Monthly Archives: May 2016

Gratitude

Standard

For the past week, I have been thinking about what to write for this post. I’m home. I’m back. Back in the U.S., back in my normal routines, and back in a familiar territory. I no longer have to stumble my way through a new language, no longer have to try to use cash over credit card, and no longer have to think about if the bus is going to come on time or not. And I miss all of those things. I thought coming back to the States would be easy, but I am learning that it is, in fact, very difficult. Coming home made it feel like everything was distant, like everything that happened in Rome wasn’t real. You see, I don’t understand how I came back to the U.S. feeling like a complete stranger. I lived in Italy for only 4 months, and I have lived in the U.S. for 20 years, but somehow, this math isn’t quite adding up. The only conclusion I can come to, then, is that those 4 months were filled with more concentrated emotions than I have ever experienced in such a short span of time.

Living abroad, every day is a new experience. Your senses are constantly being stimulated, and your body is in a perpetual state of simply just “taking things in.” There is no rest, and there is no room for complacency. When you know that you only have a limited amount of time, you want to make every single second count. And I feel that’s what I did. And I’m so so happy that I can say that. I will admit that not every day was perfect, and some days were better than others, but each day I spent in Rome was good in some way. Before studying abroad, I had never been so challenged, inspired, encouraged, and tested by a particular experience, but now I can say that I have.

Coming back was such a crazy experience. From Europe back home to Texas, I had two flights, and I nearly missed both of them. Both of these incidents can be attributed to a combination of long security lines, changed departure times, and incorrect terminals; essentially, a traveling nightmare. Let’s just say that I become a professional at running through the airport while carrying my shoes. In addition to all the crazy that happened in the airport, I was also a mess emotionally. When I touched back down on U.S. soil, tears started streaming down my face, and I couldn’t do anything to stop them. It was one of the moments where I knew I was crying for a multitude of reasons. I was sad, happy, scared, thankful, overwhelmed—it was just one big mix. When I look back at that “touch down” moment, though, the emotion I remember feeling the most is gratitude. It was a moment of absolute thanks, and I knew that it was a feeling I wanted to remember forever.

The gratitude that I felt when I touched down is the gratitude that is going to carry me forward. It’s hard to put into words exactly, and I know that phrasing is weird, but this “gratitude” that I’m talking about is meant to mean a variety of things. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to study abroad, grateful for the people I met, grateful for the support I felt, and grateful that Rome changed me. I truly believe that I left Rome a better person. I am more confident in myself, more content with the present moment, and more willing to surrender control. I learned that I can adapt to just about any situation, and beyond adapt, I can embrace and thrive in any situation. Going abroad gave me everything I didn’t realize I needed. I left better than I came, and for that, I am thankful.

Thank you, Rome, for being home this past semester, and thank you for teaching me the things you did. For all of you about to embark on a Temple Rome adventure, get ready. Be ready to embrace everything—the good and bad moments—and be open to challenging yourself. Always remember that travel is such a precious thing, and treat each new place you visit with the same awe and wonder you felt for the first place you ever traveled to. Everything that happens in Rome will indeed be real, no matter how distant Italy may feel once you get to the States. When you come home, let your experience change your everyday living for the better. That’s what I’m doing, and I can already tell that it’s gonna be great.

Best wishes for everyone who will be studying abroad— it’s been great fun getting to share my experiences!!

Saint Maria sopra Minerva and Saint Ignazio

Standard

Rome is–and I say this with utmost love and respect for this beautiful city–overwhelming. Just the other evening I went looking for whatever the Italian equivalent to Tums is at the local farmacia, took a wrong turn and ended up in Vatican City. As I stood staring at the impressive white dome, wondering how I had ended up in St. Peter’s Square, I realized this was a reoccurring issue. Multiple times, in pursuit of one landmark, my husband and I have wound up at a completely different piazza or statue, and just decided to accept our wayward providence. This is slightly problematic; neither of us want to become desensitized, but when there are literally monuments on top of shrines on top of ruins, how is anyone without multiple advanced degrees in history, anthropology, Italian literature, and art able to absorb even a fraction of what Rome has to offer?

