Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 6: 17 and 18

We’ve reached the end of the road for this blog series! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all of our student blogger’s experiences in Italy this past summer!

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Day 17: Free Day in Rome

Student Blogger: Krystyna Griswold

For the free day in Rome, myself and many other students visited Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer home. It was a large lake with mountains surrounding it and many activities for us to do. I decided to go kayaking with a couple other people for an hour. We paddled around the lake for a while, but then another student and I ventured away from the group and floated in the middle of the lake alone for a good 20 minutes. This was the most relaxing and peaceful part of the entire grip for me. It was so nice to sit quietly and enjoy the nature around me, which wasn’t something we’ve done a lot of in Rome and Florence.

For me and the others that went to Castel Gandolfo, this was a psychologically healing day, which was much needed. The whole experience changed my personal perspective of the world and made me want to continue travelling after the program ends, which I think will help me grow as an individual. Overall, Castel Gandolfo and the trip as a whole was immersive and eye-opening. Going to the lake was the perfect most relaxing way to end the trip and I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity with Dr. Earnest, Dr. McClain, Consuelo, and my fellow classmates.

Day 18: Farewell Dinner

Guest Bloggers: Dr. McClain & Dr. Earnest

Tonight, we held our farewell dinner at Ragno D’oro restaurant. The restaurant was just a short walk from our hotel in Prati. As we walked in and saw the long table reserved for us, it dawned on me what an enormous group we have at 26 students, two professors and their spouses, and Consuelo (our beloved OPC). Despite the size of the group, I know I’ve had the opportunity to share moments with and get to know each person. Prior to departure, Dr. Earnest and I shared our hope that so far away from home, we as a group would function as a family in Italy. As we sat down for our final meal together, I was already feeling nostalgic for all the memories we’ve shared. It felt like family to me.

The dinner, as expected, was delicious. The menu included a pasta dish and I had spaghetti carbonara. I savored every bite of speck, a smoked, cured ham that might even be better than bacon (bold claim, I know). The main course was a dish called saltimbocca alla romana, which was made traditionally with veal.  I enjoyed it, but could tell by the looks on some students’ faces that veal was outside their comfort zone. However, as usual, students impressed me by being adventurous and trying something new. My favorite part of any meal, we finished off with a dessert of cookies and sorbet.

Dr. Earnest and I want to thank each student for your open mind and enthusiasm in learning how culture influences our psychology. A special shout out is called for Consuelo, who guided us to new territory, always with a smile!


Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 5: Day 12, 13 and 14


Day 12: Galileo Museum

Student Blogger: Natalie Badra

The Galileo Museum featured five centuries of scientific collections which included geometric and military compasses, clocks and watches, magnets, telescopes, thermometers, and medical tools. It was an interesting experience learning about all of the Renaissance instruments. The museum featured the objective lens of the telescope that Galileo used to discover the Jupiter satellites. The summer of 1609 was the beginning of his telescopic exploration which eventually opened the way to the Copernican System. Our OPC told a story of how Galileo was the first to use a telescope from a ship to look up at the sky instead of out into the sea.


Through the study of nature and laws of motion Galileo formed an entirely new dynamic based on mathematical reasoning and innovative experiments. His astronomical discoveries changed the way of thinking that had been instilled in people’s minds for two thousand years. This new idea of how the planets orbit was often criticized and the people’s egocentric and ethnocentric ways of life made it difficult for a new idea of space and time to be believed in. Galileo’s discoveries and inventions have helped form the tools of modern living. There was an ancient tool displayed that looked similar to a defibrillator and was first mistaken for an electric shock therapy tool.


All of the tools in the museum proved that this time period of Galileo’s discoveries had a large impact on science in all aspects and helped the world move forward in efficiency. A more productive way of living was formed through these discoveries and inventions while also helping to ease the stress of life.


Day 12 (Part 2): Fattoria di Maiano

Student Blogger: Haley Ward

We traveled to Fattoria di Maiano, a 300-acre farm in Fiesole, Italy. This particular farm grows olives and makes their own olive oil. Our guide explained the difference between extra virgin and regular olive oil; extra virgin means that the olives are pressed and crushed for their oil, while regular olive oil involves chemicals to extract the oil. The farm is home to over 20,000 olive trees with two different types of olives, frantoio and moriolo. The higher quality olive oil is made with 80% frantoio and 20% moriolo, while the classic oil has equal parts of each.

The farm is also home to plenty of animals, almost all of which come from around Tuscany. The animals mostly hang out at the farm, but the chicken eggs are sold as well as the baby cows for veal. The farm also has a vegetable garden, or “orto,” where numerous types of vegetables grow.


We traveled back behind the farm to see a tower overlooking a little lake. This tower was made 300 years ago as a vacation home for Queen Victoria, who spent her summers in Tuscany. The tower was made from the cave next to the tower, which also provided the stones for the steps of the Duomo. The farm is currently renovating it to open the tower as a vacation spot–you might catch me there one day!

We then went through the farm buildings to see the machinery used in the oil making process. First, the olives are weighed. About 10-15% of oil is produced per kilo of olives. After weighing, the olives are washed and sealed away from oxygen for the duration of the process. Reducing the exposure to oxygen preserves the oil and keeps it fresh much longer. The olives are ground to release water and then sent through a canter, which spins the olive to extract the oil. Cold water is used after this process to increase the quality of the oil (hot water produces more oil, but with a lower quality).

Once done the tour of the machinery, we became educated on the proper way to taste olive oil. Professional tasters use blue glasses when tasting the oil to hide the color and eliminate bias while tasting. We then tried some bruschetta, a traditional meal after the first press of the olive. It is much simpler than bruschetta we’re all used to; toasted bread, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil make up this tasty treat!

Overall, the experience at the farm was amazing! The views were beautiful; you could see all of Florence from the top of the farm! The olive oil was great too, and everyone was a fan of the animals! I really enjoyed exploring the farm and becoming aware of the rural aspect of Italian culture.

Day 13/14: Florence Foodie Tour

Student Author: Ally Hoffacker

Our first stop on our Foodie tour in Florence was to the Panificio Brunori Bakery. We enjoyed delicious focaccia bread as our tour guide, Alessandro, explained that children typically ate focaccia bread every morning for breakfast. This alone made me compare the U.S. and Italy’s eating habits and the culture of their food. In our country, you will find kids eating processed snacks and breakfast items while on-the-go, whereas in Italy children ate fresh bread from local bakeries, which displays their values when it comes to eating fresh, non-processed foods.

