Rome Study Tour Reflections by Haruka Yamasaki

2024年春季「海外で学ぶ分野別短期研修」ローマプログラムGA山崎 遥さん
Haruka Yamasaki

SAF student, Haruka Yamasaki, shares a detailed report on her experience participating in the Italian Food Culture: Traditions, Community, & Sustainability Study Tour:

Photos from Rome


What made you decide to participate in this program?


In junior high, a program that I joined at school happened to organize a five-day study abroad trip to Vancouver, Canada. Although that program was even shorter than this one, it was my first time to travel overseas and everywhere I visited, every experience, was truly novel and exciting. At that time, I remember being amazed at how different the world appeared just by changing countries. The excitement I felt was something I never forgot and I felt the strong desire to go overseas again one day.
After graduating high school, I entered university and before I knew it, two years had already passed, so I decided that I definitely wanted to do a short-term study abroad before I began my third year. That October, I attended a study abroad fair organized by my university and collected information. It just so happened that this program was the one that fit perfectly in terms of the length, location, and timing I had in mind.
Not only was it a two-week program, but it would take place in Rome, the capital city of Italy, which is obviously a country known everywhere for its food. This would allow me to study food culture in English for an extended time over Spring vacation. All of those things were attractive to me.


Please tell us about the content and atmosphere of the orientation you attended after arriving in Rome.


We departed Narita airport rather late, at 10 PM, and by the time we arrived in Italy, it was afternoon the next day. You would think we would have time to rest on the plane, but when we arrived, everyone was tired (not only that, nearly 24 hours had passed since departure, so we all wanted a shower too😂). However, we left our bags at the hotel and headed out immediately for orientation.
The IES Abroad Center, an education facility, was our host and while we were there, our coordinator Naike gave us a presentation on what to be careful of in Rome, along with an introduction to Italy as a nation. We also got original tumblers with the IES logo on them, which made everyone happy. At that day’s welcome dinner, we were able to share a meal and have lots of conversations with Naike and Flaminia. It was so much fun.
Did you feel that you were given enough support during your program?


Yes, I did. I heard that when one member of our program came down with a fever, the staff were flexible enough to revise the program itinerary (time schedule) on the spot, so that the student would have time to get treatment. I was also grateful when they made group reservations to visit an art museum and arranged a city tour for us. They also bought us bus passes which made it very easy for us to get around.


What activities or events were the most enjoyable or left the biggest impression on you during the program and why?


Getting to walk around Rome and Florence with all my new friends from Chiba University, and shopping at all sorts of unique stores, were highlights for me. I think that one of the great things about this program was that they gave us a lot of free time to go out and explore the city. We were also given freedom in terms of evening meal most nights, so we even held a party on the rooftop terrace of our hotel. We all brought our own ready-made foods, bread, and wine. It was so much fun.
Over the course of the program, which field trip (visiting companies, etc.) was the most fun or left the biggest impression on you?


Visiting the bakery and deli inside the Rebibbia prison cookery left the biggest impression on me. Before visiting, we’d learned that the concept of “humane punishment” was at the core of the Italian penitentiary system, so prisoners there work like anybody else by baking and selling bread.
When I got there, though, I didn’t immediately think “so this is how prisoners are reformed.” On the contrary, it actually felt like a normal bakery that wouldn’t look out of place in the outside world. Of course, I understood that it was a means to reform the individual and that the prisoners were working as a way to help them return to society, but I thought it was very cool that the locals treated it like it was nothing out of place. The environment felt as if the workers were ordinary bakers, and there was no way to distinguish them from non-prisoners. In addition to its social benefits, the project is intended to address worker shortages at companies too, so it’s a win-win situation. I could really see how food becomes a natural part of the formation of society and that it really suited a nation like Italy, which is known for its cuisine.
What guest lectures (lectures given by guest speakers) held during the program left an impression on you and why?


The lecture by Giacomo from the Coraggio Agricultural Cooperative was really impressive. Though he’s still young, he works hard to address agricultural problems and has transformed an area of Rome into farm land where young or socially vulnerable people can come to find work. I was really moved by the way he tackles social issues. I hope there will be more people in Rome like Giacomo in the future.
Did you have many opportunities for discussions or conversations in English?


Rather than discussions, we had a lot of chances to converse with the staff members Naike, Flaminia, and Benedetta. Overall, the only time I was able to output my own thoughts was in the presentation I gave at the end (I had been doing updates on Instagram, so my thoughts were organized, at least). There weren’t many chances to speak my mind in English, but I did carry out essential conversations in English and there were a lot of chances to work on my listening, like when we had our city tour (in English). On the other hand, you could say that means language isn’t a big hurdle for this program, so I think that all kinds of people could comfortably take part.


Could you give us a simple rundown of your presentation?


I was interested in the criminal rehabilitation program, so I broadened the theme a bit to include other types of programs that help the socially vulnerable and researched some other examples. In doing so, I discovered that there were a lot of cases that could be studied, such as a program at the Palermo juvenile detention center that allows prisoners to bake bread, just like the one at the bakery I visited. There were also examples of restaurants being opened within a prison or new hotel projects that employ people who are socially vulnerable, so I introduced all of those too.
What did you do on Saturdays, which were allotted as free time?