I am learning to take it in slowly, piece by piece. I’m also finding that the topics brought up in my class, Vision and Rationality, help direct me to specific works that garner a greater appreciation and understanding of the significance of art in Rome. Yesterday’s lesson, a walking visit to Saint Maria sopra Minerva and Saint Ignazio Church, led by Penn State Professor Robert Cessario, was an excellent example of how just analyzing a few critical pieces of art can shed light on Rome’s complex history and culture.

The focus of Prof. Cessario’s lesson was to see how the art depicted in two churches, one of the Renaissance period and one of the Baroque period, was representative of the church’s role in each respective historical setting and the dialectics between each era.

The Carafa Chapel of Santa Maria sopra Minerva depicts the art of Renaissance painter Filipinno Lippi and features religious ideas personified with the human figure. This characterizes an implicit trust in our sense to connect us with the divine. The figure of Mary is depicted as ascending to heaven in a distinctly human body. Unfortunately, photography is forbidden, but you can check out the links provided to see the murals and frescoes of the Carafa Chapel.

Our second stop continued onto S. Ignazio’s Church, which includes work by early Baroque painter Andrea Pozzo. Prof. Cessario had us first examine the painted ceiling, which depicts the heavens as well a faux dome, from the center of the church and then again from further toward the altar. In this example, the viewer becomes aware of the unreliability of Cartesian perspective as they move from the center toward the deeper end of the church. The illusory distortion comments on the Renaissance beliefs; the Baroque period demonstrates the unreliability of our senses. The body is no longer considered a vehicle for understanding.

5:26 st.ignazio

Notice how the image becomes warped when you move deeper into the church.

5:26 st.ignazo

This dome is a trompe l’oeil. From the church’s center it appears to be a physical architectural feature, but shifting your perspective will reveal that it’s actually a flat painted surface.

5:26 dome

Though I’ve spent a good deal of time looking at art and its influence on literature within my own studies, I tend to shy away from anything prior to the 20th century (total Modernist at heart). My husband, who has a BA in Art History and an MFA in Studio Art, focuses more on 20th and 21st art (total Po-Mo at heart). Both of us found Cessario’s lecture enlightening, engaging, and helped demystify a small, but significant portion of Rome’s cultural history.

After class, as per usual, without the reliance of Google Maps, my husband and I found ourselves lost again. Thankfully, it was one of those perfect tee-shirt weather evenings, so we wandered around Trastevere, Peroni in hand, and then made our way home along the Tiber. I remembered to stop ogling the beauty around me and managed to take a couple pictures.

5:26 st. angel

5:26 street

Night at the Museum

Standard
Night at the Museum

Last Saturday was Europe’s annual night of museums. Throughout Europe thousands of museum are open as late as 2 am and cost only 1 Euro. After getting a long list of participating museums from Gianni, a friend of mine placed all of them on a map. A group of us got together and decided to head to cluster of them between the Colosseum and the Pantheon.

Originally we planned on taking the Metro all of the way to the Colosseum, but it was such a nice night we got off a few stops early and walked. No walk would be complete, however, without gelato. We have quickly become very picky about where we get our gelato and passed several shops before finding one. With some delicious kiwi gelato, we began our walk again.

Once we arrived at the area with most of the museums, we were met with something much more than just museums open late. Streets were closed to cars as crowds of people walked every which way. Ruins were lit up by projectors preparing to play movies for people in the packed stands. Music filled the nights from groups near all of the museums. With so many museums to choose from we decided it would best to pick one at random and ended up at the Trajan Market.

