Rome, Italy

Bria Hamlett

UMBC: Faculty-Led: Picturing Italian Art & Culture in Context in Rome, Italy

Major/Minor: Photography, Africana Studies

Jump to: June 14, July 10, July 23, August 2, September 11

June 14th, 2019

Nothing to Lose and The World to See




My name is Bria Hamlett. I am a rising senior, Photography Major and Africana Studies minor at UMBC. I will be studying in Rome, Italy for the month of July in the Faculty-Led Picturing Italian Art and Culture in Context program. I decided on this program because it aligned perfectly with my major. It is geared toward photography and art history, two things that I plan to pursue further in my profession. I am also a Summer 2019 Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar. It is an honor to be a representative for the UMBC study abroad program as well as for the Gilman community. This is the first of many blogs to come and I am looking forward to sharing my journey to Rome.


I am a recent transfer student and I find that it is easy to lose track of the goals that were set years ago when you first start college. I remember dreaming of studying abroad in college. And now four years later, I am blessed to have the opportunity to be living out my dream. Hopefully, I can show other transfer students not to let all of the challenges that come with changing schools stop them from fulfilling all of the goals that they wanted to accomplish in college.


Up to this moment, I have been awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. This scholarship is targeted to help undergraduate students that are currently receiving the Pell grant to have the ability to study abroad. This scholarship has helped me tremendously in being able to study abroad and I am thankful to be a recipient.


With a little over two weeks until I leave the US, I am experiencing many feelings. About every night, I look up youtube videos on Rome, the Italian culture, and studying abroad. To put it in simple words, I am scared out of my mind. And the only way I can seem to ease that feeling is to RESEARCH EVERYTHING! Overall I am filled with eagerness and anxiety hoping that everything will work out perfectly but also knowing that this will be a life-shaping journey.


Keep reading if you’d like to know what it was like for me to travel to The Eternal City of Rome!


July 10, 2019

From boarding my plane on July 2nd to now sitting in my apartment in Rome, Italy this first week has been exciting, challenging, and a whirlwind of excitement. This week I have had to start my classes, navigate the city, learn to communicate using the Italian language, and adjust to the heat of the summer.


On our first day (Wednesday), we unpacked our bags and got settled into the apartment. It was a day for us to get rest from the 11-hour-long plane ride over! The next day was our first full day in Rome. There are 10 total students in our program. We were not placed in the same apartment building so Thursday was the first time everyone would meet and spend time together. That day we had orientation, an arrival lunch at a local restaurant, and after we had a guided tour around the city. We stay in the Prati area. We are told this is the best area to be in because we are in the center of everything.




On our guided tour we passed the Pantheon, the Spanish steps, the Trevi Fountain, and we ended at the Fountain of Four Rivers.

By this point, we were all hot and tired. We quickly learned that Rome has hundreds of running freshwater around the city for people walking around to quickly fill up water bottles and take a refreshing drink of water.

The rest of the week consisted of us starting our routine schedule. In the mornings we have two classes: ART329 Art History and Visual Culture in relation to Rome and ART369 Mobile Imaging in Italy. And after class every day there is a trip to a museum, monument, basilica, and/or other places around the city. Both classes directly relate to the excursions we take later in the day. This first week we learned about Etruscan and Roman architecture and in our photography class, we had to focus on how ancient and modern Rome are intertwined throughout the city.


Here are some images from the rest of the week!

Friday we took an Italian cooking class where we learned to make pasta from scratch!


July 23, 2019

Becoming Acclimated in Week 2


Having this opportunity to study abroad in Rome has been such a rewarding but challenging experience so far. Acclimating to different mannerisms, foods, cultures, and the langue has been challenging for me. I am at the stage where I have gotten very comfortable with my surroundings. But in some situations, I am reminded about just how different I am. Not only as an American but as an African American.


On our first days here it was stressed to us what to wear and what not to wear in order to not stick out or look like a tourist. These were things like not wearing big sun hats, or American flag t-shirts, or carrying around large DSLR cameras. While I found some of those things helpful, I couldn’t help to think that I didn’t have much opportunity to blend in like a native because I would be automatically seen as “different” due to my skin color.


One example is during our excursions to monumental sites, there are men dresses up as gladiators. Similarly to the people that dress up in Time Square. Their goal is to get attention and money from tourists. While walking by the gladiators, they shout “Serena! Hey, Serena Williams is here”, referring that I am or look like Serena Williams because we are both African American. The first time I heard it I just laughed it off. But every single gladiator that I passed would shout loudly at me calling me and other black students Serena Williams. It was embarrassing and frustrating. Reflecting back on that and similar experiences I try to remind myself that my experience is bigger than the racial remarks and comments. Being black and abroad means a lot to me. It means that I am a representation of not only myself but other minorities that don’t realize they can do this too.


Entering this study abroad program one thing that I anticipated was having to deal with interesting experiences regarding my race. My goal was to educate people in every chance that I could and present myself in a way to attempt to integrate into the culture. The transition into getting into a routine abroad has been overall amazing, but I still am unaware of what experiences are a reflection of the different culture or a response to my race, sex, nationality, etc..