Our second stop on the tour was to visit the oldest fresh market in Florence, Sant’Ambrogio Market, where we sampled a variety of fresh produce such as black cherries, snap peas, watermelon, green olives, peaches, apricots, and cherry tomatoes. They were so tasty and refreshing and it was nice to actually know that all of the food was grown locally. In Italy, the northern parts of the country are known for the production of grain, wheat, and barley, whereas the southern areas are known for fresh produce. In the U.S., I personally have little-to-no clue where my food comes from or how it is processed/made and I do not find many fresh produce markets in my area at home. This to me shows how Italian culture is much more invested in the quality of their food when compared to the U.S. and American consumers. The market we visited also included a variety of vendors with clothing, jewelry, and accessories. There was also an inside facility attached to the market where you could find a variety of deli items such as meats and cheeses. We sampled a variety of prosciutto and salami from various regions of Italy, all having a slightly different flavor and taste depending on the source of production and age of the product. We sampled a variety of cheeses that were aged anywhere from one week to forty months old.  Overall, the market contained many affordable, healthy, and fresh options for consuming, and vendors that catered to various wants and needs.


Lastly, we visited Il Mercato Centrale Firenze which contained a variety of restaurants and vendors that almost resembled a large American food court. There were places that sold sushi, cold cuts, burgers, a variety of cheeses and meats, pastries, and much more. Being in this facility, I felt like I was at home. It had a much more fast-paced environment and contained many foods that I was familiar with.

Today’s journey emphasized the role food has in various cultures. In Italian culture, food and meals are heavily valued and are meant to bring people together to share an experience. While in the U.S., we view food as a source of instant gratification to cure our hunger and occasionally to gather with friends. Food is much more valued in Italy when it comes to the source, production, and exportation of goods, the setting in which food is consumed, and the overall purpose behind meals. Food always has been, and always will be, a major component of Italian culture.


Day 13: Uffizi Gallery

Student Author: Darre’ll Joseph

On this day, we visited the Uffizi Gallery. This is one of the most visited galleries in the world. This gallery includes works that were owned by the Medici family during their ruling times. In particular, the Uffizi Gallery features world renowned, priceless works such as The Birth of Venus and the works of Leonardo di Vinci which are included in the photos associated with this post.

The Medici family was a banking family who became a political dynasty and later royal house in Florence during the 15th century. After this ruling house was extinguished, the works remained in Florence. This new museum was accessible to visitors by request and later opened to the public. This popular museum can acquire waiting times of up to five hours. Some works in the Uffizi are so precious the rooms are rooms are blocked off to visitors, allowing views only from the doorway. Some of the original works previously featured in the gallery have been moved out of Florence to other exhibits and have been replaced by models because of their high demands.


The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sanford Botticelli, pictured is the goddess Venus, emerging from the sea fully grown and arriving to shore.

The Birth of Venus features a visible representation of the geek myth. This painting is more commonly known as the Primavera. There are other subtle messages to the painting which are largely subjective.

Leonardo di Vinci was and remains one the most prominent artists of the Renaissance Movement. While in competition with the likes of Michelangelo and Rafael, Leonardo revealed artworks beyond his time. Di Vinci is prominently regarded as a painter, although he possessed many talents which continue to exist in his legacy. Competition between the Medici family along with sponsors of Leonardo di Vinci and other renowned artists listed are what made the Renaissance the movement that we know today. It was the drive to be remembered and regarded as the best that fueled new ideas and innovations among artists. A majority of the works in the Uffizi Gallery once belonged to the Medici family and are lasting works of the Renaissance Movement.


Annunciation, painted by Leonardo di Vinci in 1472. This work arrived at the gallery in 1867.

Day 13 (Part 2): Italian Cooking Class

Student Blogger: Liz Eckenrode

Since we have been in Italy, we have been able to experience many new and unique dishes native to Italy. After being able to go out to dinner every night and try these dishes, we got to experience hands on how these meals are made. Our marvelous group of 26 puts their cooking skills to the test. We put on our aprons and got to work.

We started off by making the sauce for our lemon zest pasta. After that, potatoes and onions were chopped to make a delectable side dish. Group members were really challenged as they had to cut and beat the chicken, stuffing it with a spinach filling.

To follow this amazing dinner, we made delicious strawberry cream to go atop the panna cotta. I found this to be my favorite part of the meal. This experience really showed us what an Italian meal is all about. Seeing how everything is made fresh rather than pre-packaged and processed was also great. In Italy, the produce is grown locally from the best places around. As we cooked this meal, we all gained so much knowledge on the Italian culture. At the end of our cooking class, we received the recipes of the food we made. I am happy to bring some of the Italian culture home and share it with my family!


Day 14: Ganzo Ristorante

Student Author Gabi Shifflett

One of my favorite activities of our whole Italian adventure had to be our wine tasting. We were led by Gabriella, a level 3 sommelier who studied at the school 3 years—1 for wine and 2 for cooking.

She taught us a lot about the process that goes into making wine and the processes that differentiate the different types of wines. This is the maceration process. In order to make wine, one must harvest the grapes, destem them, crush then press them making sure to not over-press. The white wine then goes into a vat, while red wine goes into a vat with its skin.  The next step is the fermentation process in which sugar, yeast, CO2, and water turn into alcohol.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the wine making process because I got to learn about the behind the scenes aspects of making what is for my family a normal household item.  I also enjoyed this as I have been to wine tastings before, but none compared to this.  During our wine tasting, Gabriella helped us to analyze and dissect the different smells and flavors which we found in each wine.  She also taught us the proper way to look, smell, and taste our wines to get the full flavor.

One thing I found particularly interesting while doing the tasting was the large difference the food made in the taste of the wine.  While doing our tasting Gabriella choose foods such as meats, cheeses, and biscotti to pair with the different types of wines.  I found it interesting to taste the wine and food separately in comparison to how they tasted together because both complimented each other so well.  Often the food would bring out different tastes in the wine that had not been as bold before.  Overall I enjoyed the tasting and was amazed by the amount of knowledge and education that goes into something as simple as pairing food and drink.  I was very interested in this topic and would love to go again and learn more about the wine making and pairing process.


Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 4: Day 9, 10 and 11

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Day 9: Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

Student Author: Marah Friedman

There’s no flood in Florence, not in this picture, anyways. Instead, this is just a stunning view atop one of the many silver sculptures displayed at the Pitti Palace. When you initially approach the Palace you will notice a beige stone building with arched windows. The Pitti Palace houses multiple museums including the gallery of modern art and the costume gallery. Inside, you will find an array of Italian art expressed through paintings and sculptures. The most breathtaking view, however, comes from the Boboli Gardens.

The Boboli Gardens consist of precisely sculpted bushes that establish pathways through which you can walk. As you proceed through the gardens you pass a large fountain of an angry man with a pitch fork. This sets an inaccurate stage for what you will experience as you walk through the gardens. Continuing up the steep hill, you will reach a lookout. Here you will experience a Florence that does not exist on the streets. Florence, being one of the biggest cities in Italy, has a very active atmosphere. The streets of Florence flood with young adults that move at a fast pace and it can sometimes lack peacefulness. The streets are theoretically flooded, flooded with activity. If you have managed to make it to the peak of the gardens, look just past the fig trees. You will be treated to a view of the city of Florence. This perspective is quite different than that of the streets. It is peaceful and inactive. You cannot see the activity, but rather you see rooftops of the Florence community. If you let your eyes travel just past the city, you will see shadowed mountains of the country side. Suddenly, Florence is peaceful. There’s no flood in Florence, not when you are looking at it from the Boboli gardens.


Day 9: Santa Croce

Student Author:  Megan Boris

Santa Croce church is a Roman Catholic Church located in Florence, very close to the Duomo. Because there are many famous, illustrious Italians buried in the church, the church seems to have grown from its original purpose of religious worship to include the admiration and remembrance of these individuals. Some of the famous Italians buried here include Michelangelo and Galileo. In addition to the large nave of the church, there are smaller offset chapels which include the Medici Chapel where the powerful Florentine family worshipped in private. According to a worker that I had a brief discussion with, legend has it that the church was built by St. Francis himself, and Santa Croce is popular among Italians for that reason and for the many tombs that I previously mentioned.

Boris_Summer_2017_2This church seemed to perfectly mesh in the mix of the other Roman Catholic Churches we have seen in Italy so far. The amount of rich marble, opulent gold, and intricate decoration throughout the tombs and around the altar is almost intimidating and breathtaking to experience. It is a stark reminder of how much power the Catholic Church held during the Gothic and Renaissance period. While Catholicism is supposed to be about helping the poor and embracing humility, the over exaggerated and expensive decoration of Italian churches like Santa Croce shows how corrupt and politicized the Catholic Church was at that time.


While it was difficult for me to understand the opulence of the church, I also gained an appreciation for those individuals who were visiting for purposes of worship. While I am personally not religious, these Pilgrims travel so far to visit Italian churches, and such dedication to God can only be admired and venerated. My Grandmother was Roman Catholic, and I had the chance to light a candle for her in Santa Croce during my visit. Being able to light this candle was a moment that I will remember forever, because I had the opportunity to visit this legendary place of worship, and such travel and support from my parents would not have been possible without her support for my father. I hope that she is looking down from Heaven and taking it all in with me.


Day 9: Florence Walking Tour

Student Author:  Julia McCarl

Last night we took a walking tour by night. Our tour guide’s name was Bernardo. He was born and raised in Florence, his “beautiful city.” His tour was easily my favorite walking tour we’ve been on since we arrived in Italy. He shared that Florence during the years of 1290 – 1500 was one of the biggest cities in the world! It also held immense wealth and power due to the large number of bankers and merchants that lived in the city.


My favorite part of Bernardo’s tour though was how he emphasized the role that competition played in the great works of art you see in the city today. This competition was driven between the five richest families in Florence at that time. Each of them wanted to show their greatness and dominance by having the tallest, widest, grandest, etc. castle or dwelling. So these families called for outside help from the greatest artists of the time, including Michelangelo, Rafael, etc. Each of these artists also had egos of their own and competition began between them as well. This is the reason you see such a plethora of unique, beautiful pieces of art and architecture in Florence.


I loved that Bernardo emphasized competition when he talked about the history of Florence.  He tied all of the facts to psychology when he did this. Competition is so key when it comes to development and moving forward. An example would be the Great Race to Space. Who knows if we would have ever gotten there, and so quick, if it weren’t for competition. It is a key to survival and built into the core of our psyche.

Another thing that changed my perspective was learning that Rome was not always the strongest or most powerful city in Europe. That shocked me, as I had never heard anything about Florence’s great power and achievements before! Florence is an amazing city with a very interesting past and I am very grateful to have learned about it!


Day 10: Free day in Florence

Student Blogger: Hannah Mueller

Today on my free day in Florence I went to Galleria dell’Accademia to see the statue of David by Michelangelo and went shopping, which was more culturally informative than I ever thought. Today is the first Sunday of the month. This means that all museums are free the entire day! This in itself is very telling of what is culturally valued. Italians value the arts and power of their past. Proudly displayed are painted, sculpted, and built works of artistic and architectural genius by some of the most notable artists of all time, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The pride for these pieces is seen as they allow all to enter and view at no cost the first Sunday of each month.


As you can imagine, the line to get into these museums can get quite long. Lucky for us, we arrived just in time to beat the line. The long lines again show the value of these works. Within the museum, beyond David are works of art dating as far back as 1336 through the Renaissance, including a musical instrument museum. Knowing a tiny bit about instruments, I was excited to find if they had a Stradivari violin, constructed by one of the most prized violin makers of all time. They did have one—well, actually three. Personally, they were a joy to see and something I had always hoped to see. These violins look to be nothing special, but to the ear the sound produced by these solid wood bodied instruments handcrafted with precision beyond its time is nothing short of perfection. The value and pride of this culture is expressed as these violins, alongside other magnificently crafted instruments, are displayed in the same building as David. These violins that are considered the “holy grail” find weren’t cashed in on but rather proudly displayed as a pride of Italy, where Stradivari is from.

As we entered the hall at the end of which David is housed, we see many art viewers from many parts of the world gathered to see this giant master piece. In awe and in a state of excitement many blankly stare up at the piece. I watched as people patiently and politely took turns taking pictures with the statue and simply looking at it up close. For a moment as we were all friendly and mindful of others taking photos and looking at the statue.  In this museum, we were able to see some of the most magnificent works produced in Italy. Pieces that are literally priceless were made available at no cost because of the collective pride of the Italian culture.

