Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents An Unexpected Challenge

January 10, 2022
By PRINCESS RAHMAN, CAS '22

Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies - Rome, Italy

Princess is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents writing and sharing her experience abroad during the Fall 2021 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed. 

There are so many options in the states for stylists who specialize in afro hair. I unintentionally brought that expectation with me to Rome. By the third week into the program, I realized my mistake and I was scrambled like eggs to find a solution. The process, no -the journey, was borderline Homeric in nature. The trials and tribulations I endured are laughable now, but in the moment, they were the most stressful situations I could have encountered. Let’s start from the beginning! I googled a hair salon, probably the first mistake but hey. The comments and reviews were in Italian, so I had one screen on the reviews and another on google translate trying to put together some sort of consensus. I was spending way too much time on this effort and decided to just go in person. Mask is on, determination is set, and I hopped on a couple buses feeling like I ended up on the opposite side of the peninsula, not just Rome. I felt like that was okay because this was the only salon on google to mention anything remotely related to afro hair. So, boom, I reached the salon. I walked in, delivered the Italian greeting I had practiced the entire way but upon hearing it they immediately called for an English speaker they had on staff.  My ego healed fast, and I dove into the situation at hand.  

The stylist wasted no time telling me that no one there could do my hair. I found myself doing a slight head tilt. For some reason all the thoughts I had about that ended up on the right side of my brain. She totally read my state of weariness and recommended I go to Termini, a known hub for the afro-community in Rome. 

“Oh really? Thank you so much!” 

 I turned on my heels and walked the two steps I used to come in, to saunter right back out. I have no idea where Termini is so again my friend google is there. Long story short, I got on the wrong train and prolonged this venture an extra hour. However, I will say when I was on the elevator trying to get to the right train, I met an Erasmus student, who turned out to be one of my closest friends during the semester!  

I am on the right train at this point and finally reach Termini. I realize that no further direction was given to me. I can’t believe I really expected a salon to walk up to me and introduce itself. I am standing on the corner taking in the sights because I have never been to Termini before, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I must have looked exactly how I felt. A man who was previously advertising sightseeing tours approached me. I told this fellow the situation at hand.  

He smiled and offered to walk me to the salon. I thought my troubles were over, but man was just beginning!  

I’ve concluded that I may have to write a book on this experience alone. It is a long story, but I will say it was the adventure that developed the defining characteristics of my time abroad!  

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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.