Overheard on a bus: “I wish PC didn’t count the courses that we take in Rome. Other programs don’t!”
The reality of study abroad is that it is different from being on campus back at home. Students are living in a city full of potential distractions. They live in apartment buildings with families and other working people, not in dorms. They share these apartments with both PC and CEA students from all over the US—from what I hear they are highly social spaces. The CEA has extended hours during the week and provides a quiet space for studying and working, but it is not the same as living on campus with more facilities open for longer hours. Our goal is not to relocate campus life from PC to Rome, but rather to immerse them as authentically as possible into Roman and Italian culture. This poses many challenges.
Students can either shop for food at local markets and then cook their meals (and clean up), or they can go to restaurants and cafes to eat. Either way, it takes more time than dropping in to the campus cafeteria for a quick bite to eat. They have to walk to campus or use public transportation which means they have to manage their time properly. Friends studying in other programs around Europe and friends and family from home often plan on visiting while students are studying here in Rome. The students eagerly anticipate these reunions with friends and families, but also find themselves challenged to find time to do academic work.
The CEA and PC programs take students on guided visits to other cities in Italy—Florence, Naples, and Venice this semester. The New Testament in the Eternal class, a required theology class for all PC students, takes students to the important churches and basilicas all around Rome as they trace the four evangelists and the early history of Christianity and the Catholic Church. Likewise, other elective courses, such as Angels and Demons, Photography, Food and Wine, and my own class on the US, Italy and the Cold War, take students to historical and cultural sites all around the city. It requires students to approach their studies differently, because they are expected to integrate their site visits into their analysis and with their readings and other course materials. For that, they also need time to reflect on their experiences and how they relate to one another and to course themes.
At the same time, students try to make the most of the opportunities for exploration because of Rome’s central location. Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest—all of these capitals call them! Naturally students travel as much as they can on weekends and during semester breaks. This means that many students are overtired, and for some, their studies have suffered. Last week was mid-term week. Most students had some combination of in-class or take home exams and other kinds of papers and projects due. Some students were chagrined to receive lower grades than they are used to receiving. Some freely admitted they had not dedicated enough time to their work. Others mentioned the difficulties of dealing with the special challenges of living in a foreign country. Although we warn students about these challenges during their orientation week, we remind them again that this is PC in Rome—the primary goal being to provide students with enhanced opportunities to study and learn, and especially using the entire city of Rome as part of their classroom. So, part of their personal learning experience during the rest of this semester is to better manage their time and their resources so that they can both enjoy Rome, Italy and Europe and continue to meet high academic standards.
We also encourage our students to stay in Rome and explore their city in greater depth. Everyone has had a chance to visit the Colosseum, the Forum, the Parthenon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps, many several times. For me, the best part of living in a foreign city is the great luxury of time—time to explore some of the hidden gems or less-well known neighborhoods and sites in and around Rome. For example, just a short bus or metro ride away is Ostia Antica, the ruins of the ancient port of Rome, a city that housed some 60,000 people, had numerous baths, bars, warehouses, and other public spaces. (See photo above) Visitors are allowed to roam freely through many of the ruins and enjoy the peace and quiet of this remarkable park. One of the smallest districts of the city is Quartiere Coppedè, described by Roming It, as a “hidden world of whimsical and strange beauty” and by others as “fantastical mix of Ancient Greek, Roman Barroque, Manieristic, Medieval, and, overall, Art Nouveau” inspired by the imagination of the architect Coppedè. This tiny neighborhood contains dozens of inimitable spaces. It’s enchanting.
On the first Sunday of each month, visitors can enjoy free entrance to the public museums of Rome. Students might explore the Capitoline Museum, designed by Michelangelo. The three buildings and their courtyards contain an incredible variety of priceless artworks, sculptures, jewelry and other objets d’art. It is where this charming fellow, Marforio, awaits. Marforio dates back to the 12th century and is one of the six “talking” statues in Rome. Students can visit him and countless other gems both at the Capitoline and at other museums around the city on the free Sundays.
PC and CEA students are headed to Venice this weekend; several of those students also have oral presentations in my class (Monday morning at 9:00am). We’ll see how well they balance work and leisure!
Thanks for tuning in! Go Friars!