We also went shopping today and the first place we went to shop today was a little leather shop just outside of the Duomo. After a confusing walk there, we stepped into this little shop located inside of a Renaissance-era building. We were greeted by the owner, an artisan himself. He was friendly, happy to speak with us, and very proud of the pieces in his shop. Though he is proud, he was also very humble. You could see and hear the excitement and passion as he told us of the history of the building and his company.  The part he was most excited to tell us about was their Astronomica collection on which the Zodiac calendar by Galileo was printed. He was particularly proud of this collection as they had to get special permission to use it. It took him two years and a lot of paperwork to obtain the ability to print this pattern. He went on to tell us how part of the two-year process was giving them example swatches to approve or deny. This showed the importance to him to be able to represent this work of art in his own form of art.


What has become increasingly more apparent as I ventured off into Florence on this free day is the immense amount of pride the citizens hold for their country and for each city individually. This culture is clearly one of pride and consideration for their art, history, architecture, products, and foods.

Day 11: Guest Lecture with Dr. James Lynch

Student Blogger: Julia Tenbus

“Feel stupid in Italian” was the advice Dr. James Lynch gave us on how to engage in Italian culture. He explained that you have to be comfortable with feeling stupid if you want to fully immerse yourself into the culture, especially with the language. Dr. Lynch spoke with us about what keeps Italy going and not just how to order food in Italian! Italy is a fairly young country as a republic, which can explain a lot of unrest and unemployment throughout the country. The overall unemployment rate in Italy is about 11% and youth unemployment is about 44.7% which has affected the culture drastically. The youth are staying with their parents for longer and getting married later because they are in need of financial stability. Most Americans think individuals in their early to mid 20s will leave home as soon as possible, but in Italy there is no stigma associated with staying home.

Somehow, Dr. Lynch said, the Italian society still survives even though those living below the poverty line is about 29.9%. This is compared to America’s less than 5% living below the poverty line. Italy’s statistics surprised both Dr. Lynch when he first moved to Italy and our class. Personally, I couldn’t figure out how Italy survives with so many people unemployed and/or living under the poverty line. Dr. Lynch discussed a lot about how these wages influence a “dark economy”. This is usually a reference to the mafia in Italy. An example may be if a security guard is offered an extra month’s pay to leave a gate open one night and say nothing; many are inclined to take it and secretly assist the mafia while just trying to provide for their family. Another tactic used by the mafia is a pizzo. This a kind of protection money. You pay the mafia and nothing bad will happen to your business. An underlying fear of the mafia is ever present for a lot of Italians.


The mafia however isn’t in complete control of the economy. Dr. Lynch then proceeded to explain that the economy is driven by three things. First is industry. We all know the name brands from Italy like Fiat, Gucci, Ferrari and many more. These companies bring a lot of money into the country and all affect Italian culture. Around the world when we see the signature “Made in Italy” we feel that the product has quality. He then explained that agriculture and tourism are second and third for driving Italy’s economy. We have already experienced the tourism all over Italy, but we are excited for the adventure of going to places like Fattoria di Maiano where we’ll learn all about the growth and production of olive oil.

Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 3: Day 5, 6 and 8


Day 5: Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica

Student Blogger: Madison Schenkewitz

The Vatican is one of the sites I was most excited about. The Vatican is one of the most religious sites we have encountered and I was very excited to have this location as my blog topic. The art was all beautifully crafted and had some incredible detail.  I tried to understand how these artists were able to capture all of this beauty and portray it within the walls of the museums and it is truly remarkable. There was one specific piece of art that stood out the most to me.  It was a fabric that had been weaved to portray a scene at the dinner table with Jesus Christ.  This tapestry consumed an entire wall and had such detail that as able to capture every part of each individual portrayed from their hair to the indents in their fingers.


The Vatican is a clear, prominent symbol of the Italian culture.  Prior to attending the program we viewed a documentary that described the “corruption” of the Catholic Church in Italy.  This documentary definitely altered the way I viewed The Vatican in a negative way.  But, after walking through the museums and seeing all of the beautiful art I was reminded of why the Roman Catholic is so important to the Italian culture.  Silvia D’Ambrosi, press officer to the Italian Senate, spoke to us about how the Catholic religion is not forced upon anyone but it is the prominent religion in Italy.  There were many individuals visiting the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, admiring the art portraying very important religious figures such as The Saints, Madonna, and Jesus.  It was clear that all of the spectators/visitors were there out of respect to admire the religious works of art.

I was given the opportunity to climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, and while the journey was difficult the finish line was breathtaking.  I was able to see a beautiful aerial view of Rome that showed the buildings with their unique architecture, rivers, plants, gardens, etc.  It was a scene unlike anything I have seen before and I will never be able to see again.  Upon entering the Basilica, you are overwhelmed by this view of mesmerizing mosaics that gave me a new perspective of “what a Basilica is.” I was very ignorant of what I would actually see inside The Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica and I will now forever hold this memory.


Day 5 (Part 2): Rome by Night

Student Blogger: Emily Windwer

Today we had another tour led by the outstanding Salome, but this was a night tour of Rome. Some of the places we went we had been in the past few days, but there was something different about seeing them in the night with the street lights shining and less people (except for the Trevi Fountain). When we went to these sites in the past few days we knew the gist of what they were and why they were there, but as Salome led us on the tour, she explained in great detail the true history.


We began our tour at the Piazza Navona, which used to be a sports stadium but like many things in Rome, it was recycled. We then made our way to the Spanish Steps and learned how they received their name. She shared with us that the Spanish Steps, a beautiful stairway, were actually built by a French diplomat because at that time it was complicated to get to the church that is above the steps. This area of Rome was the historic entrance to the city. It was a must for artists of all kinds to come live there for some time. The steps are called “Spanish” because they link the Spanish Embassy to the church.

Next on our tour was the Trevi Fountain, another piece of art that came to be due to recycled history. The fountain was beautiful at night and of course we all got a chance to throw our coins in and make a wish. We also stopped by the Pantheon, which we had the opportunity to go into the day before. This was my favorite part of the tour because Salome shared so much information with us about this building that you wouldn’t know just by looking at it. It was built and dedicated to the seven gods; seven is a magical number in many cultures and it is the sum of four and three. We learned that we continue to honor these gods by using their names in the seven days of the week. On April 21st, Rome’s Birthday at 12, the sun lights the entrance of the door. We ended our tour back at the Piazza Navona and thanked Salome. It was a great experience to see these parts of Rome at night and to learn so much of the history.