Near the Colosseum, the market is both incredibly large and well preserved from ancient times. Throughout the inside are statues and other artifacts; although interesting, this is not what set viewing the museum at night apart from viewing it at day. The market is several stories high and has several balconies to view the city from. It must be impressive during the day, but at night it was absolutely spectacular. From this view, we could see the entire market lit up, as well as hear live music from below us. The surrounding area included the Monument to Victor Emanuel II, an absolute enormous building dedicated to the first king of Italy.

THUMB_555326222_vmacocsoak_2118363994025-1-Resized_20160522_004110

After exploring the market, we walked back to the residence. Although a long walk, it was very enjoyable through the cool Rome night. We passed by several ruins, as well as Saint Peter’s Square. Overall, it has been a very successful week. I continue to see more of this amazing city from nights like this and my History of Art in Rome class. Last Thursday we met at the Capitoline Hill. This is the hill city hall sits on and was designed my Michelangelo. Going here as part of a class was much more beneficial than simply going by myself. My professor explained details I never would have discovered on my own. For example, Michelangelo envisioned a statue of the the Tiber River god in front of city hall, but none survived from Ancient Rome. In order to do this, a statue of the Tigris River god was taken and the tiger was recarved as the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus.

The rest of the week promises even more culture and excitement. Tomorrow we are meeting at the mausoleum of Constantina, which I have learned has some of the most beautiful mosaics from the Constantine era and Friday we have a day-long excursion to Hadrian’s villa. I still have plenty of free time though. I have learned it is best to keep my schedule flexible, ready to go places like a museum at 9:00 at night or a new gelato shop at a moment’s notice.

Considerazioni Finali- Final Thoughts

Standard

It really amazes me how fast time slips away. I am back home writing this final blog post where I initially wrote my first one–a full circle. With these months spent away, discovering Rome’s sites and hidden secrets, I wonder what has changed and what I know now. I could tell you how many different countries I have been to or how much pasta and wine I consumed. But these types of numbers don’t matter, because you can’t count the experiences to line up in an algorithm. The feelings I encountered abroad were different from home because of being in a new element and a stronger sense of independence. I look back and smile at the small triumphs that felt so big months prior. Being able to communicate to someone who only speaks Italian with hand gestures or taking new side streets and getting lost, only to be found, was exciting to me.

I would never have had these new feelings of independence if I were in my same routine in Philadelphia. Where everyone speaks the same language, I always know where I am going and the exploration is lacking. I know now that if you think you have seen it all, travel somewhere else and come back with a new perspective. Find new places or new eyes to see differently than before.

Some of the best advice I received pertained to the idea of our own perspective. When traveling to new places, many of us ask others what they thought. The reasoning being they have been there, done that, so they know. Although it’s fine to ask for their opinion on an area, don’t let that influence your own perspective. Go places that initially interest you, form your own ideas and let your experience be unique to you.

I wanted to write this blog for several reasons. I hoped to be able to look back at these posts and remember what it was like to live in Rome and be in that moment. Now that everything feels like a memory, I can read this with an evolving perspective. I also wanted to share my experiences with my family and friends, to let them know what I am up to in Europe. Most of them have not lived outside the country like I have, so now they may have a better understanding of what it was like.

The most important reason I wanted to contribute to this blog was for students considering studying abroad. I hope that those interested in participating in Rome or any of the Temple study abroad options would have a better idea of what to expect from the program or that adapting to a foreign area is not as challenging as perceived. I hope my writings have encouraged or inspired students to try something new, explore and look for more opportunities to better their personal understanding of the world. Don’t live vicariously through my words; get out there and make your own memorable experience!

As for being back in the States, I feel far more Italian than when I left. Now I prefer espresso, late dinners, taking my time and walking through traffic (need to stop that). I may talk with my hands more and say Italian expressions that won’t make sense to others. These feel like little ways I can relive my favorite semester, reminisce on my new friendships and remember what the Eternal City taught me. Being home is nice, but I’d rather be in Italy. I am thankful for my new understanding of living abroad; I know it is something I can do in the future. As for now, I have a new perspective of the world through my experiences that I can apply in everyday life.

