interns). On rushed mornings, though, I opt for the station just outside my apartment. For my New York friends here, riding the train is ordinary, if not more punctual than their own system. For me, whose main transit experience is Amtrak-ing to Harrisburg after breaks, there have been few greater thrills here so far than the first time I figured out how to swap lines.
My water bottle. Those subway tunnels are also good on burning days for the breeze of the rush between trains. The temperature regularly climbs above 90 F–sorry, 32 C–and I keep my water clipped to my purse for walking above ground, where it feels even hotter. Paideia has a casual office dress code that permits shorts, which helps combat the heat. Sometimes, though, I still opt for nice slacks, if only to feel less out of place with my neighbors. I regularly spot them dressed in two-piece suits without breaking a sweat on the muggiest days.
Ticket stubs from the Capitoline Museum, Italy’s National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Ara Pacis…This internship is vastly different from all my other work experiences in that, because of where we are and what Paideia does, stopping by nearby history and cultural landmarks is considered an essential part of the post-work-day. This started as a subtle expectation, but now “Where are you all walking tonight?” is the number one question at a day’s end from supervisors at Development. The office is even released at 1:00pm on Fridays, with the expectation that we’ll explore the city. Sites that I’ve visited at street level, like the Colosseum (!), are free, but most museums charge around 10 euros; I’ve found that I’ve had to factor “cultural experiences” into my budget alongside groceries and meals.
Speaking of meals: Lunch receipts that I probably should have recycled by now. The area by Paideia’s offices is surrounded by tiny, literal hole-in-the-wall places to get good, cheap food, and we’ll walk around in teams on lunch breaks to try out new options. So far, my favorites are Pizza A Taglio (where the staff are friendly and I can snag a 1 euro pizza sandwich square) and Box (a food-truck-themed restaurant with Chinese, Italian, and American food served in portable takeout boxes).
Bananas, onions, milk, eggs, et cetera…The blocks beyond my apartment teem with fresh produce stands under other complexes. Inside, crates of peaches, lettuce, bell peppers–all of them delightfully multicolored and misshaped, in comparison with uniform arrangements in many American stores–tilt precariously at the ceiling or towards buyers’ feet. My housemates and I love walking from work to our favorite stands alongside others in our neighborhood and filling bags of produce for one or two euros. If we want refrigerated items, cereal, and pasta to make meals at home, we’ll swing the next street over to Carrefour, a twenty-four-hour mini-mart.
“The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Italian”, nabbed at Barnes and Noble before I left home. I’m fortunate in that because we’re close to a major center of world tourism, many of the Romans I’ve interacted with understand English. But I’m determined to pick up some Italian while I’m here to engage with the city where I’m living over these six weeks. Right now, based on daily use, I know more about how to order various lunch items and pass others politely on the street than to have a real conversation. It’s a start, though, and I’m going to go to my first Italian table with Paideia staff during lunch hours this week to learn some more. (Best success so far: being told “good job” by a cashier when I didn’t flub a gelato order!)
…and of course, the journal where all these posts begin, where I’m trying to document every small thing around me before it slips away: radical newspapers, sidewalk harpists, a pigeon carrying part of a pizza on its back (all from last week alone). I’ve had to work here at balancing my time between my internship itself, exploring the innumerable historical places that call out to my classics nerd heart, and grocery store runs. Doing this, I’ve found–just taking it all in–has helped a lot. On to Week #3!