Day 6: Museo Laboratorio delle Mente

Student Blogger: Eric Wesner

Today we had the opportunity to visit the Museo Laboratoria della Mente, a former asylum turned mental health museum, to learn about the history of mental illness in Italy. Our tour guide, Francesca, took us on an interactive tour of the museum. First, we viewed an optical illusion in order to demonstrate how one’s preconceptions can alter one’s perception. Next, we explored rooms where other elements of perception were altered. In one room, voices were repeated akin to hallucinations. In another room, images on a screen were delayed, challenging one’s sense of time.


Other exhibits included a glass replication of stone wall which a past client had methodically etched writings and drawings into. One wall held paintings of a former client, while another held artifacts of the past asylum, such as a metal bedframe and electric shock equipment. The museum also had a room you could view that was the same as the patients had to use.


My favorite exhibit however was a bench on which you could lean forward and it would show you a photograph of a past client. This was then accompanied by a voice reading their account of the mental illness. Intermixed in the patients’ collage of photos were photos of our group as well, signifying that mental illness can affect everyone. I found this exhibit to be particularly moving as I listened to their accounts, and imagined how frightened and isolated they must have felt.


Day 6: Casa Internazionale delle Donne

Student Blogger: Melissa White

Casa Internazionale delle Donna is the International House of Women, established in 2007 in Rome, Italy. The organization is funded by the UN Voluntary Fund, grants from the Open Society Institute, support from local and national Italian governments, as well as donations from the public. Casa Internazionale delle Donna provides resources and support to victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and discrimination against women. Only women work for this organization. The building Towson University students visited was previously an area of confinement for women who did not conform with the standards of society in the 17th century. For instance, students entered cells that were used primarily for lesbian women. It is inspiring that this organization was able to find solace in a place that used to discriminate strongly against women.

We learned that human trafficking became more prevalent in Europe after the enlargement of the EU. Trafficked women came from places like the Ukraine and Nigeria and were used mainly for the purpose of sexual exploitation and in some cases labor exploitation. Casa Internazionale della Donna found innovative ways to protect women who were trafficked in other countries and monitored the development of further trafficking. In 2016, there was a huge success for traumatized human trafficking victims. A landmark case won compensation for the women’s suffering, as the court ruled 17 Nigerian victims’ need for compensation was far greater than the need for compensation of the court. For the first time, the court focused on the well-being of the victim rather than solely prosecution of the perpetrator.


We also learned that in Italy, a woman is killed by a partner or former partner every 2 days. Domestic violence is especially hurtful and traumatic because trust is broken by someone very close, usually within the family. This organization approaches women in a non-judgmental way and offers a series of services to help. These services include a health center, shelter and a special help desk at the main hospital in Rome. It took years to bring understanding of the importance of a woman’s private help desk because hospital workers usually don’t deal with long term trauma such as ongoing psychological conditions. Currently, if the hospital workers suspect domestic violence, they immediately contact Casa Internazionale Della Donna to work as a buffer between medical assistance and the violent situation. In the event the perpetrator accompanies their victim to the hospital, the private help desk gives the victim a chance to separate from their abuser.

This organization is extremely important because it covers a large variety of services for women in Rome. Housing, food, and education are offered to those who seek safety and help during a difficult and oftentimes violent situation. Currently in the United States, there are few organizations that encompass all of these services for women. The success of Casa Internazionale della Donna could potentially lead to similar services being available in the US.



Day 8: Santa Maria del Fiore/Duomo

Student Blogger: Taylor Mogavero

The Santa Maria del Fiore is a huge highlight and one of the most famous landmarks in Florence. During our time visiting the cathedral and the Duomo, I noticed and learned many new things in a short among of time, mainly relating to topics discussed during class time.  A reoccurring theme in Italy seems to be the importance of religion.  Religion is emphasized greatly, as it’s a huge part of Italian tradition and culture. In the cathedral, I saw many people from different backgrounds and races.  I found this to be extremely powerful, that even with all the issues in the world regarding racism, sexism, discrimination, etc., people found a common place in the cathedral and it truly felt as if everyone was one.

I noticed that everyone seemed extremely happy, as well. I relate this back to the psychology of the Italian culture, mainly religion, and how practicing religion can help people feel satisfied, content with life, and give people a sense of belonging. Living in a less individualistic society like Italy, tradition is essential and is fully passed down from generation to generation. The extravagance of the cathedral really put into perspective the importance of religion in people’s lives. It was incredibly beautiful and for some reason stood out more than any other church we’ve seen on our visit thus far. I feel that being inside the cathedral for a short amount of time, my perspective on the world and other people has been altered completely. It felt serene and like nothing could come between anybody, regardless of their physical differences and origins.


The Duomo, which is the dome section of the cathedral, was particularly impressive. Climbing to the top was quite a challenge, however extremely worth it. I love overhearing people cheering one another on and encouraging others to complete the challenging task, regardless of the various fears (there were some tight spaces). Seeing the view from the top was incredible and really captured all of Florence.  There was a rewarding feeling once reaching the top. While looking down from the dome and seeing everything function on ground-level, I couldn’t help but to think how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.  Unnecessary issues going on nowadays are not worth our energy; we should just enjoy time together on this planet while we are still here. Perhaps seeing everyone in the cathedral coexist peacefully provoked this abstract thought; and if climbing up 400 steps led me to this eye-opening realization, then so be it!


Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 2: Day 3 and 4


Day 3: Ancient Rome Tour

Student Blogger: Katelyn Eckstine

The Ancient Rome tour with our guide, Salome (Sah-lo-meh), was very informative, and the part I found most interesting was the theme of recycling which was explained in the beginning with the basic history of how Rome came to be. She began by introducing the famous Romulus and Remus, the two babies sent down the Tiber river who were raised by a she-wolf. She easily debunked this and gave the practical explanation for how Rome came to exist. The foundation of Rome was developed through common interest and trade.

The Vatican area of Rome was inhabited by Etruscans who were wealthy and powerful, while the Seven Hills were inhabited by all different people – practically a separate country. These two areas of Rome are divided by the Tiber River. 3,000 years ago there were no bridges because no one knew how to build them, but there was a tiny island that jutted out into the river which easily connected both sides. The island came to be used for business and trade between the two areas which made them more interconnected. 500 years later (2,500 years ago) the two villages decided to form a democracy based on the Greek model; thus came the Roman Forum which was the square where the senate and people came together to form a Republic.

