Life in Rome
- Sending and Receiving Mail
- Internet and Computer Concerns
- Electrical Items and Power Conversion
- Finances (Expenses / Loans)
- Communication Information
- Miscellaneous (Driver’s License, Insurance, Medical Concerns, Taxes and Voting)
There are two mailing addresses for the Pontifical North American College: one is in the Vatican City State and the other is in Rome, Italy.
All personal letters and boxes from your country of origin are to be sent to the Vatican City State address, which is as follows:
Mr. John Doe Seminarian
Pontifical North American College
00120 Vatican City State
It is imperative that you do not write “Rome” or “Italy” anywhere on the box or letter when using this address. Vatican City State is a different country than Italy. Your mail may get lost.
The Vatican Post Office often charges €3.00 for any small packages you receive here at the College. It also charges about €30 to €40 in customs charges for large shipments (such as when you move to the North American College). These fees are paid through your student account at the college.
A first-class airmail letter from the US will generally take between two weeks and a month to reach the College, except during the holidays when it may take longer. Mail sent by you through the Vatican Post Office will generally reach North America in about ten days. Current costs for mailing letters are around €2.50 for the United States and Canada and around €3.00 to Australia.
If you choose to send any documents to the College by courier (i.e. FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.), such as your application documents, you should use the Roman address, which is as follows:
Pontifical North American College
Director of Admissions
Via del Gianicolo, 14
00165 Rome (RM)
These documents will clear customs more quickly upon arrival in Europe. You should expect documents shipped from Rome to the United States in this manner to cost around €20 and arrive in approximately four days. Finally, should you wish to buy books using Amazon, or some other internet vendor, and have them shipped directly to the College, you would use this Roman address and not the Vatican address.
It is highly recommended that you bring a computer. The current network is compatible with a variety of standard operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. It is strongly recommended that you do any computer maintenance before you come to Rome. The work will be both cheaper and of better quality. It is also strongly recommended that you bring all installation and software CDs for your computer in case your computer needs to be restored while in Rome. Various individuals in the house with computer expertise will be able to assist in the event that this is necessary.
The entire campus is wireless, which works well in most areas of the house. Thus, while you may consider bringing an Ethernet cable (fifteen feet in length is sufficient), it is not necessary. Moreover, upon arrival you will receive access to your pnac.org internet account, which, if you so choose, can be linked to other, personal email accounts using an email client.
The internet at the College is filtered, but, of course, personal email is readily accessible, as well as Skype, AOL Instant Messenger, Apple iChat, Google Talk, FaceTime, video chat, etc. Phone calls to the USA with some of these online services (e.g. Google Talk) are currently free.
The North American College has ample printing facilities, both in the library and the computer lab. While it is not necessary to have a personal printer, some prefer to have their own. It is generally better to buy the printer after you arrive in Rome, since many brought from the United States will not work.
The European electrical system is different that the American electrical system. If you are interested in the details, the European electrical system runs on 220V at 50Hz, whereas the American electrical system runs on 110V at 60 Hz. Moreover, the shape of the outlets is different than those you will have found at home. Also note that because there is no standardization of electrical outlets in Italy, you may need to adapt your electronics in diverse ways even within the borders of Italy.
Depending on the device you are trying to use, power conversion will take one of two routes.
First, if the product is capable of running on either power system, all you will need is a plug adapter so that your American plug can fit into a European outlet. These are cheap and widely available both in the United States and here in Europe. You may also want to ask any diocesan brothers you have here at the College if there are extra plug adapters available through the communal items (what you may hear called “patrimony”) of your diocese.
Second, if the product is only able to accept power in 110V, it requires a power transformer as well as a plug adapter in order to be used here in Italy. Power transformers are heavy and expensive. Thus, it is not recommended that you purchase one unless you have multiple or indispensable devices that require power at 110V. Should you choose to purchase a power transformer, you will need to purchase a “step-down” or “step up/down” transformer. Moreover, be sure that the transformer you purchase will be able to supply the proper amount of wattage for the devices you will be plugging into it (and about 20 percent more than that, to be safe). Please note that because of the way power converters work, you will not be able to use any electronic device that requires electricity at 60 Hz. You will damage the item by plugging it into a European outlet.
