Buon Anno! Happy New Year! Many make resolutions at the beginning of a new year that express their hopes and aspirations. Some wish to live healthier lives and resolve to watch their diet and exercise more regularly. Others hope to be better organized and more productive so as to leave more time for leisure activities. Still others aspire to have a better balance between their professional, personal, and spiritual lives. It seems a natural time to start anew.
At the Center for Education Abroad office in Rome, the staff are excited about new initiatives at the CEA. This upcoming semester, the center will introduce Italian movie nights (with English subtitles), an evening of apperitivos with Italian students from other universities in Rome, and a new fitness regime known as Impacto Training taught by Italian trainers who will work out with interested students at different historic sites in and around Rome. All of these are designed to provide more complete immersion experiences for our students.
One of the great joys of teaching is this ability to start anew and to get to know a new population of students with their diverse backgrounds and interests. Every semester represents a clean slate. I have been teaching classes on the Cold War for many years, but this semester I will be teaching a new seminar that uses Italy as a focus for understanding the origins, course, and consequences of a conflict that dominated the second half of the twentieth century and continues to shape the world in which we live. In keeping with the PC-Rome and CEA goal of using Rome as a classroom, my students will make a number of site visits, including to the Sorratte Bunker that was built for Mussolini but was re-purposed to serve as a safe haven for the Italian cabinet in the event of a nuclear attack. I have integrated new readings, developed new discussion questions related to older readings, and worked on a revised schedule that balances class work, site visits, and individual research. This new lens through which to examine the Cold War is both challenging and intellectually stimulating and I am excited to start the class.
Other faculty teaching in the PC-Rome/CEA program are likewise preparing for the new semester. PC students are required to take Italian language classes and a theology course, The New Testament in the Eternal City. In addition, a number of new faculty members will be teaching courses in business and philosophy this coming semester, offering our students great opportunities to fulfill requirements for their major or pursue their interests in greater depths.
Our PC Friars and students from fifteen colleges and campuses around the US arrived to Rome this week to start a new adventure. They are coping with jet lag, lost luggage, learning to find their way around their new apartments and neighborhoods, and participating in a whole series of orientation programs designed to enable them to make the most of their semester, their time in Rome and in Italy, and to insure their personal safety and well-being. They are all in the “honeymoon” stage of cultural adaptation. Their orientation has included discussions of housing and academic policy, maintaining their personal safety, and submitting the necessary documentation for their permesso di soggiorno (residency permit). They have had an “SOS Italian language class”, guided walking tours of Rome, and toured their new neighborhoods—designed to provide them with basic survival skills such as “how to shop at an Italian grocery store” and how to use public transportation.
This weekend, PC Friars are invited to a Welcome-to-Rome English-language Mass that will be held at the Pontifical North American College. After mass they will enjoy unobstructed views of St. Peter’s and Rome from the rooftop terrace of the college, followed by pizza (of course!). At our PC orientation meeting, I asked our students to lay out their goals for the semester, both in terms of their personal development and from the perspective of their academic majors. These were in the form of New Year’s resolutions. Like many other students studying abroad, they want both to get to know Italy better and also to travel throughout Europe. At the same time, they want to do well in their academic work and recognize the special challenges that an international experience means in terms of balancing the cultural explorations and meeting academic deadlines and being prepared for classes. We will revisit these at the end of the semester to see how successfully students were able to keep their resolutions for this semester.
One of the inspirational quotations at this semester’s orientation for new students comes from Dr. Seuss: Today is the day I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered. We want our students to experience their semester abroad in an authentic way. We hope they will have no regrets at the end of the semester because they have been purposeful in their studies, mindful in their travels, and truly immersed in Italian and European culture. Classes begin on Monday. We’ll see how long those resolutions last and how far they carry our students on their personal journeys.
Thanks for tuning in and Go Friars!