Roman power peaked in 100 AD, becoming the capital of the world, because of the immense amount of communication. They were the first people to pave their roads which spread a total of 50,000 miles (the largest set of roads in the world). What made them so powerful was that they dominated land with roads rather than water with sailing like everyone else. The Romans also invented cement to build concentric arches, walls, and bridges using limestone, dirt, water, clay, and other natural materials. This was the beginning of centuries of preservation through recycling.

Rome is the best preserved ancient city because most were poor and could not replace anything after massive floods and destructive wars with the “barbarians.” Because replacing everything was not possible, they recycled everything. There are many ruins, but the reason they are still around is because over the many centuries, Romans recycled them. This means that they would use one building for the government, and when they moved from it, many years later, it was turned into a church. Every building had multiple purposes over the course of its existence. In addition to whole buildings, things that were destroyed had usable material. For example, old columns and marble were reused as floors in churches.

Without using the natural materials and recycling them, Rome would not be as evidently historic as it is today. Throughout the whole tour, we could see how much detail was put into every carving on every building and statue. There was no technology so developing the architecture took significantly long. We could all learn this from the Romans: put time and dedication into everything we do and always recycle it so it lasts for a very long time and holds historical significance.

Day 3: Guest Lecture with Silvia D’Ambrosi

Student Blogger: Nicole Wheeler

This afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting with Silvia D’Ambrosi, press officer to the Italian Senate.  She discussed Italy’s membership in the European Union, and compared their government to the United States’ government.  The two have a variety of similarities and differences. Both countries have a House of Representatives, a Cabinet, and a President.  However, Italy is not a Federal State and the President does not have executive power.  Italy also has free healthcare, but because of this the citizens pay more taxes.

Towards the end of the lecture with Ms. D’Ambrosi, we began discussing some of the issues that occur in Italy.  The youth unemployment rate is about 34.1% and the overall unemployment rate is about 11.7%.  Compared to America, whose unemployment is 4.6%, Italy’s is extremely high.  The difficult job market allows gender disparities to persist; in order to obtain employment, some women are signing work contracts stating that they resign from their jobs effective immediately, with the intention that the company will resurrect this contract when a woman is pregnant. However, these practices are shifting, with an increased focus on women’s rights.


Young people right out of college are also struggling to find jobs as well.  Many students will go abroad to look for careers because they struggle to find them at home.  I didn’t realize how high the unemployment rate was, nor did I realize how hard it was for college grads to find jobs.  I was really surprised by this.  In America college grads struggle to find jobs, but very rarely will people at that age travel to a different country to find a job, and start a life.  I never really thought about how different it was.  I just assumed that people were always able to find jobs.  I didn’t think about the fact that another strong country, like Italy, could be struggling with something so important to their livelihood.

Overall, I enjoyed our time spent with her! Her lecture and discussion was eye-opening, and made me really think about things.  Although Italy is a strong country, they do have their own issues just like everyone else.  The United States and Italy are definitely very different, but the two share similar issues as well.

Day 3: Galleria Borghese

Student Blogger: Erin Toomey

Our second stop of the day was Galleria Borghese. This was a beautiful art museum featuring many Roman paintings, sculptures, and mosaics. The building was transformed into the art museum from the former home of Cardinal Scipione Borghese.


To get to the Galleria, we walked through a beautiful park. All of a sudden, the canopy pines opened up and gave way to this beautiful mansion. Inside, we were able to explore the different rooms of the gallery with floor to ceiling (and the ceilings were the best part!) 3-dimensional murals, stunning paintings, and massive mosaics in the floor.

I loved standing back and watching as people entered a new room and looked up in awe as they saw the breath-taking, arched, painted ceilings. One of the ceilings had so much depth I thought that if I laid on the floor it would seem as if I was looking into the sky. My favorite piece in the gallery was found upstairs. It was small and looked like every other painting there, until you got really close. When I moved closer, I realized that the piece was actually a mosaic made with the tiniest tiles I have ever seen. It was incredible. I got so excited I started pointing it out to everyone that passed by.

I loved being able to sit and talk about each of the ceilings and color schemes in the different room; each one had its own feeling. Some were bright and airy, others were bold and dark. Each made me feel a different way, which added so much to the experience.

Day 4: Eataly

Student Blogger: Eva DeVries

Eataly sensationalizes Italian culture by selling thousands of products, from meats, dairy, olive oil, and beer to beauty products. Eataly promises fresh, regional, and delicious ingredients. During our tour, we were introduced to a twelve-sectioned display board showing consumers what products can be found in Italy during each month.

Next, we sampled products such as pizza, olive oil, gnocchi, and cold-cut meats. The food we ate differed greatly in taste and quality compared to what an American would taste in a local Giant. Furthermore, Eataly cooks their food behind glass walls. Thus, we were able to observe the production of mozzarella and pasta, as well as the brewing of beer. The transparency of the tedious production of these products is not a traditional practice seen in supermarkets.


Moreover, the products found in Eataly spoke for themselves. They are simply displayed on shelves with a description of where the product was sourced and the price in small black font.  On the other hand, American supermarkets have the quality of the product overshadowed by the price. The sale of the item is often printed in flashy prints in bold colors.

Another major difference between a standard American market and Eataly lies in how the meat products are displayed. Americans prefer their meat products to be unrecognizable to the animal it once was. Meat is shredded and even dyed to an unnatural resemblance of an animal product. On the other hand, Eataly proudly hangs pork haunches from the ceiling and clear resemblances of the true animal remains clear when the meat product is inside a display case.

While Eataly proves to have enchanting qualities, there are disadvantages to their philosophy. For instance, consumers may demand to have access to the products in the winter time that are only available in the summer. With technological advances, many consumers have grown accustomed to having immediate access to his or her favorite products at any given time. Furthermore, consumers will need to find a substitute or make another trip to a different store.

Eataly holds the promise of fresh food with fair and sustainable eating practices. The transparency of the production of food was an added bonus. American markets should adopt Eataly’s practices to improve the health of the people, as well as the environment.


