The bare bones of it: studying abroad gives young people the opportunity to live in another country, in my case, Italy. We are 21 years old, give or take, and are living in Italy’s capital of Rome. There is so much history all around us, and a completely new culture in which we have become immersed. Here, people park their cars and Vespas on the sidewalk (and basically anywhere else they can fit), men wear scarves and handbags, and there is at least one Pizzeria on every block. But more than that, the Pope sleeps a few blocks from the Residence, the Coliseum and Roman Forum are a short Metro-ride away, the churches are many and will take your breath away, and monumental obelisks and piazzas pack the city. Everything in this ancient city (and country) has a history and has significance. I think so often tourists breeze through Rome and Italy without knowing what exactly they are seeing and experiencing. Why do the people act the way they do? What events led the city to be set up the way it is geographically? Who were Italy and Rome’s main leaders who helped shape the city and country as a whole? For many, they come to Italy and see and enjoy its beauty, but their experience ends there. For this reason, I feel part of why studying abroad is so phenomenal and unique is the element of academics.
I admittedly did not have a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding Rome and Italy when I arrived here. I was aware of general knowledge about the country’s political system and of course had taken classes involving Greek and Roman mythology, but that was basically all. With that being said, part of the reason I wanted to study in Rome was because I knew there was so much history that I could learn while actually living in the city. So, I chose to take Ancient Rome, a class with Professor Gadeyne, the intense and witty Flemish archeologist who teaches a plethora of Roman history classes at different universities throughout Rome.
When I walked into Professor Gadeyne’s class that Monday in mid January, I felt enthusiastic and excited about learning the profound history of the city I would call home for the next four months. When I exited an hour and 30 minutes later, I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and unsure about this class for which I had been so eager to begin. I was intimidated by Jan’s passion for the subject and his seemingly endless amounts of knowledge, and was surprised to hear we would be writing a 10-page paper. I thought that perhaps without much previous knowledge, this Classics course would be too much for me. But, it would take A LOT for me to switch out of a class due to reservations about course material, so naturally, I stuck with it.
The class has continued to be challenging and Professor Gadeyne’s passion never dwindles. The amazing thing about being at Temple Rome is, not only do we have exemplary professors, but the curriculum is extremely hands-on. For our Ancient Rome class, we actually took a weekend-long “academic excursion” to many sites south of Rome, namely Paestum, Pompei, and Naples. What a great opportunity to be able to actually do on-site visits with a professional archaeologist in Pompei! I am so pleased that I saw Pompei for the first time with someone so knowledgeable because it really gave me a solid academic grasp on the history of the ancient city, rather than simply walking around and only appreciating the city for aesthetic reasons. To actually SEE the buildings, cities, monuments etc. that we learn about in class is such a moving and memorable experience and such a unique way to learn. The bare bones of it: taking these courses while in Rome and literally seeing the history right in front of us undoubtedly the experience of a lifetime.