Sorry it’s been a while!! As you may have read from Isabella’s blog, we are officially on spring break!! What a crazy week it has been. But first, let’s recap midterms.
One of my favorite things about Temple Rome is the small class sizes. The biggest class I’m in has about 20 people, and then the smallest I’m in have about 5 or 6 people. With this being said, it becomes a lot easier for classes to feel more personal, and you are able to feel a sense of community. One class I’m in, called “Gender in Late Antiquity,” is taught by Temple professor Dr. Karen Hersch. Dr. Hersch is an outstanding professor who truly cares about each of her students, and as such, she really worked hard to ease the stress of our midterms week. Since our class has only 6 people in it, we were able to meet for a midterm review session at her Rome apartment. Over coffee and tea we prepared for our midterm, and then afterwards, cooked a meal together. It was amazing to take time out of a crazy week simply to gather together and enjoy a home-cooked meal. We each were in charge of a specific task, whether it was cooking the pasta, making the salad, or perfecting the sauce. (And of course, we also had some delicious Italian pastries for dessert!) We then gathered around the table together, swapping funny stories and going back for seconds and thirds. I feel grateful to Dr. Hersch for reminding us to step away from the stress and enjoy the present moment.
After midterms ended, it was time to shift gears to spring break. My spring break itinerary includes Budapest, Hungary, Kraków, Poland, and Prague, Czech Republic. The beauty of European travel is that everything is so close together, so I feel very fortunate that I was able to travel to 3 different countries without it being outrageously expensive! I have always wanted to see Eastern Europe, and this week felt like the perfect opportunity. So far I have been to Budapest and Kraków, and I just arrived in Prague. It’s been an incredible experience so far, and each city is so beautifully and wonderfully different. In Budapest, I enjoyed the historic thermal baths, and in Kraków I found myself overwhelmed by the history of the city. In Kraków, I got to visit the Podgórze Ghetto, which was established during World War II. I cannot even begin to describe what it meant to see fragments of the ghetto wall, to stand on the main road, and to see the plaza where many Jews congregated. I also visited Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp during the Holocaust. This, of course, was moving beyond words.
What I am learning from my travels abroad is that there is something to be said for the feeling that you are actually taking part in history. You can read about these places all you want, but when you actually visit them, it all hits you. I keep thinking about the idea of space, and how the meaning and significance of a space can change with time; for example, the Podgórze district is now merely that—a district—and Auschwitz is no longer a concentration camp, but a museum. But that does not take away from what these spaces signify; we cannot forget the footsteps that came before ours, the bodies that were present before ours, and the spirit that still remains. Rather, we must celebrate and remember it all, knowing that in some way, our stories are now connected. From my travels, I am developing a greater connection to the world around me, and for that, I am grateful.
I am excited to see what comes from Prague, but I will also be excited to return to Rome. Not only is 10 days of non-stop traveling exhausting, but it also makes you remember the things you miss from home (in this case, Rome). I find myself missing the familiarity of Italian language daily, and I am missing late-night kitchen hangouts with my roommates. Returning to Rome will mean returning to a sense of comfort, but for the time being, I am going to enjoy the rest of my trip!! Na shledanou! (that’s Czech for “goodbye!”)