American power strips will work here in Italy. What will not work, however, are American power strips that have a built-in surge protector. European power flow is twice that of American and the surge protector will immediately turn the power strip off when you plug it in, mistakenly registering that there has been a power surge. It is possible to buy Italian power strips and Italian surge protectors should you desire them.
One highly recommended product is a power strip that can take American plugs and can plug into an Italian/European outlet (https://goo.gl/3i49N0). Electrical products such like this typically require another adaptor to physically fit into the outlet due to a difference in the size of the prongs, however those are easily bought at convenience stores here.
Items in Western Europe, especially in wealthier nations, will be more expensive than in America. As a general rule, expect things to cost about 25 percent more in Europe than in the United States.
Many students find that Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. Moreover, as in the United States, there are ATMs (Bancomats) throughout the major cities of Europe. With regard to credit and debit cards there are several things to keep in mind. First, notify your bank that you will be living in another country so that they do not think someone has stolen your credit card, in which case they will freeze your account. You should also speak with your bank to know if they have any particular suggestions for you with regard to their service while you are overseas. Third, make sure that if there is a PIN associated with your card it is composed only of numbers. Occasionally Italian card readers will not accept PINs with letters. Fourth, you should be aware that credit card companies generally charge about a five percent fee on purchases made in a foreign currency. If possible, get a credit card with no foreign exchange fees and no annual fee (e.g. Visa BankAmericard Travel Rewards). You may need a parent to co-sign, in some cases, to get the card. Please note that the credit card needs to have a security chip to be useable across Europe. Also, if possible, get an ATM card that has no foreign exchange fees, and no ATM fees, & reimburses ATM fees charged by the ATM owner (e.g. Charles Schwab Bank Visa Debit). This will probably get you a better rate for getting cash than even the NAC offers.
The College is capable and happy to do money exchanges for you. Thus, it is not necessary to travel to Europe with a large quantity of pre-exchanged cash. The easiest way for the College to provide you with cash is for you to write them a check from your American bank account. Thus, it is recommended that you bring a large quantity of extra checks with you in order to make it easier to obtain cash while here in Rome.
It is worth noting that car rental companies, as a rule, only accept credit cards. Hotels are often this way as well. Thus, if you do not have a credit card (that is, just a debit card), you may consider obtaining one before moving to Rome.
You will not be able to start an Italian bank account, since Italian banks do not consider the College a permanent residence.
The College encourages travel, particularly at Christmas and Easter. Moreover, there are approximately seven other weekends during which travel is permitted. Generally, students estimate that a week spent outside of Italy will range between $500 and $1000, depending on your frugality, accommodations, and other factors. It costs less to travel for a weekend or a few days, but it is reasonable to expect the cost of such trips to be about $100 per day. Even if one decides to limit travel, it is wise to expect to pay about €300 to €500 to establish yourself here in Rome, taking into account furniture, converters, lamps, and other essentials.
It should be mentioned that most dioceses provide a stipend to their seminarians in order to help cover these costs. If you are concerned about funding you should speak with your diocese about extra support, at least to make the move here and establish yourself. Stipend values range widely, but a reasonable average is about $350 per month. Aside from diocesan money it is also often possible to contact a Knights of Columbus, Serra Club, or parish in your diocese for support.
It is best to take care of loans and similar concerns before moving to Rome. Any seminarian who will be applying for a loan guaranteed by State Agencies or insured by the Federal Government should certainly apply for the loan before coming here. If you are not sure whether you are eligible, you can apply online using the free application forms at fafsa.ed.gov.
Any loan deferment applications that need to be authorized should be forwarded to Maria Soggiu (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is secretary to Fr. Christensen (Vice Rector). Please note also that you can handle this once you arrive, however it is advisable that you at least bring the deferment forms with you should this matter need to be addressed immediately.