I had actually been hoping to visit Venice or Naples, but Naike advised me that it wasn’t a good idea in terms of distance and safety, so I went to Florence instead. In the end, quite a few people decided to go to Florence. I think at least half of us went there.
I saw the statue of David at the La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze art museum. I also went to the Piazza del Duomo cathedral center and stretched my legs on the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
I really enjoyed seeing the leather goods market; most of the souvenirs I bought for my family were from there. Later, we all went to the headquarters of Santa Maria Novella and ate the famous Florencian T-bone steak for dinner. Then we boarded the train and went back to Rome. It was a short trip, but a fulfilling one that I really enjoyed.
How did you enjoy life at your accommodation? (How were the housing facilities and what did you do for meals?)


Our hotel was fairly clean. One of my friends didn’t like the smell in their room, but when they asked the front desk, they were able to change to a different room. Breakfast was complimentary and I was grateful that we were able to eat every morning before beginning our activities. On the other hand, we were on our own for dinner, so I got to visit a variety of different restaurants. My friends and I shared information on places that were affordable and had good food.
Please tell us if there was anything that you’re glad you brought with you to your destination, or anything that you wish you had brought with you.


  • Voltage converters
  • Cold medicine
  • Portable battery chargers
  • Compression bags
  • Shampoo (the shampoo provided by the hotel had less lather than Japanese shampoos and not much of it was provided)
  • Japanese food (some people brought packaged rice, but competition for it became fierce)
  • Instant foods (instant noodle cups, packaged soup, etc.)
  • Plastic bags (the ones at shops in Rome were weak and not very durable)
Though it was only a two-week stay, did you make any new discoveries during your time in your destination country? (Cultural differences, etc.) Please also tell us what you found attractive about the country you visited.


I felt that their passion for food was fundamentally different from Japan. In Japan, there is an image of “organic” food as being expensive… but in Italy, nearly all the ingredients you find are organic. In fact, it was more difficult to find things that weren’t.
Whereas we like things fast and affordable in Japan, the Roman markets and supermarkets were totally different. The dairy products or vegetables you find there are not only sourced locally, but there were also some from Sardinia or other places, and every carton of eggs had a serial number that you could use to track information about them.
Also, after spending two weeks there, there were many times when I got the sense that people in Italy don’t overthink things (in a positive way). Even when cars are coming, people still cross the road. At the art museum, the security guards were sitting down and didn’t seem too uptight. I liked that.

 Were there any shops or sites at your destination that you grew particularly fond of?
Since it was near the hotel, I naturally found myself visiting Trevi Fountain pretty often. I’m really glad I got to see it in the morning, afternoon, and at night (I liked the nighttime view the best). In addition, the Colosseum was a lot bigger than I expected and I never got tired of looking at it.
I still have the accessories I bought at a Roman jewelry store I found and I wear them in Japan. There was a pizza shop whose owner chatted with me when they saw that I was Japanese, a gelato maker who let me sample different flavors, a gift shop that gave me a discount… All of the shops I visited were deeply memorable.
As a leader or sub-leader, did the onsite staff entrust you with any duties or ask you to do anything? Also, as a leader or sub-leader, did you take any particular actions? If so, what were they?


I performed the role call when we gathered each day and delivered any messages that were meant for the entire group. In addition, we made a LINE group, which I used as a platform to share photos and exchange information. In general, I tried to do what I could to make sure everyone had a comfortable stay.




What kind of impact has your participation in this program had on you personally?


As expected, the environments overseas are so different from home and I feel like my outlook has broadened massively. Whenever I find myself worrying about something, I can think “well this is probably what they would do in Italy.” It’s like the flowchart in my brain has all sorts of new options and I think that this will be helpful for my mental well-being. In addition, I now find myself much more conscious of how Japan is seen from overseas.
Finally, do you have any message (recommendations) for people considering participating in our short-term study tours?


For anyone like me who is concerned about going long term or finding the right timing, or for those who worry that their language proficiency isn’t good enough, you should know that you’ll have a lot of support and will be spending most of your time with other Japanese people, so everything will be fine! There might also be people who think it’s a waste of time to go abroad and spend all their time with other Japanese people, but unlike Asian countries, there are few places anywhere in Europe where you can communicate in Japanese, so you’ll find yourself speaking English whether you want to or not. I doubt that you’ll miss out on chances to speak English to an unnecessary degree, so please don’t worry about that.
Also, as we experienced a bit for ourselves on this trip, the environment in Europe can lead to many challenges. When you run into trouble, I found it very comforting to know that I had others whom I could speak with in my native tongue.The program was incredibly unique and full of experiences that I wouldn’t find anywhere else, so I’m truly glad that I went. If you’re on the fence about whether to study abroad, why not give a short-term study tour a try?
2024年春季「海外で学ぶ分野別短期研修」ローマプログラムGA山崎 遥さん

Haruka Yamasaki

Ciao! I am Haruka Yamasaki, a student at Waseda University’s School of Culture, Media and Society.
I spent my 2024 spring vacation on a two-week study tour in Rome!
You may already have an idea of what “studying abroad” involves, but in fact, there are many different trip lengths and programs to choose from. I’m sure the knowledge and experience you’ll gain will vary a lot from program to program.
Short-term study tours, too, have their own unique charms.
If you’ve ever thought that you’d be interested in studying abroad, but don’t want to be overseas for a long time, then the idea of a short-term study tour will hopefully capture your interest.
2024 Spring
Rome, Italy, Europe
Home University:
Waseda University
2nd year student at the School of Culture, Media and Society; Department of Culture, Media and Society