Day 4: Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine
Student Blogger: Carrie Haynes

The Colosseum, Forum and Palatine were all places of ancient Roman history that still stand today, over two thousand years later. It was so amazing to see how these places have withstood the tests of time over and over again. There is more history in these three places than in all of America. I found every part to be amazing. To think that people built these buildings without the help of our modern day technology is absolutely mind-blowingly amazing!


Learning about the history of the Colosseum has changed how I view individuals different from myself by challenging my way of thinking. Just because I don’t agree with the customs of people of different cultures, doesn’t make those customs wrong. An example of this is the gladiator fighting and the executions that occurred at the Colosseum. I personally don’t believe in fighting animals for sport, or executing people by making them act out their own deaths, but to understand someone being able to sit and watch this for sport, you have to understand that what is “normal” is a construction of that time and place and this was normal for them back then. While this probably isn’t the best example, the conclusion of not judging others without taking into account the historical context remains the same.


Learning about these events also encouraged my personal development and growth because by seeing these historic places up close and personal, I realized just how wrong my view of these places was. By walking around these places, I learned to look beyond what I see in pictures, because pictures only show a fraction of everything there is to see. Seeing these places has also taught me to not underestimate anyone, as well as changing my perspective of the world by showing me that just because other people don’t have the tools that we do today, doesn’t mean they can’t accomplish amazing things. These places taught me to not be so close minded and ethnocentric.

Something I learned that I would like to share is the misconception that lions were predominately used during gladiator fights. Due to them being so expensive and difficult to get, other animals that were more local and cheaper to obtain were used most of the times. But the stories of lions have lived so long because it’s the more exciting and interesting tale.




Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 1: Day 1 and 2

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!

Windwer_Group photo at Trevi fountain

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.


Studying Abroad as a Student of Color

Thoughts from Brianna James, Peer Advisor.

Naturally, each student preparing to go abroad has their own set of concerns. As a student who’d booked their flight a day too early, had never been out of the country before, and had never even been on a plane, I think it’s safe to say I fit the bill. My biggest concern however, was the color of my skin.

With racial tensions ever present in the States, I have to admit that being a student of color is scary; especially for those of us attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs). While most students aren’t racist, we have to be aware that they could be, and be prepared to deal with these situations, God forbid they ever arise. So it only makes sense that these fears would be heightened at the the thought of studying in another country.

Your identity as a person of color is something that follows you wherever you go, so it makes sense to be concerned about how it will impact your time abroad. I looked back at my own experience and came up with some tips for other students of color studying abroad:

DO: research…but not too much. I didn’t have any friends or family that had been abroad, and at the time I felt silly admitting to others that the color of my skin was one of my concerns. So I did what any millennial with a pressing question would do…I went to google; like actually googled “racism in London.” Most of what I found were discussion forums, and while some stories were helpful, others were definitely less so. Interestingly enough, what I found most insightful was research into Britain’s history. It helped me put the country’s racial relations onto a timeline, and really changed my perspective.

DON’T: expect another person’s experience to parallel your own. Everyone’s time abroad is different. Don’t allow yourself to be immediately turned on or off by something someone else encountered abroad.

DO: brace yourself for horror stories. It happens. When I was abroad, a man came up to me in a bar and told me he hated black people. I was stunned and had no idea what to say. Fortunately the amazing friends I’d made abroad had my back, and responded to him before I even had the chance.

DON’T: let a horror story paralyze you. If for any reason you do have an uncomfortable encounter abroad, do not let it intimidate you from enjoying the duration of your program. Take time for self care and reconnect to your support system.

DO: and I absolutely mean do, be comfortable expressing these concerns prior to your study abroad experience; it’s more difficult to face them alone. When possible, reach out to other persons in your community that have already been abroad to get a feel for their experience. More times than not, it’ll ease your mind. If no one you identify with has been abroad, take your concerns to an ally; explain them in detail because talking can be quite therapeutic.

At the end of the day, studying abroad is one of the best decisions you can make as a college student. Worrying about your experience as a student of color abroad is completely valid and worth preparing for, but DON’T let it keep you from participating in the experience of a lifetime!

The Towson University Study Abroad Office partners with Diversity Abroad to offer resources and scholarships for underrepresented students. Interested in Study Abroad? Come to one of our information sessions, M-F at 2pm in PY 408, or email us at


Advice for Veterans Studying Abroad

Veterans represent a growing population on college campuses, and that means more students that should study abroad! Plus, if you receive G.I. Bill educational funding,  you could be traveling for little to nothing! Check out thoughts from Chris Powell, the Study Abroad Office Veteran Liaison, on studying abroad as a Veteran.

Thoughts from Chris Powell, Study Abroad Veteran Liaison

Sure, many veterans have been abroad, but have you been abroad without the uniform? Now is your chance. Veterans have been identified as an underrepresented community for study abroad! What does that mean for you? Well, for those of you utilizing the G.I. Bill, you can study abroad and learn valuable skills and experiences for a fraction of the normal cost by using your benefits. Veterans who study abroad are still eligible for their housing allowance. I studied abroad in India and was able to live very comfortably because of continued housing allowance while abroad. Studying Abroad is an amazing opportunity that you shouldn’t let pass you by. Doing so will allow you to expand your network and add some very valuable skills to your resume, such as language training, or even showing an employer that you have been abroad and are culturally competent and globally savvy in foreign environments. These are important skills that are sought after in the civilian sector of employment, where international work is continuously growing.

Studying abroad also grants us the opportunity to get rid of the stigma about veterans overseas. For those of us who have been abroad or lived abroad with the military, we have all heard the same old saying about the U.S. military overseas, and most of the time it involves negative opinions. Well now is our chance to get rid of the stigma and become proud ambassadors for our country and to show other countries that we are a valuable asset to work with. Not only will your study abroad experience grant you credits towards graduation but also help fulfill requirements for your major and or minor, including elective credits or Core credits, but also gives you the opportunity to build your resume, forge new friendships that will last a lifetime, and gain new and interesting experiences by learning other languages, cultures and customs that could change you in ways you never thought possible. Studying in a different country allows you to live life and learn through a new positive perspective. And as we know, what we encountered during our time in the military, most of us have lived through very rough and stressful situations. Studying abroad can be stressful going to a new country where you don’t know the language or customs, but often this may be easier for us since we’ve had to do this before, but in war zones, where stress levels can be through the roof. Being resilient and adaptable really make studying abroad perfect for veterans. Please consider studying abroad during your time at Towson University, as studying abroad forever changed my life for the better, and it can change yours too, if you take the leap.

