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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

A Roman Semester Abroad

Photo by Holden Davitian

I encourage all students to consider studying abroad. It’s an amazing and enriching experience”

Mariam El-Maghrabi, a 23 year student who is studying applied economics at Georgetown University’s Graduate school, spent a  semester abroad in Rome during her senior year of college. Mariam was born in Egypt, but she moved to Pennsylvania while she was an infant with her parents and two brothers. El- Maghrabi grew up with a Greek mother and an Egyptian father, so she has her fair share of traveling experience. She was a student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and had a desire to study abroad, but initially did not want to go to Italy.


“I grew up in a generation of Jersey Shore. What I knew about Italian culture was predominantly the American-Italian,” El-Maghrabi said.

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She was enamored with France’s culture, and England’s history and lifestyle. Her plans to go to London or Paris fell through when she realized she did not have enough class credits to go there.

At this stage many people would give up on their plan to study abroad. Knowing that she made a promise with her late cousin who died in a car accident, she decided to continue on with her dream.

“My cousin passed away a few months before we were supposed to go together. He was in University in Egypt and this was the perfect time for us to be together away from our family. After that happened, I knew I had to go for the both of us,” El-Maghrabi said.  

El-Maghrabi went her senior year of college instead of her junior year, “to be different and go at an unorthodox time”. During the seven months she was in Rome, she lived in an apartment with four other roommates, who were all from the US.

In her apartment which was situated thirty minutes from the American University where she studied, she admitted enduring the hardest part here in her home: Cooking. While she laughed at this for a couple of minutes, she explained that grocery shopping and cooking in Italy is a disaster.

“In the states we are so used to convenience so when you are put into an apartment with a “DIY – light it yourself – stove”, it gets a little hard.”

Photo by Mariam El-Maghrabi

One of her best memories was meeting her Italian boyfriend, Andrew. We met at a fountain in Rome, which sounds really cheesey. “He started to talk to me but I just ignored him. We texted each other for about three weeks, and then we finally met up again.

I loved having the opportunity to meet new people and experience a new culture. “Italy is such a beautiful country, and it’s amazing to experience something new while being in an amazing country place.”

Since El-Maghrabi speaks English, Greek and Arabic, it is no question that she wouldn’t be able to pick up Italian. While living in Rome, she actually did not take the chance to learn the language, because she expected everyone to speak to her in English.

“I learned the basic things, how to order food and greet people, but the rest I improvised.” El-Maghrabi admitted to using Rosetta Stone when she got back home, and whenever she goes back to visit, she tries her hardest to learn more vocabulary. “Not learning the language is one of my biggest regrets, and also not touring the city as much as I could of. I did not want to look an American tourist, I wanted to fit in.”

El-Maghrabi knows that her semester abroad changed her for the better. Her parents think that she has matured and developed many important skills. “I learned so many things during this semester. I became independent and I learned how to live alone in a foreign country.”

“If I had to give any advice to anyone who is thinking about studying a semester abroad, I would say to have fun. It’s the best time of your life and don’t take it for granted. Enjoy every minute and pick somewhere new and different.”

By Holden Davitian

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