After a full day of travel and checking into their homes for the semester, orientation began this week organized by the capable staff at CEA-Rome. Late August in Rome tends to be hot and humid. Students are simultaneously dealing with the weather, jet lag, culture shock, excitement, and trepidation. For Abigail Post, (Marketing)the language barrier is the biggest challenge, while Brenna Farley, a Management major, sees acclimating to the culture and lifestyle that is so different from her routine at home as her greatest personal challenge. All of this is normal, and the staff at CEA are trained and experienced in helping students acclimate to their new surroundings, responding to their concerns, and insuring that students are safe and happy in order to make the most of their experience. This week, central Italy was stricken with a 6.2 earthquake that left entire towns in Umbria devastated. This highlighted the importance of precautionary measures the CEA and PC have in place when natural or man-made disasters occur. Luckily, no on in our group was harmed in any way, but it certainly underscored the importance of knowing where our students are and how to contact them (and their families) in the event of an emergency.
Some highlights of the first orientation day included a frank discussion by the CEA staff and an Italian police detective on how to stay safe. The first day also included neighborhood tours that incorporated many practical suggestions such how to read a bus sign and use bus passes, how to shop in a grocery store, and where to find ATM’s, post offices, and other services.
PC students live in apartments in the Prati neighborhood of Rome. Rather than living segregated in dorms, they live in buildings with Italian neighbors—in some ways, this immersion experience—taking out the garbage, walking to class, shopping in local markets, eating at local restaurants and cafes– can be one of the most transformative aspects of study abroad. These are learning experiences in and of themselves.
Several students identified becoming immersed in Italian culture as one of their “fondest hopes” for the upcoming semester. Chris Chiocco, a Finance major, hopes he will “come away with a proficiency along with a true appreciation of their culture,” while others expressed the hope they could become “cultural sponges.” Andrew McLaughlin hopes he will feel at home and not want to leave. As participants of the PC-Rome program, students are not just visitors; they become inhabitants of the local community. Long after they may have forgotten what they learned in a particular class, they will have vivid memories of their daily lives in Rome.
During our first PC orientation session, we reviewed many of the policies and procedures, recognizing that jet lag can be debilitating, particularly in the first few days. More importantly, I also asked students to identify their personal challenges and goals for this semester. Daintry Calnan, (Marketing) hopes she will be able to make the most of the opportunities, and “to learn more about myself.” Katlin Foster (Finance) aspires to enhance her “ability to communicate with many different people internationally.” Bridgette Clarke, a Theology major, hopes her study abroad will enhance her “love and knowledge of the Church’s history and provide me with insight and tools to continue to serve the Church later on in life.” Jennifer Dorn, an English and Theater Arts double major, hopes to “enhance my artistic and cultural knowledge and awareness.” Nicholas Sweeney (Finance and Management) hopes to learn more about foreign policies, and Jake Karas (Finance) aspires to enhance his understanding of the global economy.
During the next several months, we will, at our monthly meetings, PC Friday excursions, and other times together, ask them to be mindful of how their understanding of Italian and/or European culture has changed and grown, how their own sense of identity as Americans has developed, and finally how their personal sense of self has been changed as a result of their experiences, both academic and cultural.
Classes begin on Monday. Academic work in a foreign setting has its own sets of challenges.
A prossimo (Until the next time)