Our government OPE-ID number is 009906-00. This will be listed under “North American College”.
You may also ask a local council of the Knights of Columbus if they will assist you with student loans. Alternatively, you may wish to contact the Knights’ main office for student loans at the following address:
Knights of Columbus
Student Loan Committee
1 Columbus Plaza
New Haven, Connecticut 06510-3326
You will have access to a large laundry room containing washing machines, dryers, irons, and ironing boards, detergent, fabric softener, and bleach, all of which are free of charge. The student store at the College (KNAC) also has special black-preserving detergent available for purchase. You are also free to purchase Italian washing products as well. Dry cleaning, while not free, is easily facilitated through the college and generally takes about four days.
The dress code is rather complicated and is given in full detail in the student handbook that you will receive upon arrival. It is sufficient for packing purposes to say that most of your time will be spent either in clerics or in business casual. Thus, you should come with several pairs of black pants, black clerical shirts, a black suit, several collared shirts, and several pairs of slacks. Casual clothing, including jeans, T-shirts, and hooded sweatshirts are also worn in the evening, so feel free to pack these things as well. Cassocks are not generally worn except while serving Mass or at papal events.
With regard to seasonal clothing, it is best to pack with the entire continent of Europe in mind. Rome is hot and muggy during the summer months and chilly, damp, and rainy in the winter months. It is an extremely rare event for snow to fall in Rome. Even so, traveling north of Rome during the winter months—especially in the mountains—one would expect to encounter snow and cold. Eastern Europe is particularly cold in the winter. Thus, in addition to rain gear and a number of sweaters and sweatshirts (both light and heavy), you should also bring winter coats, scarves, and hats (and even boots, depending on how adventurous you are).
It is important that you have good shoes. The cobblestones of Rome are hard and uneven, and most students walk to class. Thus, a black pair of walking shoes will be useful, especially if you have any problems with your feet. During the week, students are permitted to wear a nicer pair of sandals (for example, Birkenstocks). If this is appealing to you, you may want to pack them. In addition to the walking shoes or sandals, you will want to bring a pair of formal black shoes as well. Beyond this, you should bring the footwear you will need in order to go about your life: cleats, running shoes, sneakers, basketball shoes, and slippers. (There is a soccer field and a basketball court on campus.)
It is advised that you buy shoes before coming here, since the shoes here can be very expensive and the difference in sizing is often complicated.
There are a variety of ways to stay in contact with loved ones back home. Letters are easy and not exorbitantly expensive. However, if one desires a quicker or more interactive communication experience, there are basically two options: the phone or the internet.
The phones of the College have recently undergone an upgrade. The college is now wired for VoIP calling. This is an internet-based phone system that allows calls at the College to be made from, or received at, a Washington D.C. area code. This makes the calling charge essentially equivalent to a domestic long distance call, except if you live in Canada or Australia. The process for making calls, as well as the number of your room phone for receiving calls, will be explained in greater detail upon arrival. Each student at the College has a personal room phone, personal phone number, and personal voice mailbox. This is a very convenient option for calling home.
It is also possible, especially if you are making calls to Canada or Australia, to purchase and use a international calling card. These are reasonably cheap, at about €5.00 for five hours of phone time over a 90 day period. You will be provided with a single phone card upon arrival.
Many students elect to have a mobile phone while in Rome. There are essentially two ways that this can be accomplished. First, many of you may already have phones that will work in Europe; you will just need to purchase an international plan at home or purchase a plan here (if the phone is SIM compatible). Most smartphones should already be unlocked and capable of working abroad. You need to check with your wireless carrier before you leave America. Once you arrive in Europe, you can not unlock your phone even if you would be able to to in America. If you happen to be trapped in a contract for your current phone, you could consider giving it to someone at home who could use it until the contract has expired. Similarly, you could request a signed letter from your diocese indicating your “transfer” overseas. Many phone companies will allow you to break your contract if your “company” relocates you outside of the country.