Interested? Attend a Study Abroad Information Session (M-F at 2pm, PY 408, drop-ins welcome). Or, contact the Study Abroad Office for more information!

Exploring Global Experiences in Dublin

Elena Kalodner-Martin is an English major with a Health Sciences minor here at Towson University and will be graduating in Spring 2017. She is originally from Columbia, Maryland. She studied abroad through the Global Experiences Internship Program in Dublin, Ireland during Summer 2016.


Q: What (or who) got you started and how did you choose your program? What would you consider to be the benefits of interning abroad?

This is a funny story: I was dead-set on going to London and the Global Experiences staff told me that they thought Dublin would be a better fit. I had no idea what that meant and had never considered going to Ireland, but I accepted! Through the support of the Study Abroad Office at Towson and GE, I was able to find an internship that combined both my interests in editing and health and ended up in what is now my favorite city in the world. Interning abroad gives you all the experience of having an internship, but adds on the professional development of working in another country. Being immersed in a foreign place’s work culture is a challenging experience that helped me to grow, both personally and in terms of my career experience.

Q: Have your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?

FAR exceeded. I’ve always liked to travel and considered myself adventurous, but this experience showed me just how much I really love seeing new places and getting out of my comfort zone. My internship taught me so much and I believe that having a global mindset is one of the most important things to have (especially in our increasingly globalized society). It was a scary, fun, and wonderful summer – I’d do it all over again if I could.

Q: Have your experiences affected your academic and/or career path?

Absolutely. Being able to say that I interned abroad helped me to get accepted into my doctoral program for English. The experiences that I had while abroad, both professionally and personally, have helped me to mature and given me a stronger sense of what it is that I want to study in graduate school and pursue as my career. It’s also helped me decide what  I don’t want to study, and that’s okay, too! It’s all part of the learning.

Q: Many study abroad alumni speak about an “ah ha” moment or a particularly powerful memory. What’s yours?

I was lost, jet-lagged, homesick, and wandering around a new city with no phone and no sense of direction. My friend and I were trying to find a grocery story and nearly in tears from frustration. We asked a random person on the street if he could point us towards one, and not only was he happy to show us the way, he walked us there and then took us out to a pub for dinner! The Irish are known for their friendliness and their love of a good conversation over a Guinness, and this was one of the first times that I felt comfortable in my new city. By the end, I was navigating like a pro – my biggest accomplishment was when a tourist asked me for directions and was shocked by my American accent!

Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of studying/interning abroad?

I would say that it’s okay to be worried or scared! I was, too. It’s a big change and it can be stressful, but the payoff is so great. I would encourage people to take the leap, challenge themselves, and get out of their comfort zones. Having the opportunity to see the world and study or intern in a new city is not one to be missed and it will provide so much growth. The world is a wild and beautiful place – go see what it has to offer (and earn some college credit on your way!)

Kalodner-Dublin 4.jpg

How to Survive Reverse Culture Shock 101

My name is Amanda Reid, and I am a junior at Towson double majoring in Spanish and International Studies and planning to graduate in the spring of 2018.  I was born and raised in Bel Air, Maryland, so travelling through ISA to Madrid, Spain for nine months was a huge life change for me.  Before I left for my trip abroad, everyone always warned me about the culture shock that I would feel when I landed abroad.  What they don’t tell you is how strange it is to come home and see that while you have changed so much, everything in your hometown is exactly the same as when you left.  Sure, a store may have moved into the local mall and they finally finished the construction on the road where you always commute, but the place that used to be your whole world now seems much smaller in the grand scheme of things.  After living in Madrid for nine months, coming home to Harford County, MD, and readjusting was definitely a struggle.


Overall, my time abroad was an incredible experience.  I met people from all over the world, created friendships that will last a lifetime, and made more memories than I can count.  Before I left for Spain, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and after being there I now know that I want to study international management and learn as many languages as I can while I’m still in school.  The harsh reality of coming back is that you want to leave again right away and have another great adventure, but you probably drained your bank account while you were abroad.  Below are a few tips on things I have done since returning home to help me cope with the fact that I currently don’t have the funding to travel everywhere I still want to go.

  1. There are things to do in your home state: Specifically in Maryland you have Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington, DC, not far from where you are. Plan day trips to go hiking in parks, go to ballgames, go out to restaurants, go to concerts, and learn to embrace the culture of your home.  When I came home, I went to a lantern festival, which was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced and it was only an hour drive from my house.  To quote the movie UP, “Adventure is out there,” and sometimes it may even be in your own backyard.
  2. Find a local hangout spot: this is a huge tip for people who have just returned home. Find a local coffee shop, bookstore, park, etc., and get your homework and papers done there instead of staying at home.
  3. Volunteer with the study abroad office: The study abroad office is full of people who also studied abroad. They are either going through or went through the exact same reverse culture shock you are experiencing, and talking about your travels with someone as equally passionate as you helps make the transition easier.
  4. Plan your next adventure: Plan a week-long trip to visit friends you met abroad in another state, plan a weekend trip to the beach, plan your next trip abroad; planning the next adventure helps take the sting off of the fact that your abroad adventure is over for now.
  5. Find restaurants in your area that serve the same food as the country you traveled to: After my first month of satisfying my Chickfila and Qdoba cravings, I began to crave Spanish food.  Baltimore has a restaurant called Tío Pepe where I was finally able to find some gazpacho and paella. It does not taste exactly the same, but it satisfies the craving just the same.
  6. Continue to stay in contact with the people you studied abroad with: I am still in contact with many of the people with whom I have traveled the world, and we are now organizing trips to visit each other.  Even if you can’t visit each other, they are also learning to readjust to their lives at home just as much as you are and are great people with whom to talk.
  7. Embrace the fact that study abroad changed your perspectives. I experienced so many breakdowns of stereotypes I had based on what I saw in the news, and now that I’m back, I frequently debate with my family and classmates over different topics due to my changed perspective.

Perhaps the most difficult question anyone has asked me since I’ve been back is “How was study abroad?!” the way they would ask how a week-long vacation was.  I was gone for almost an entire year and there is no way I can answer that question with just a one word response, or even a sentence for that matter.  Madrid is my home almost as much as Harford County is.  Although the readjustment to life in Maryland has been difficult, it has helped me come to appreciate the things that exist within an hour drive from me while also giving me time to analyze my time abroad and start organizing the next steps in my life as well as my next adventure.