Temple University Rome offers a variety of opportunities for students, including a program that allows first-year students to start their college career studying in the Eternal City.
Each year, more than 750 Temple University students study abroad. There are several options available for students interested in international opportunities, and this year, 15 first-year students are beginning their college careers abroad on Temple’s Rome campus with the Temple Rome Entry Year Program—the largest group in the program’s history.
Temple began offering the program four years ago. “The program is open to all different types of students,” said Francesca Cuccovillo, associate director for student life and the Rome Entry Year Program at Temple Rome. “It caters to American students who want to have an international experience right away, as well as international students who perhaps want to stay a little bit closer to home for their first year.”
One unique aspect of this program is the opportunity for students to be part of a smaller, more intimate campus experience, all while using Rome as an extension of the campus. “Students at Temple Rome take classes that have 10 or 15 students in them,” Cuccovillo shared. “There is a lot of on-site learning, a lot of experiential learning, and more attention from staff and faculty.”
The program attracts a wide variety of participants—half of the students are international students. “We are especially proud and happy about this because one of our goals is to help Temple University recruit more international students,” Cuccovillo explained. “This program creates a great pathway for international students who might not have otherwise been able to go to Temple.”
These students gain many skills from being abroad their first year of college. “I see students when they leave, they are much more mature than they would have been if they had not had this experience,” Cuccovillo said. “They are very driven. They have spent a year abroad, so intellectually, they are very curious. They have learned communication skills and are much more independent.”
Spending a year abroad comes with a multitude of opportunities for students to bond and build relationships with others. “To have this study abroad program your first year, you’re really making connections that will last throughout your whole university experience,” said Emily Kravet, Temple Rome’s external relations coordinator and recruiter for the Rome Entry Year Program. “You have people you can trust and rely on right away and you go back to Main Campus with these people. It really builds a strong network for these students.”
This year, the program hosts the largest cohort that it’s ever had—double the number of participants last year—with students Nate Pelka, Nicole Girardi and Thais Costa Macedo De Arruda among them.
Pelka, Class of 2025, is majoring in political science and didn’t plan for his first year to be in Rome. “My original plan was to go to Japan for two years,” he explained. “I had always wanted to come to Rome, but I didn’t know it would be my first year.” After Temple Japan was scheduled to host all classes online, Pelka opted to start his college experience in Rome instead, where classes would be held in person.
Pelka has Polish citizenship and his love for traveling and learning about new places was instilled in him from a young age. “My mom always encouraged me to travel,” Pelka shared. “I’ve visited Poland, and my mom and I spent a month traveling around Asia together. My parents live in France now, too. I spent a month there before coming to Temple Rome.”
Pelka’s major also pushed him towards having a more international experience during college. “Studying abroad gives me opportunities that I perhaps would not have had if I stayed in Philadelphia, especially majoring in political science,” he said. “I’m hoping to do government work, like working at an embassy.”
Nicole Girardi, Class of 2025, is majoring in criminal justice. She came to Rome from Peio, a small village near Trento, in Northern Italy. Girardi went to an Italian high school but decided that she wanted to attend an American university. She was the only one from her high school to pursue an American education. “I always wanted to go to college in the United States,” Girardi said. “I found out that I would have the opportunity to spend my first year in Rome with Temple University and that’s why I decided to go here.”
Girardi has never been to Philadelphia and the Rome Entry Year Program seemed like the perfect gateway to an American university experience for her. “Going to college in the United States is going to be a big change,” she explained. “Everything is going to be new for me, I’m going to have a completely different life and I wasn’t really ready to go away yet.”
Adapting to an American university has been difficult for Girardi, but she has found comfort in having relationships with other international students who are participating in the program. “Not being from America, it’s strange to be at an American university. But it’s really cool because we also have international students, so it feels like a melting pot,” Girardi shared. “It’s nice to be friends with other international students because we share a lot of difficulties and it’s interesting to hear how they are adjusting, too.”
Another international student, Thais Costa Macedo De Arruda, Class of 2024, is studying neuroscience. Born and raised in Brazil, Arruda came to Rome for her first year in the spring. “I knew I wanted to study outside of Brazil. I applied to Temple, but because of the pandemic, I couldn’t go in the fall semester,” Arruda explained. “After I deferred, I found out about the Temple Rome Entry Year Program.”
She found a job over the summer and even traveled around Europe for a bit. “My favorite part of this program has been seeing my personal growth and how much I have developed from just being here,” Arruda shared. “You’re constantly being thrown into situations that are outside of your comfort zone. These types of situations have forced me to learn and gain responsibility for myself.”
This sentiment was shared by Pelka and Girardi. Taking this opportunity to learn in an international environment isn’t always easy, but the professional and personal experiences that are possible at Temple Rome make it worthwhile.
“The feeling that you get from owning your own life and taking responsibility for everything is amazing. When we’re close to home, you rely on the same people, like your parents or your friends,” Arruda explained. “Sometimes things will happen, and you can’t rely on those people to help you. You have to figure it out on your own. That’s how you grow and being here has helped me realize that.”
By Hannah Church
Feature photography by Betsy Manning
Article originally appeared on Temple Now