This page contains the answers to questions that have been asked of the instructors and other common questions.
UW Study Abroad student section
Start here. These guys have seen and heard most questions and they tend to steer your correctly.
UW Study Abroad Handbook
This is a short-and-sweet handbook for studying abroad. It is for the entire study abroad program (and not customized for us) so any advice you get from me or the Rome Center is more relevant to you. That said, they do have a handy “before you leave” checklist of things to do (e.g., photocopy your passport, tell your bank you will be Rome, etc.) and more information on health coverage and other things. Worth the read. Totally.
What the Rome Center Wants You to Know About Studying in Rome
All the latest on what to do, when to go, etc. A must read.
See the requirements on the UW Rome Center website Passports & Visas page.
What to expect with Rome housing
It’s not the same as living in the U.S. Please read this UW Rome Center web page on student housing. This will correctly set your expectations. I can say that living in Rome is fine. There are fewer creature comforts (at least to the degree we typically have them in the U.S.) but perhaps we are spoiled here.
Going to other countries before/after Rome
Going elsewhere from Rome is a great thing to do. You are already there and travel within Europe/Italy is relatively cheap by air or train. Just a few things to know:
- In general, students from countries with short-term visa exemptions may enter Italy for academic purposes, for periods of up to 90 days, without a study visa. Citizens of the U.S., Canada, and EU countries fall into this category. Program participants from other countries should consult the Italian Consulate website to check if they need a visa in order to study in Italy. Students who stay in the Schengen area beyond 90 days will be in violation of the 90-day visa waiver and risk being fined and/or detained and even banned from travel in the Schengen area for significant periods of time.
- Your total stay (whole period of study in Italy + any trip or stay in Italy or in any other Schengen country, even for tourism) within the entire Schengen area does not exceed 90 days AND you are a national of a country participating in the visa waiver agreement.
- As always, if you intend to visit non-Schengen countries before, during, or after their period of study in Italy you have the full and exclusive responsibility to make sure you have the necessary travel documents (such as a visa) and whether there might be any entry/stay/exit limitations on their presence in said countries.
Getting your Passport Stamped
From the Rome Center: One more important note about traveling to Italy.
Make sure to get your passport stamped upon entry in the Schengen area. The stamp in your passport indicates your date of entry in the Schengen area and is thus necessary in order to demonstrate that you have not overstayed the 90 days allowed under the visa waiver agreement.
If you enter Italy directly from the US or other non-Schengen country, the Italian border police must stamp your passport. If they do not, politely insist that they do so (“per favore, mi timbra il passaporto”).
If your point of entry in the Schengen area is a country other than Italy, your passport will be stamped at that border. For instance, if you fly through Amsterdam, the border officials in Amsterdam must stamp your passport – again, if they do not, politely insist that they do so.
If you arrive in Italy from another Schengen country (for instance, via Amsterdam), your passport will NOT be stamped again in Italy.
Checking in to the Rome Center on the day of arrival
You should plan to come to the Rome Center between 9 am and 4:30 pm on the first day of the course (for 2019, that is August 26th) to check in and move into your apartments. If you expect to arrive after 5 pm (or happen to do so because of delays) the Rome Center office will likely be closed. In such cases, the Rome Center will give the program director (Steve) your keys and you should contact Steve when you arrive. My apartment is across the hall from the UWRC offices. I am available by mobile phone (text, call).
Checking out of the Rome Center
You must vacate your apartment by 10 am on the last day of the course (for 2019, September 18th) and check out of the Rome Center by 1 pm or so (there’s some flexibility there). You are welcome to leave luggage in a classroom at the Center throughout the day – until 5 pm max – if you are departing Rome later in the afternoon (the UWRC takes no responsibility for security of left items however).
Generally check out works like this: On the morning of the day before departure student apartments are inspected and if no damages are found students can check out of the Rome Center (turn in keys, get housing deposits back, etc.) that same afternoon between 3-5 pm or the following morning between 9 am and 1 pm. Again, apartments need to be vacated though by 10 on the morning of departure.
How do I get a mobile phone for Rome?
The Rome Center requires you to have one of these. They want you to have a local phone number in Rome. That means you should have an Italian phone or at least an Italian SIM card in your unlocked phone:
- Use your existing UNLOCKED mobile phone with a new SIM card. If your phone is unlocked you can replace the SIM card in your phone with another. The SIM card essentially stores YOUR identity. Replacing it creates a new identity and essentially a new phone. Phones that you get from major carriers are almost assuredly locked. Rule-of-thumb: if you don’t know if your phone is locked or not…it is. If you do bring an unlocked phone (sometimes called a “world phone”), you can purchase an Italian SIM card (usually at the airport or a local mobile phone store – there are MANY) for around 25 Euros.
- Buy a cheap Italian mobile phone. You can buy a pre-paid Italian mobile phone (you will have to determine what you want to pre-pay for…e.g., texts, talk minutes, etc.) and use that. Costs about 50 Euros. I recommend that during Rome Center check in you ask where you can buy such a phone close by and what type to get. The pre-paid Italian phones are convenient for calling locally (e.g., between students) and for the Rome Center to get a hold of you. In my experience, however, most of the contacting is done via text and the Facebook group using existing U.S. phones that everyone has.
Can I use my phone with an international plan?