Thank you to Temple Rome and the Education Abroad Office, thank you everyone who has crossed my path on this journey and thank you to all who read along. Arrivederci!

From Wichita to Rome

Standard

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 12.12.37 PM

Just over six months ago, I sat at my kitchen table—which like most impoverished grad students, doubles as my desk—and amidst a pile of student essays, made the decision to apply to Temple Rome’s graduate summer seminar in Art and Aesthetics. My sister had just completed her undergraduate program abroad through Temple and the stories she told sparked a mix of proud admiration, rampant wanderlust, and sibling envy within me. The class offered, Art and Aesthetics also seemed like it was tailor-made for my academic interests.

 

“I’ve decided we’re going to Rome this summer,” I declared to my husband, who happened to be  grading his own pile of student work at his desk, the living room coffee table.

 

He probably nodded or shrugged, mumbling something that reflected a dubious attitude. I don’t think he took me seriously. There were, of course, several hurdles that lay ahead of my decision to apply. To begin, we’re both 30, and thusly have boring 30-year-old responsibilities: apartment leases, car payments, the inability to sleep in hostels. To further complicate the matter, we are both living the academic dream; I’m a poor graduate student and my husband is an even poorer adjunct instructor. Just glancing at the cost of flights was enough to induce heart palpitations. With over 5,000 miles separating our home in Wichita, KS with the Eternal City, it seemed impossible.

 

But it wasn’t impossible. It actually fell into place rather easily. Temple University was enthusiastic and accommodating to host a student from another university. Wichita State University, where I am enrolled as an MA student studying English literature, was thrilled to send one of its own to Rome. I applied for any scholarship available to graduate students embarking on study abroad programs and thankfully was awarded enough to cover part of my studies. We found someone to sublet our apartment in Wichita for the summer, which made traveling for an extended period more economically viable and less labor intensive than moving out and finding a new place in the fall. With the aid of skiplagged, we found relatively inexpensive flights. Though it cost a little extra, we were able to nab a decently priced apartment near the Rome campus and bypassed dorm and hostel living through Airbnb.

 

Before I knew it, we were waving goodbye to my parents at JFK and boarding a flight to Paris en route to Rome. Even now as I sit here a week after departure, in my sunny apartment in Cipro, I can’t believe that I made it here. Due to the restrictions of a demanding double major, I never got the chance to study abroad as an undergrad (and always regretted it). I also didn’t think that there were would be opportunities or support for a graduate student in my position. The aim of this post was supposed to cover my preparation for departure to Italy, but that seems like a tiny, insignificant part in the process to get where I am today. I am beyond grateful of this chance to study the topic of aesthetics in a city that has lived and breathed art for the past millennia. I am grateful for all the accommodations that TU and WSU went through to make this happen for a somewhat nontraditional student. I am grateful that I made the decision, six months back at my kitchen table in Wichita, KS, to go to Rome this summer.

 

Touring Italy with my Parents

Standard

Deciding where you want to study abroad is a big deal. The main considerations for my location choice included using a different language, new culture, good food and my parents wanting to come visit me. My family always wanted to take a trip to Italy, so I thought I’d jumpstart the expedition.

I was so fortunate to have my parents come visit me abroad. After discussing times for them to come, we came to a great decision: come to Rome right when the Temple Rome program ends. Many of my classmates had their families come during the semester, which seemed a bit overwhelming between attending classes and finding their relatives to give personal guided tours. I think the most disappointing part is when the family leaves to tour other parts of Italy while the student stays back. My advice is clear. Wait until you’re done with classes to fully enjoy your time with loved ones. I was able to travel around Italy, save my own money and spend two extra weeks abroad. Perfetto!

My parents arrived in Rome just as excited, jet-lagged and enthusiastic as I was months prior. Instantly they noticed differences between Italy and the United States. The most notable included the traffic and pedestrian relationship, conversations involving a lot of hands and commotion and the delicious food. Turns out it really is hard to find a bad meal in Italy–just avoid the tourist traps.

