Moving abroad is great fun until you realize that you blew through $3,000.00 in less than two months. Or maybe this doesn’t happen to you but it certainly happened to me. When I moved to Rome I was sure that I was going to be fine with $3,000.00; I would get a job right away (I sort of did, but Pub Crawl commissions are kinda crap, especially when pub crawls are illegal in Rome), I would get an affordable apartment (I lived in very expensive hostels for about 2 months), and I would totally make it on my own. While I did make it on my own it took a little creative financing before I landed my cushy tour guide job. My first year in Rome I held a series of odd jobs and had a little luck (aka crashing at Alex’s apartment) but here is how I did it.
When my money first ran out, thank you World Cup 2010 and Abbey Theater for playing all the games and feeding me alcohol, I turned to trusty Craigslist to find a job and an apartment. I was lucky enough to find both. I moved out of the worst hostel I have ever stayed in (the runner ups are all in Rome, avoid hostels like the PLAGUE in Rome) and into a very nice apartment with a nice, if a little eccentric, roommate and his 2 chipmunks, yes I said chipmunks. I also succeeded in finding a short term job babysitting for an American family on holiday for 2 weeks in Rome. Best find ever, no offense to Europeans and this may have been only my experience, but Americans appreciate and pay babysitters A LOT more. I made enough in those 2 weeks to pay the security deposit on my room and my first month’s rent and still live, granted my rent was not that much. I took care of 3 kids whose bedtime was 8pm and I arrived at 6pm. I cooked them dinner and got them ready for bed and then had the rest of the evening for myself. It was fantastic, especially since while kids like me it is not always mutual. Unfortunately this job only lasted a week and then it was time to look for another job.
So I turned to Craigslist again in search of another job. I found another babysitting job for a ½ French, ½ Italian family who wanted me to spend a month with them in the countryside of France, 2 hours away from a major town, and we were to leave in two days. Obviously my parents were suitably worried when I told them about this opportunity but after a phone call or two we were squared away and I was off to France for a month. This was perhaps one of my more interesting and yet boring job experiences in Europe. For about the first week it was interesting to be in this extremely small French town and I was the only American there. Sadly everything closed around 10pm and I got off at 11pm. I did love exploring this town and made any excuse to take the kids out to walk around so I could snap photos and just explore.
However after a month of speaking only to the family you are working for and two of those people are under the age of 10, it can get a little old. I definitely was not totally prepared for how my whole life would revolve around this family. I had no freedom, unless I got up before 10am (which if you know me never happens) and I was off at 11pm. Occasionally I was lucky enough that we ate dinner at the hotel I was staying at and was off by 9:30 or 10pm but this was rare. I soon realized that being an Au Pair was definitely not for me but soon enough we were back to Rome and my job went from 10am-11pm to 3pm-7pm, much more manageable. I ended up babysitting for this family for the rest of the year but once I returned to Rome after Christmas I did decide to not work for them anymore. By my calculations I made about 2euros an hour in France since they just paid me a bulk sum and then once I was back in Rome they were unwilling to pay much more than 7euros an hour. Considering the American family had paid me 20euros an hour this was not ideal. The only way I survived and did not immediately jump ship was that Alex and I were sharing a room and the roommates did not charge me rent for the first couple of months as they were under the assumption that I would eventually move out. Suffice to say this did not happen and they were stuck with me for the next two years. Sorry guys 🙂
When I came back to Rome after spending Christmas at home I knew I needed a new job, so once again I turned to Craigslist and Wanted In Rome, which is a great online resource in Rome. Soon after I arrived back in the city I lucked out and found a job teaching English to little kids. I had done this before when I studied abroad and while I didn’t love it I knew it was a good opportunity. I was responsible for teaching several different children, some in groups and some one on one all over the city. It was draining to say the least. I don’t know whether I just got stuck with the wrong kids or I am a terrible teacher but this was a very trying six months of my life. It could possibly have been the fact that most of my kids were no older than 6 years old. A 4 year old does not want to come home from school and then learn English, I can tell you that. My favorite children were the ones who chewed up the coloring pages I gave them and spit them on me. It was awesome, I am never having children :). I think we can safely say teaching is not my calling and I was very happy when my six months of teaching ended despite the fact that it left me jobless once again.
While I was teaching I was also flyering for a small bar near Campo dei Fiori from 10pm-1am trying to get study abroads to take part in an open bar. This job was mind numbingly boring and cold. February is not the time of year to stand outside and try to convince people to take part in an open bar until 1am. Pretty soon my best friend became my flask. The upside of this job is that I actually was paid hourly and a commission which is unheard of in the world of flyering, as I was going to learn that summer. I also ended up meeting Russian through this job and he definitely is one of my best friends from Rome, so I guess we can all thank Pantarei for that happy circumstance 🙂 I worked at this bar till about May when the bar switched owners and they starting going after the Italian clientele and not study abroads and the Italians were definitely not interested in an open bar.
After teaching and flyering I was a bit lost as to what to do for money. Alex was leaving for the summer and I was just kind of stuck. That is when I was introduced to flyering for Vatican Tours. You know those annoying people who pester you to skip the line to take a guided tour of the Vatican? Well I was one of THOSE people. I am so sorry if I ever bothered you in line, I promise it was out of desperation and an empty bank account. This was probably the most soul sucking and depressing job I have ever done. You live on commission and things are so screwed up: tours get delayed or the groups swell to 40+ people so that even if you are able to convince someone to skip the line they usually end up leaving in disgust because they wasted more time waiting for the tour than actually in line.
I felt so awful every time I convinced someone to skip the line even though I needed the money. This was a low point. My parents even gave me some money to go to the Cinque Terre for a weekend to chill out because I was so stressed! Thank you Mom and Dad! Thankfully, as I was about to give up on ever finding a job I liked the skies parted and I got a full time babysitting job that actually paid a decent wage!!
This was a huge deal for me. I was pretty depressed from all the flyering and this babysitting job was a godsend. I ended up spending 3 weeks with Arianna (mom) and Illaria (daughter) in Sperlonga, one of the most beautiful beach towns in Italy.
Then when we returned in the fall I began to babysit in the afternoon and then it was at this point when I finally got a call back about a tour guide position!!!! You can imagine my happiness and joy! I was hired by Dark Rome, a fantastic tour company (I am only slightly biased), and started work right away. This job was what I moved to Rome for and it was everything I could have ever wanted. I learned so much about the history, culture and art of Rome especially about the time periods that I did not study in college and will always be grateful for that opportunity. It may have been a struggle to get there but it was all worth it in the end. To be able to take people on tours of the Coliseum, the Borghese Gallery and Pompeii is an experience I will never forget.
Working odd jobs and trying to support myself in Rome was definitely a struggle and to be honest I am not sure I would have been able to cut it without Alex’s help but I was determined to make life in Rome work for me. Living and being a tour guide in Rome was something I had dreamed about since my first visit to Rome when I was 17 and being able to actually make that a reality was something I am eternally grateful for. While I may no longer live in Rome I will always be thankful for the struggle that I had to go through to make my dreams come true and always to Dark Rome for taking a chance on me.