The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Mary Beth Jablonowski

Ciao! My name is Mary Beth Jablonowski, and I am a junior studying Advertising/Public Relations. I am originally from Glendale, WI, and am excited to spend a semester in Rome, Italy! I chose to study abroad to push myself outside my comfort zone. The world offers so many experiences, but they don't come to you--you have to find them yourself. I hope each step I take across this beautiful country and beyond leads me new discoveries, cherished memories, and of course, some delicious gelato. 
My First, Real Italian Conversation

My First, Real Italian Conversation

“Fai una foto?”-  You take a photo?

It was a Friday afternoon, and I had been journaling along Passeggiata del Gianicolo. It was a beautiful day, and I had found the most perfect view of the Vatican to inspire the day’s journal entries. Interrupted mid-sentence, I looked up at the older, Italian man who had spoken to me. He was holding out his phone.

“Conosci parlare italiano?” – You know how to speak Italian?

I smiled, and responded, “Sì, un po’.” – Yes, a little.

“Ah, un po’.” He noticed I was journaling, and said, “Scusa!” – Excuse me!

I smiled again and got up to take his picture in front of the Vatican.

“Bene?” – Good? – I asked.

He took his phone.

“Conosci italiano?” he asked again.

“Sì, un po’.”

“Scusa, grazie.” – Thank you.

“Prego.” – You’re welcome.

I sat down and picked up my journal, but he kept talking.

“Dei dove sei?” – Where are you from?

“Stati Uniti…a Chicago.”

“Ah, America.”


We both smiled and I continued to journal. When I finished about ten minutes later, he was still there.

“Scrivi in italiano o inglese?” – You write in Italian or English? 

I laughed, and told him I was writing in English.

“Studi italiano? – You study Italian?

“Sì, studio in Balduina, at Loyola.”

I started to pick up that he was impressed by my little knowledge of the Italian language when he asked, once again:

“Parli italiano?”

“Si, un po’. I miei amici e i mie insegnante parlano inglese.” – My friends and my professors speak English. 

Leggi italiano?” – Do you read Italian?

I responded yes. He told me it was important that I knew how to speak and read in Italian.

He asked, “Che cosa tua nome?” – What is your name? 

“Mary Beth…Mary. Maria”


I’ve found it’s easier to just say Mary, or Maria, if they can’t understand me. Then I asked his name. His name was Franco. We shook hands. By this point I had stood up. I was anxious to practice my Italian outside the classroom.

“Uh, come si dice, ‘nice to meet you?’ I forgot, um, oh! Piacere!”

He laughed. Then he said something about how I don’t speak Italian at school, but I could in Rome. He asked me when I had classes.

I started, “Dalle lunedì–” and he cuts me off, laughing. He prompts me to continue listing the days of the week in Italian, so I do.

“…lunedì, martedì, mercoledì, giovedì.” – Monday thru Thursday.

“Finito? No venerdì, sabato, o domenica?” – Finished? No Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?


He asked me when I was leaving Rome. I got excited because I was using phrases I learned in class.

“Sono arrivata in agosto e torno in dicembre.” – I arrived in August and I return in December.

My Italian professor would be so proud.

He jokingly said something about how in December “andiamo,” or we go, back to this spot and he can see if my Italian has improved.

“Ho lavorato ma…” – I worked, but…he said, then pointed to his head and said a word I did not recognize. He said he had an Italian/English dictionary in his car and went to get it. He then pointed at a word that translated to remember and I concluded he had a poor memory.

Then I figured I better continue on with my day.

“Ho bisogno andare.” – I need to go.

“Ah, sì.”

I thanked him for letting me practice my Italian. Then, like a true Italian, he pulled me in for a kiss on either cheek, and said:

“È importante, sì.” – Is important, yes.

And that was my first, real Italian conversation. Despite stumbling on my words and not always being grammatically correct, I was able to communicate with him.

These are the moments that make study abroad so extraordinary.

Climbing Hills

Climbing Hills

There are a lot of hills here in Italy.

Literally. I’m pretty convinced this entire country is just one big hill.

I learned this pretty quickly. Our campus is located on Monte Mario, the highest hill in Rome. (I had to double check this fact, so obviously I searched Wikipedia. JFRC even gets a shoutout, so that’s cool.) But I digress.

The reason I’m rambling on about this hill stuff is because it’s a pretty spot on description of my first 21 days in Rome.

So hills. It constantly feels like your walking up one here. The walk back to campus, whether it be from the bus stop, the supermarket, or gelato, is uphill. Every street seems to be at an incline. I also can’t remember the last time I walked up so many stairs. With sore legs and shortness of breath, sometimes you wonder if you will ever reach the top.

And I love it.

The thing about climbing a hill, physically or figuratively, is that it’s a lot more fun than staying on a flat surface. It’s challenging, but each step pushes you to your limit. It gives you new perspectives with every rise in altitude. The thought of climbing each hill freaks you out, yet there is no way to avoid it. You just start walking. And once you get to the top, the exhaustion, frustration, and struggle to get there don’t matter anymore.


Here are some of my favorite hills I’ve climbed so far:

Monte Uh, Scusi?