We spent three days in Rome. I finally went inside the Colosseum, Mom discovered her chosen local drink (the Aperol Spritz) and my dad and I stared through the oculus of the Pantheon in awe. A favorite site for us both. After taking them to all the classic spots and a few of my preferred locations, we were off to the next location. Our mode of transportation was a Fiat 500L rental car, always an exciting ride as my dad perfected his fast, Italian driving. Advice he received from a taxi driver: “Drive like you have six eyes, and then add an extra pair for the scooters zipping by.”

The two weeks spent with my parents were busy, but slow dinners with a bottle of wine prepared us for the next day ahead. Overall, we toured Rome, towns in the Tuscany and Abruzzo region, Florence, Naples and the Amalfi coast. Each area was unalike: the specialty food and dialect ranged greatly from central to south Italy. We saw crowded cities, medieval villages, rolling hills, mountains kissing the clouds and cliff towns along the coastline. I’ve been told that Italy is one of the most beautiful countries, and I truly believe it.

One of our most memorable visits was in the town of Gampatesa in the Abruzzo region. This is was the town my father’s grandparents lived in before leaving for America in the early 20th century. We arrived in the town on a Saturday, everyone was outside for a wedding and it was clear we were foreigners in this small village. We showed someone my great grandparents’ passports and immediately we were taken to the municipal office, shook the mayor’s hand and were offered the assistance of two young, English-speaking local residents to tour us around.  They opened the fortress-turned-museum for us with a private tour and offered us a complimentary lunch. We also had the opportunity to walk down the street where my ancestors lived. The hospitality and kindness displayed by the people of Gampatesa was remarkable, a special experience in a beautiful town. It made me wonder why my ancestors had ever decided to leave.  

Now That it’s Over, How to Prepare for Study Abroad

Standard

When I initially signed up for study abroad, there were so many questions I had running threw my head. I initially felt excitedly overwhelmed by the different opportunities available at the Temple Rome program. Interesting classes, weekend class excursions, class tutors to younger Italian students, internships and student blogging and photography… so many options! I encourage everyone considering this program to see what is available to you, but keep in mind that you have to leave free time for traveling around Rome.

_DSC0367

Prada Foundation Museum in Milan, Italy

 

Now that the semester is completed, I have a broader understanding of the opportunities offered to various students. For everyone: look into a few classes that mention class outings and field trips. Make Rome your classroom. Take a class you wouldn’t normally take. Perhaps business students should look into an intro art class or art students take a history or culture course. I am a communications student with a business minor so I took two business courses (I recommend Business Ethics and Society with Cortese) and creative classes like watercolor painting, digital photography and a design course. What was really interesting about the Inside Italian Design class was that we had class outings every week. This class also had a weekend excursion in Milan, which allowed a tour of the city with a design interest from our Professor. This gave an interesting perspective into the city and a better connection with classmates. The excursion classes are more expensive, but the price is worth it for a class or two because you learn a lot about the background of a different city pertaining to your class’s focused interest.

_DSC0851

Market in Lyon, France

A lot of students participated in internships and Temple Rome is looking for more internships available for students with different majors. I recommend doing an internship if you need to add more to your resume; this feature can really set you apart from colleagues professionally. The main difficulty with an internship is that it takes up a lot of free time. Bare this in mind when applying. Other opportunities to add to your resume include being an assistant teacher that teaches a middle or high school class on English or tutoring and talking with some students individually. These usually meet once a week and are a good alternative to internships. Also look into what the Education Abroad Office has for students, like blogging and being a student photographer to share your experience with others.

Other advice I would like to share with you is not academic or of professional concern. It is about style and dressing in Italy. Like I have mentioned, Rome has been my classroom and Italy has its own style book. Be prepared to see a lot of dark colors, beautiful shoes and people wearing winter coats well into May. Italians like to dress warm and conservatively. When packing, I recommend bringing lots of layers for the unreliable weather and leave room in your suitcase to bring the Italian fashion home! A lot of my friends had to either buy a new suitcase or donate some clothes they packed to make room. So save enough room in your luggage for your purchases! With these tidbits of advice, I hope this helps in preparing for study abroad.

