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.