Over the Summer 2017 minimester, a group of students studied culture and psychology in Italy. Program Faculty Co-Directors, David Earnest and Shannon McClain, had their students take turns keeping blog posts covering their adventures abroad and The Study Abroad Office is excited to get to share those with you over the next six Thursdays! Also be sure to check out next summer’s program to South Africa! Find out all about it here!
Day 1: Neighborhood Walking Tour of Prati (Rome)
Student Blogger: Colin Neff
Shortly after arriving in Rome and checking into our hotel, our group departed for a brief walking tour of Prati, the area of Rome in which we are staying. Apart from the beautiful architecture seen throughout the city, one of the first observations I made was the distinct difference between the “rules of the road” in Italy compared to the United States. In Italy, there are few signals to coordinate pedestrian and automobile traffic. As a result, it is common practice that a pedestrian, while maintaining awareness of their surroundings, simply walk into the street without much assurance that drivers will stop. While this seemed somewhat scary at first, Consuelo, our Onsite Program Coordinator (OPC) and resident Italian, later explained that Italian citizens have become accustomed to this method and understand implied boundaries. This provided an opportunity to look at cultural differences that some would consider right or wrong as simply different.
In our brief tour, we also visited a small sandwich shop. The atmosphere and design of the restaurant was surprising to me, as when I have previously thought of Italian dining, I imagined formal sit down restaurants with four course meals and a dress code. That being said, the food was amazing and unexpectedly affordable. From there, we traversed the somewhat confusing streets of Prati until we arrived at the walls surrounding the neighboring Vatican City. Once inside St. Peter’s square, we stopped to admire the Basilica. The church itself and the many statues surrounding it were unlike anything I have seen before, to the degree that it was hard to believe they were built hundreds of years ago. With such a strong presence in Rome, it is no surprise that Italian culture integrates so many Catholic values, as we discussed previously in the course. This quick tour left me very excited to further explore the city and explore inside these historical structures.
Day 1: Welcome Dinner
Student Blogger: Whitney Newland
Our first night, the program hosted a welcome dinner for the 26 students, two professors, and our OPC. We ate at Zigaerana, a restaurant in Rome. It was a great way to start of our dining experience here in Italy. The atmosphere was not as chaotic as it can be in the United States. This was especially nice since our flight was 11 hours due to weather conditions!
Shortly after we sat down, we were served several appetizers, most of which we couldn’t determine what they were until we tried them. Luckily, everyone was brave enough to do this! The appetizers included: fried buffalo mozzarella, fried vegetables, and croquettes stuffed with ham. Everything we tasted was delicious!
For the main course, we chose from pasta and pizza; shockingly I chose pasta, considering I’m a pizza girl. My pasta experience was much different from home; all of the ingredients tasted really fresh and actually homemade! If we go back to this restaurant, I will definitely be ordering their pizza. It looked amazing and it was actually surprising to me how large the serving sizes were for these meals. In the third and final course, we were served tiramisu and espresso. This dessert was easily one of the best I’ve ever had and judging by others’ faces, they might agree. This meal has set high expectations for cuisine here in Italy and has me excited for what is to come.
Day 2: Guest Lecture with Amir Issaa
Student Blogger: Becca Cossaboom
Today in class we were not only given the once in a lifetime opportunity to be three feet from a famous Italian rapper as he personally rapped for us, but today we were given the even more rare opportunity to have rapper, Amir Issaa, actually explain to us why he raps in the first place.
Many things that Amir said were very eye-opening to me, but there were two things he said that really stuck with me. One was, “Why are people curious about my story?” This is a question he appears to ask himself a lot; for him his story is all he has known, so it does not feel interesting to him. Yet here we are, in a class of 26 students listening so intently to every word he said and emotion he expresses.
For me, I was curious about his story because it was so different than mine. Yes, we all have our hardships in life and it’s not fair to compare one’s to another’s. However, it’s not his difficult past I want to compare, but more so the fact that racism clearly goes beyond borders as well as beyond socio-economic status. For example, Amir is clearly a successful man, yet he continues to be pulled out of crowds and deemed a potential threat because of his skin color and name.
This brings me to the next point Amir made: he said, “I’m not a victim of racism; I will not be victimized by racism or my situation.” This literally was a slap in the face or like one of those wow moments for me. I don’t know if Amir realized how deep his words were, but I definitely did. After hearing him describe that he personally experiences more racism in his own country than when he visits the U.S., to me I would totally understand if he had a feeling of being a victim. Instead, though, he made a comment that he gets used to being searched by cops and honestly sees no point in retaliating because they are just doing their jobs. Rather, he uses his voice as an artist to highlight the struggle immigrants to Italy face and tries to create change on a larger level.
To me, Amir is wise beyond his years and made many comments that related back to showing me how some of my friends at home must be feeling with everything happening related to terrorism and immigration restrictions today. I look forward to returning home and sparking up some good and meaningful conversations with these friends now. Overall, Amir thrives off of the opportunities he is given every day, from the abundance of different foods to taste or to the many conversations he is able to have with the many different types of people he meets on the daily.
To live like Amir would be to live life to its fullest and to not take life for granted. Amir is a model for change and I hope to aid in this upcoming change as much as I can, too.
Day 2: Santa Maria della Conciliazione & Capuchin Crypt
Student Blogger: Steph Bisselle
When I heard that we were visiting the Santa Maria della Conciliazione, I did not know what it was. Later on, another student told me she thought it was a type of museum displaying bones. Originally, I was taken aback by her statement since showcasing human bones is not something typically seen in US museums. Before entering the Santa Maria della Conciliazione and Capuchin Crypt multiple people were a bit frightened by seeing human remains so up close. We realized later on that this site was a church with small chapels underneath and the crypt was used as a way to showcase art in a meaningful way.
Initially, before e fully experienced the crypt, the museum that is a part of the church displayed various artifacts such s painting, documents, and more. These were artifacts explaining the history of the Capuchins in Rome. Through viewing different pieces of art and looking at documents, you were able to get a sense of the culture for Capuchins in Italy at that time.
As we went into the crypt, everyone suddenly became silent out of respect for the area being a holy place and for the human remains openly displayed. The crypt itself contains over 3,000 bones, some even including people’s names on them. The bones were organized into several different exhibits, each with their own impactful meaning. I was absolutely amazed by how the bones were arranged in such creative ways. I never expected to such a dark and creepy use of human bones can be so original, creative, and inspiring.
One particular chapel exhibit that especially had meaning to me was when the center was shaped in an hourglass of shoulder blades. The hourglass shape represented “time runs away and flies by” which I found interesting and resonated with me. After the crypt, we went into the chapel. The inside of the chapel was extremely detail-oriented and fascinating to see. The sense of respect, spirituality, and comfort to practice religion freely in the chapel. Sitting down in the chapel allowed everyone to reflect on what we were experiencing and what we’ve seen that day. Being in the room was peaceful and comforting to allow people to easily think about the spirituality and religion of the Italians. Overall, seeing the Santa Marie della Conciliazione and the Crypt was an interesting and eye-opening experience.