Leaving Temple Rome

Standard

After preparing to study abroad for many months, it is hard to picture the end of the program. I spent hours researching places I wanted to travel to, classes I wanted to take in the program and attempting to pack my belongings into two suitcases.  But here I am, finals are over and the students come together for end of the semester events to remember their time here and share their experiences living and studying in Rome. Time really does fly when you are having fun.

The Temple Rome community did a fantastic job of concluding the students’ once in a lifetime experience and showing our growth over our months here. I really enjoyed the art exhibit of the different art classes here, displaying students’ work all around the building. I felt proud of my classmates (and myself) for the pieces we have created to capture our feelings toward Rome. We look back nostalgically at the photos, paintings, sketches, sculptures, etc. and remember our adventures, memories and triumphs in Rome.

For my digital photography class, I focused my final project on my interpretation of Italian culture. I have a few of my photos shared below. The project showed my interpretation of Italian culture while living here for a number of months. It involved places that I visited often, spaces where Italians met with one another and where they went about their days. Items that had significance to how Romans define themselves. Studying abroad allowed me to comfortably immerse myself in a different culture without feeling lost or overwhelmed. It prepared me to open my mind, look past my preconceived notions.

I really enjoyed how some of my classes were spent on the streets of Rome, in museums and unusual places I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. This was one of my favorite aspects of the program because it aided in the students exploration of Rome. I was able to make connections of where things were related to each other thanks to professors walking us around during lessons. And what’s not better than having a private tour guide in museums and having access to places not public. I learned a lot while on mini field trips and weekend excursions with professors. Don’t be intimidated by meeting professors onsite, they are always helping with directions to and from places. Some professors may meet at the Temple Rome campus first or mention traveling with other classmates on public transportation.

I will really miss the experiences I had in Rome to explore the city with professors, classmates and friends. I wish I could spend another semester at Temple Rome exploring, learning and growing.  Learning more of the Italian language, trying more foods and traveling to more places. I believe most students would’ve loved to stay longer. But reality has hit; no longer will Rome be our classroom. It is time to go back home, to the familiar and see our family and friends. Drive and walk down the same roads, go to the same places, same classrooms. But I will often reminisce about Rome being my live classroom.

History with a Side of Gelato

Standard
History with a Side of Gelato

It is hard to believe that I have only been here for a week. Very quickly I have established a routine and adjusted myself to this city. Prior to leaving, family and friends gave plenty of suggestions about what to try, telling me the pizza is different or certain types of pasta to try. Throughout the week I have tasted as many of these specialties as possible. All are delicious, however, the specialty that has impressed me most, and ultimately defined my routine, is the ice cream. In the United States my freezer would almost always contain ice cream and a bowl of it was always the perfect dessert. It is not surprising then, this nightly ritual has followed me to Rome.

Gelato, as it is called here, is different from American ice cream because it is uses whole milk rather than strictly cream. This means you taste more of the unique flavors, rather than just the fatty cream. Plus the lower fat content means I can feel a lot better about eating it twice a day!  I had only been in Rome for few hours when one my roommates suggested finding a gelato shop. I was surprised a quick Google maps search showed gelato shops on almost every street corner. After finding a shop just around the corner form the Residence Candia I had a delicious mango gelato, far superior to any mango sherbet in the States. My roommates and I quickly agreed gelato would be a daily tradition.

After settling into the Residence, a group of us made the walk to Temple Rome for a pizza party. Roughly 30 minutes, this walk passes through markets, restaurants, and even over the Tiber River. It was on this first night we met Gianni, a student affairs assistant. As a true Italian he has been instrumental in our quest to find the best gelato. Throughout the next few days he provided endless recommendations and advice. Most importantly, he has provided us with a list of his recommended restaurants, movie theaters, and, most importantly, a full page of gelato shops.