These are the options that many seminarians use:
- Italian phone plans: TIM or Vodafone – both are very cheap (around €10-15 per month for 500 texts, 500 minutes, and 2-3 GB of data)
- Google Voice: allows you to keep your American number
- Project Fi: you can keep an American number and is very useful for international travel, though you have a limited selection of Google phones you can use
The second option is to simply buy a pre-paid phone here in Italy. This is generally less expensive than purchasing an international plan for your American phone. Ultimately, it should be noted that many students choose to go without a mobile phone and that it is not necessary to purchase one.
The second means of contacting home is the internet. You can use Skype, FaceTime, or other equivalent programs without much difficulty. WhatsApp and Viber are also very good options that can be used on a mobile phone or with their Desktop applications, but should be set up before arriving in Rome if you wish to use your American number. Apple’s iMessage also works well. If you are bringing your iPhone to Rome, one thing you may want to do is update your contacts and add the country code (+1 for the US and Canada; +61 for Australia) to them so that you don’t experience issues with contact names not showing up in your messages if you get an Italian plan.
It is not necessary to obtain an Italian driver’s license. Though, you should get an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is require by law in Italy and many countries in Europe in order to drive legally in conjunction with a valid drivers license. There are a few options to get your IDP, but the easiest is through AAA. You don’t need to be a AAA member and the IDP only costs $20 dollars. Rental car companies will accept your American license no matter how long you have been outside of America. If your license is set to expire while you are in Rome it is best to renew it before you leave. It may also be a good idea to learn how to drive a standard transmission vehicle. Rental car companies in Europe do have automatic transmission vehicles for rent, but they are often more expensive.
It would be a good idea to make sure that you are up to date on your medical and dental care before you arrive. This may help prevent having to go to the hospital while you are here. You should also bring any relevant medical records with you to the College. No immunizations are necessary in order to live in Italy and any immunizations that may be required for work in Africa or Asia are easily obtained here through the infirmary.
Students who wear glasses are encouraged to bring a second pair with them in case of damage or loss. Those who wear contacts should also bring a pair of glasses. In both cases, students should remember to bring a copy of their prescription. Regular lens cleaning solutions can be purchased at the College. It is available in Rome as well, but it can be expensive. Those with sensitive eyes requiring special solutions are especially advised to bring their own supply, since special solutions are not easily available in Rome.
The College has an infirmary which is equipped to provide for some basic medical needs and is designed to provide short-term in-patient care (flu, cold, etc.) as well as emergency first aid. The Sisters of Mercy of Alma staff the infirmary. What cannot be done in the infirmary the sisters are able to arrange for you in the city through competent, English-speaking physicians.
Any students who have special medication should bring a three-month supply of it with them. Also, their physician should indicate the generic name, not the trade name, of the prescription so that substitutions can be made if necessary (if a generic prescription can be taken). Shipping prescription medications from back home may be impossible or take a long time due to customs. Prescriptions written by a doctor in the US cannot be filled by a pharmacy in Rome. Students will have to visit a doctor in Rome to get a new prescription should this become necessary.
It might be helpful to bring a supply of a few non-prescription medicines (e.g., Tylenol, aspirin, cold medicine, sinus medicine, anti-acids, etc.), as some may be expensive or difficult to find in Rome. Special diets are easily handled by the refectory.
Americans are still required to file and pay US Federal and State Income Tax. How your diocese reports your stipends as income will determine which tax forms you will need. You can e-file taxes online with services like TurboTax. You can contact an accountant, H&R Block Representative, or the IRS for proper forms and details. It may be helpful to have information from previous tax returns. Canadians should make inquiries with Revenue Canada and make arrangements for their tax return to be filed by proxy in Canada, or they should plan on doing their taxes in Rome.
In order to vote in any elections in the United States, you will need an absentee ballot. The process is simple and is facilitated by a group of students here at the college.