To balance out this uncomfortability that comes with being a minority abroad, one thing that was important to me was to be able to feel comfortable in my program and with the students from UMBC. I chose a Faculty-Led Program that directly related to my major because it gave me comfort in knowing that over these four weeks I would have people surrounding me that would give me comfort in a new environment. Throughout the day I am surrounded by other students who now I can call friends, as well as my professors. Being around them and having people who understand, support, and bring me stability allows me to push past the occasional feelings of being “different” and find a sense of belonging in my environment.



This week coming up we have class, trips to the Catacombs of St. Agnes, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, and St. Peters Basilica, and the Galleria Borghese. From this week alone I have learned so much about Rome and even more about myself. For anyone looking to study abroad, it is an amazingly rewarding experience and I cant wait to see what more Rome has in store for me!


August 2, 2019

Leaving Rome

Today is our last day in Roma. This last week we visited the Colosseum , went to an Italian Opera and visited a contemporary art museum. We have been here for about 4 weeks now. It seems to have been so long but the end has come so quick already. I’m a little homesick at this point. I am ready to go home and see my family and friends. Today we had our last class and our final critique in our mobile photography class. Our final was to make a video of what you’re favorite part of Rome to you. The videos ranged in topics from the coffee culture, to the shops around the pantheon, to even the dogs that are constantly passing by on the street. My video focused on the urban part of Rome. While Rome is a city full of ruins I felt connected the most to the urban parts and the things that reminded me of back home. After our final class we returned home and made our last trips to get souvenirs for people back home. For dinner everyone in the program got together at a restaurant to celebrate the end of our program with our hosting school.

It is becoming real that I am done with this program. It has been all year that I’ve been planning and waiting for this study abroad experience and now it is over. I can say that everything I was worried about worked itself out. It was definitely hard adjusting to a new country with people who have different interactions and speak a different langue. I was worried about making sure I felt comfortable with the other students on the trip and I can say that I have found great friends here.

I don’t think I am prepared to go home and readjust. It definitely will be a shock when I get back home. I have to mentally prepare myself on the flight home for the challenges I might have once coming home. Things like getting on a new schedule in a different time zone and adjusting back to living at home will be different than what I have gotten used to. I can say that as I sit in my apartment in Rome right now it’s like a home to me. Living in here for a month has made me see this place as home. I’m going to miss the city, the culture, and the late night trips to get gelato.

This week coming up we have class, trips to the Catacombs of St. Agnes, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, and St. Peters Basilica, and the Galleria Borghese. From this week alone I have learned so much about Rome and even more about myself. For anyone looking to study abroad, it is an amazingly rewarding experience and I cant wait to see what more Rome has in store for me!

September 11, 2019

Studying Abroad Has Changed my View of Life

Boarding the plane to come back home was bittersweet. I could not stop taking photos of my empty apartment and making videos of our street. I wanted to keep those memories forever! I felt like I had gotten unbelievably comfortable in the city of Rome and with the other students that were with me. We were all very anxious to return home. One thing I was worried about was making sure that my suitcases were not over the 50lb limit. My roommates were all laughing at me try and stuff things into my bags.Thankfully, the woman working at the airport let my bags through without an extra charge. But for anyone studying abroad I would suggest to leave extra room in your suitcase when packing! This will help when you are returning home and will need space to put the belongings you got while abroad. My flight felt like it was extremely long! I assume it felt long because of my anticipation to get back home. I believe it was about 15 hours including the layover time. And when we landed for our layover it was storming, so our flight back to Baltimore was delayed. I finally returned home after traveling all day.

I was surprised by all of my family. They had a sign with my name on it and a pack of Resses taped onto it. (Because I love Resses) I was so happy but so overwhelmed. When I got home everyone was telling me stories of what I had missed and I was telling them all about my trip. My mom had made dinner for the family so when I got home I stayed up a couple extra hours to catch up with them. It was so exciting to see my family and I was so happy to be home. But I remember feeling like I was being pulled in every direction. People knew that I was getting home that night so my phone was constantly ringing, while I was also trying to adjust to traveling all day, as well as spending time with my family.

I expected to have to get used to the 6 hour time difference but I didn’t anticipate my first night back to be so uncomfortable. After my family left, I tried to get comfortable but I found it hard to figure out what to do next. In Rome, we had our whole month planned out. We knew what our week looked like and I had become accustomed to a certain routine. When arriving back in the US that was all gone.In the first week back I was faced with having to deal with the upcoming school semester, finding a job, financial stress, and all of the usual things that I did not have to worry about while studying abroad.

After a couple weeks I was able to make a new routine and feel more comfortable being back in the United States. Looking back on my study abroad experience, I had an amazing time! And now I try to actively incorporate everything that I learned into my life. When people ask me about my experience I tell them that studying abroad changed my life, and I feel like I sound cheesy when I say that. But it is true. Studying abroad taught me that there are limitless possibilities for what I can experience and accomplish. I was able to live out a dream that I never would have thought could have been possible through studying abroad. In the future, it is important for me to continue to travel and learn about other cultures. Not only does it impact my career and my understanding of art and art history, but it impacts my character and who I am.