Timothy Allen has no degree from Temple. It might seem strange then how much this school has affected his life.
“I’d like to consider myself an adopted son of Temple,” Allen wrote in an e-mail from Italy last week. Before he graduated from Indiana’s tiny DePauw University in 1992, Allen studied abroad with the Temple Rome program.
He studied in Rome during the spring of his junior year and left in the summer of 1991, but he wasn’t satisfied.
“I knew someday I would come back,” he said.
Seven years later, he was. He took chances. While studying abroad that spring, he would visit a pizza place and practice the language. He became such a regular, the family who owned the shop eventually had him over for dinner. By the semester’s end, he felt a significant connection.
“To this day, I consider them my first family in Rome,” he said.
He hardly kept his travels limited to Italy. He bought a Eurorail pass and explored, classes be damned.
“I made it as far east as Prague,” he said. “As far north as Trondheim, Norway, and as far west as Barcelona.”
When the semester came to a close, he left, obstinate in his belief that Rome would someday be his home. He went back to DePauw, in sleepy Greencastle, Ind., and graduated the following year.
In 1993, returning from a three-week Roman return to look into art schools, Allen stopped to speak to a professor he had while at Temple Rome. She convinced him to go to graduate school in the U.S. first, but encouraged him to follow his heart if he still wanted to venture across the ocean again.
In 1998, he earned a master’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington and found his mind hadn’t been changed.
“So, I packed up two plastic tubs and two suitcases and moved over,” he said. “It’s been almost 10 years.”
He grew up in a small town in northern Kentucky, just 15 miles west of Lexington, and he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“I still very much consider myself an American in Rome,” he said, though he gets back to the U.S. just three times annually.
Perhaps he was destined to find Europe. His hometown was called Versailles.
While he first went to Rome without much Italian-language skill, things have changed.
“Sometimes Italians think I am Italian,” he said, though he mentioned he still gets ribbed for having an American accent from time to time. “In my humble opinion, there is nothing less sexy than Italian spoken with a thick American accent, so I have done my best to eradicate any trace.”
Allen said one of the most rewarding things he has done in life is learning a second language.
“It is a very tangible and visceral kind of magic,” he said.
Today, his life in Rome is varied. He is an accomplished artist, a teacher, tour guide and a Web designer.
“The pride and joy flagship of the company is a Web site called Rome Review, an online resource for all English speakers in Rome,” he said. “Be they tourists, business travelers, residents or students.”
It is that way that Allen remains tied to Temple Rome.
“His Rome Review Web site is an excellent resource that is used by our students,” wrote Kim Strommen, current dean of the Temple Rome campus. “In this unique way, Tim has remained connected to Temple, and we are, once again, proud to have him as an alum.”
Strommen didn’t see Allen as a student but recognizes the importance of his story.
“Tim is a wonderful example of how international study impacts lives,” Strommen said.
Now, Allen lives with his girlfriend in the Balduina neighborhood of Rome, north of Vatican City, just a few minutes from Temple Rome housing, where Allen first lived in Italy.
“I attribute much of the gold in my golden study abroad experience in Rome to the Temple Rome program itself,” he said.
His advice to students interested in studying abroad or other travel is simple.
“Go where you can be what it is you think you are,” he said.
There is no question, in Allen’s mind, that Rome is that for him – particularly because he’s named Tim Allen.
“What do I like best about living in Rome?” Allen said. “No Tool Time jokes.”
Christopher Wink can be reached at email@example.com.