Following Gianni’s advice, my roommates and I placed all of the shops on Google maps and found shops near each of the places we wanted to see. Quickly, we fell into a schedule. After a nice walk to Temple Rome and back for classes, we would venture to the local supermarket to find foods for dinner. I quickly learned that in Italy people do not buy their food in advance, but go shopping each afternoon for dinner. After shopping for our meal and eating a late dinner, once again an Italian tradition, we would pick a different gelato shop and experience a different part of the city. Despite the ease of public transportation, we walk each night and enjoy the sights and sounds of Italy. So far I have had fragola (strawberry) at the base of the Spanish Steps, Crema Di Grom (a specialty of the store that was similar to cookie dough) in front of the Pantheon, and Caramel (better than any caramel I have ever had in America) feet from Vatican City.

I never thought I would establish a routine so quickly, but gelato is the perfect way to end my day, just like ice cream signaled the end of my day in America. Classes promise to greatly enhance this routine. Already, Dr. Pollack has explained to us the food subsidies of the European Union, explaining why food (including gelato) is so inexpensive. History of Art in Rome has excursions planned to many of the sites where I also plan to have gelato. Having the expertise of my professor will certainly increase my appreciation and my overall experience. Fortunately, there are still countless flavors of gelato and places to go with my remaining 5 weeks.

Pre-departure Jitters

Standard

Sean Dix, Rome, PhiladelphiaI have traveled before with and without my parents, but still I can’t help but feel a little anxious about spending six weeks in a country on the other side of the world. What if I forget my toothbrush? Where can I buy a toothbrush in Rome and what is toothbrush in Italian? Google translate assures me it is “spazzolino da denti,” but can I trust that, and I how do I even pronounce that? I’m much more comfortable knowing one of my best friends is going. He is very Italian and still has family living there. His dad will only text him in Italian (my friend claims he can understand it). I’m sure he can help me get the most out of this experience.

For as long as I can remember I have loved to travel and explore. Whether just trips into the city or to another country, it was something I always craved. Even here in Philadelphia, I grow impatient when I haven’t gone into center city or found a new neighborhood to explore. There is something magical about meeting people and seeing places so different from the uniform suburbs I grew up in. When Pope Francis came to Philadelphia, I spent almost every waking moment in Center City and the Parkway. It was incredible to hear from a man who is just as much political as religious, advocating for the refugees and working as a mediator in US-Cuban relations.

I can’t wait to be close to Vatican City. I’ve learned political events can be so very different depending on the location. In high school I went on a German exchange during the NSA spying scandal. On a day trip to a Fasnacht festival in Switzerland, so many of the floats were dedicated to freeing Edward Snowden and criticizing the U.S. for spying on our German ally. I felt myself trying to hide in the crowd, unrealistically fearing I would be discovered as an American and booed. I know I never would have felt such shame and despise for the NSA if I had learned about the scandal in the U.S. In North Philly, it is easy for me to accept the Pope’s pleas to help the refugees, but, just like the NSA scandal, I cannot truly comprehend the crisis without being there.

Location, location, location. It is not just the anthem of real estate. As a Political Science and Global Studies double major, studying abroad was never an option. It’s a requirement. Politics is about interacting with people and understanding how they work together, which is greatly influenced by location. After months of learning about the European Union and trying to understand concepts like Brexit, Grexit, and the always constant refugee crisis, I felt something was missing. The media may quote big names like Angela Merkel or David Cameron, but there is still a distinct U.S. interpretation.

I am very excited to be able to study this with one of my favorite professors. Dr. Pollack, head of the Global Studies department, is heading to Rome this summer to teach Politics of the European Union. He has given me exposure to new perspectives and ideas, but in North Philly everything I have learned about the EU has been secondhand. It is time to step well outside of my comfort zone and gain a new view on European politics with the many field trips and guest speakers Dr. Pollack promises.