For good reason, the study abroad trip to Rome, Italy offered by the Colleges is one of most popular destinations for students seeking to learn more about history, art, architecture or the city’s distinctive culture. Students returning from the spring semester’s program were able to learn firsthand the impact of artistic works and development that spans centuries.
“Rome is an international city with endless activities and sites,” says Benjamin Vaccaro ‘15. “The Rome program offers the possibility to see the foundation of western civilization every single day.”
Led by Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture Christine Chin and Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Michael Tinkler, students took classes on cultural and urban history. Chin and Tinkler also co-taught a course titled “Inventing Rome, Inventing Romans,” which explored the makeup of contemporary Roman identity.
However, the majority of learning took place outside of the classroom. Because Rome as a city is teeming with relevant examples of architecture or artistic works that represent centuries of culture, students visited historic monuments and buildings as a group. These styles of building included baroque and gothic style works within churches that had been commemorated by famous artists.
“We did a lot of on-site learning,” says Annabel Cryan ’16. “There is truly no other way to understand art history fully until you are standing in front of a work hundreds of years old where the brush strokes are visible and make everything you’ve learned come alive.”
“I think that especially for students of art history, architecture, and studio art seeing the real things in their real context can be transformative,” adds Tinkler. “Every time a student tells me something is much bigger or smaller than she had ever thought, I know we’re getting somewhere!”
In addition to exciting course opportunities, the group also took several long-weekend excursions. In Southern Italy, destinations such as Pompeii or Naples contributed to the study abroad adventure. Milan in Northern Italy also offered students the chance to further explore distinctive and regional Italian culture through food, art and interactions with local people.
“Going to Naples and Milan gave the students a chance to experience the physical differences, food differences and landscape differences of Southern Italy and Northern Italy,” says Tinkler.
While in Rome, students were housed in apartments nearby thriving markets, historical landmarks or even Vatican City. This form of living gave students the space and freedom to explore and discover more of Rome and of themselves in the process.
“From my time abroad, I feel I have gained the ability to remain open minded to different cultures and the activities, foods, customs, and manners each culture exudes,” explains Vaccaro.
In the photo above, students studying in Rome, in 2012, with Assistant Professor of Architectural Studies Kirin Makker as part of her “Visual Notes and Analysis” course, share their sketchbooks at the end of the semester.