The Rome Center wants an Italian phone number for you. So you need to do one of the two options above. That said, you are likely going to want to keep you own phone working while in Rome as well. Therefore, you can use your existing mobile phone via an international plan. This gets easier every year. Your phone must be a GSM phone. GSM is a standard originating in Europe that is now the de facto global standard. Your phone should support the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz carrier frequencies (most do). If you are not sure, your carrier can tell you if your phone will work in Rome. Often they have a web page that helps you do this. I have an iPhone X from AT&T that works fine in Rome with such a roaming plan. Most major carriers have options you can purchase on a daily or monthly basis for international roaming so that you can better control your expenses. What international plan you purchase depends upon your needs but the standard one (in most cases) works fine. I have found that most international plans are dependent on data usage. Take a look at a previous phone bill or two and figure out your data usage rate – I found mine went up because I was using Google Translate and Map apps all the time – mapping can be a data-intensive function (there are also ways to limit data usage by downloading maps, etc.). The bottom line is that purchasing pre-paid packages (they all have fees) can save you money. Also, when you purchase them make sure that you specify a begin AND END time (e.g. you want them active for August and September only). Otherwise, the phone company may just leave those packages active into October and beyond (which you don’t want).
Which medical care facilities should I go to if I need to go to one?
CESI (Cultural Insurance Services International) provides the UW Study Abroad health care plan. UW Study Abroad has provided us a list of clinic/hospitals, doctors and mental healthcare providers in Rome that are covered by OnCall International.
If I’m getting financial aid, can I use some of it to buy an airplane ticket now?
Yes. Your financial aid will show up in the fall quarter. When the cost of the program is due. However, you may borrow against this financial aid NOW to get some coin to pay for an airplane ticket and other expenses. The catch is that in order to do this neat trick, you must be enrolled at UW at the time you do this borrowing. So, if you will not be an enrolled student in the summer, you must do this borrowing during Spring Quarter 2017. If you are going to receive financial aid or are already, please get in contact with UW Study Abroad now and make sure you understand how this process works. It’s a bit complicated to me…but they’ve done it many times before successfully.
How do I pay for Engineering Rome?
There are 3 things you get charged for. First, there’s a non-refundable $450 deposit that you owe when you sign your contract (Spring 2019). Then, there’s the UW Study Abroad fee and the actual cost of the program that are billed to you in October. Those two items will show up in your student account just as tuition for the fall quarter would. The process for paying for those things is identical for how you would pay for tuition.
How do I register for the Engineering Rome class (CEE 409 or CEE 509)?
It’s easy since UW Study Abroad does it for you. They register you for a placeholder course called FSTDY 300 for the FALL QUARTER 2019. That’s right, this course counts as a fall quarter course. More information here. Magically, once you have completed the course and fall quarter starts, the FSTDY 300 course is converted to CEE 409 (CEE 509 if you are a graduate student).
What technology resources (including computers) does the UW Rome Center have available?
See the UWRC website for details.
Can I get mail at the UW Rome Center?
Really? Why not just etch something on a stone tablet. Seriously, though. You can, but don’t count on it.
Anything special I should bring or not forget?
Certainly. I will spare you the full packing list (e.g., toothbrush, pants, shirt, etc.) and give you some highlights needed for the class:
- Open mind. No kidding. Be open to new things and don’t be afraid to try speaking Italian.
- Comfortable walking shoes. We do a lot of walking.
- Something to safely carry your money in. Pickpockets on buses and all.
- At least one or two nice outfits. People in Rome dress well. Bring an outfit that makes you look like a Roman.
- Light rain jacket. It might rain while we’re there.
- Camera. Essential for you enjoyment and for the final project. You need a camera. Consider buying one if you don’t have a camera of if your phone camera sucks.
- Phone. Plan on bringing your mobile phone. Don’t forget the charger. In fact, bring 2 chargers.
- Computer. If you have a laptop/iPad/Surface/Galaxy/etc. bring it. It is much easier to work on your own computer than those at the Rome Center. You will have much more flexibility. These days a good mobile computer can be had for less than $500. Plus, the Rome Center and your apartment have WIFI. Don’t forget the power chord. BRING A BACKUP POWER CHORD – those pesky transformers have been known to fry at the worst times.
- Sunscreen. It will be hot there – at least hotter than Seattle. We have all become delicate Seattle flowers during our time here (this summer notwithstanding) and need to protect ourselves from the sun.
- Small backpack or something to carry around a few essentials. Things like sunscreen, a snack, camera, tour book.
- Tour book. I highly recommend a handy Rome guide. My pick is the Rick Steves Rome 2019 book.
- Outlet converter. Italian outlets are different than U.S. outlets. You need a converter. Cheap ones make it so that you can plug in U.S. things into European outlets. More expensive ones actually have a transformer that steps down the voltage from 240V to 120V. While many electronic devices use transformers that are SUPPOSED to work with voltages up to 240V, they may not. I have lost more than one transformer on my Surface over the years.
- Heavy hiking or construction footware and appropriate clothing. We will be touring the Metro Linea C tunnel as well as a drydock in Venice. We will also be walking through a 2,000 year old aqueduct tunnel (you will have the option to get VERY dirty on this tour). These are active construction sites, dirty, and with things like nails, jagged rocks, etc. around. You must have appropriate shoes and clothes to tour these sites. Specifically, bring a pair of hiking or construction shoes. No running shoes, open-toed shoes or anything fashion-like. I am bringing my pair of hiking boots. Also a pair of long pants are a must. I am bringing some light hiking pants.
Can/should I go to other parts of Europe/Italy before/after the course?
Why not? You’re already there. There are some things to keep in mind:
- If you’re traveling on a visa, make sure your visa can accommodate such trips.
- UW fall quarter officially starts on September 26th, so if you’ll be here in fall quarter then you can’t stay too long afterwards.
- It’s reasonably practical to travel in Europe by train. An Eurail pass may help.