Trying to speak Italian is scary, but trying to understand Italian is scarier. A semester of Italian 101 plus my Google Translate app are enough to help me order food at a restaurant or ask where the bus stop is. But listening to someone speak Italian is like pausing mid-step and wondering if you’ll be ableto regain your balance or just fall flat on your face. Thankfully, I haven’t fallen too hard yet. I love picking up new vocabulary and feel super accomplished when I exchange words correctly. This hill, although challenging, has been one of my favorites to climb.

Monte Figuring It Out

When you stand at the base of a hill, you look up and try to prepare yourself for the journey ahead. But as you climb, roadblocks force you off the path you intended to take. I had some expectations coming to Rome. I thought I had a plan for, or at least an idea of, how the semester would play out. The reality is I don’t know the path I’m climbing or where it’s going. It’s difficult, and sometimes the only solution is to just sit down. Which is hard, because I don’t want to do that.

This hill has been the most frustrating, but it’s one of my favorites because I know the reward will be great. For now, I’ll just be taking one step at a time.

Monte Keep Climbing

When we climb, it’s easy to forget to appreciate the beauty of it. In Positano, Italy (pictured above), I learned that it’s not always about getting to the top. At the base of a small shopping square, there was a set of stairs rising along the edge of the buildings. So I went up, and up, and up. It became evident that the top was no where near, but I didn’t care. I just kept going. And it felt great. So great, I even took a selfie (pictured below). Man, I love climbing.

So these are my hills. They have been challenging, frustrating, tiring, exciting, rejuvenating, and fun. I know I have quite the journey ahead of me, but when I reach the peak in three months, I know it will all be worth it.

See you at the top. But I’ll probably just keep climbing.

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As It Was in the Beginning

As It Was in the Beginning

Is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

A group of women standing behind me recited these words as they prayed the rosary. At 6:45 a.m., they were just a few of the hundreds of thousands gathered to celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

These words caught my attention as I stood outside St. Peter’s Square. Each time they came back to that part, I recited it silently to myself:

As it was in the beginning

is now and ever shall be 

world without end.

Or, to put it simply, eternity. I find this an appropriate word to sum up the beginning of my study abroad experience in Rome, the Eternal City.

This place is truly magical. Each winding street has a surprise around the corner—a lively piazza, a flowing fountain, the Pantheon (you should have seen my face when THAT appeared out of nowhere), or a welcoming gelateria. The city is a maze, but that’s okay. Time and place don’t matter when you’re wandering around lost in the moment.

Then, there is the Colosseum. Despite being centuries old and surrounded by apartments and a metro station, this structure isn’t going anywhere. Even the Roman Forum, most of which is gone, is still eternalized in the soil.



And then I was given the opportunity to experience an everlasting moment. As I watched Pope Francis officially canonize Mother Teresa, I experienced the beginning of her eternal sainthood. It was beautiful and moving. For a moment, the Vatican was frozen in time.

Before the canonization began, we prayed the rosary as a congregation. This time, I listened to the prayer in Italian.

Come era nel principio, ora e sempre nei secoli dei secoli.

As I reflect back on my first days in Rome, I pray the rest of this experience is just as eternal.


It’ll Be Okay

It’ll Be Okay

I found myself repeating this phrase over and over in my head as I laid on my bed trying to fight back tears. Only forty-eight hours until I would step on a plane and begin my 16-week adventure in Rome, Italy, and these words were my attempt to control my emotions. I don’t know why I was crying—I had just finished a highly amusing episode of Parks and Recreations. But for whatever reason, just as Netflix was about to start the next episode, I began to cry.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond excited to study abroad. I have been since I submitted my deposit seven months ago. I spent hours sitting in my dorm planning trips and making lists, listening to Italian music, and counting down the days until I would finally be in the Eternal City.  But then came August 1, and I saw my departure day lingering in front of me—then lodge itself in the pit of my stomach.

It wasn’t until I hit the 10-day countdown that the tears began to slip out. The I-will-be-gone-for-almost-four-months reality finally triggered my inevitable emotions. I spent more time crying then relishing in the excitement of this amazing experience waiting for me across the globe. It frustrated me, yet I couldn’t figure out how to switch my perspective.

But these words seemed to work, for now. I was finally able to hold back my tears and relax. It felt nice.

The anticipation of studying abroad has its wide range of emotions. There’s a high level of excitement as you pack your bags and look forward to the adventures ahead. There’s also a lot of stress, nerves, and anxiety—trying to fit your life into one suitcase, preparing for the culture shock, and saying good-byes. Mix all these feelings together, and sometimes the only way to make them all fit is to shed a few tears.

But it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be nervous. To be sad. To worry. To miss your family, to miss your friends. It’s okay to forget a few things at home, and it’s okay to feel a little out of place in your new home. It’s okay to adjust. It’s okay to just be okay.

Rome, I cannot wait to meet you. I’m looking forward to all the pizza, gelato, and adventures you hold. I’m nervous to speak your language and adjust to your culture. I’m sure I will miss my family and feel a little homesick at times. But I know it will be okay. It will be more than okay.