by Alycia Monaco, Class of 2018
The First Year Experience. August 25th, 2014 was the beginning, and for me, June 12th, 2015 marked the end. Two semesters, many new experiences, and one international flight later, I continued my first year abroad, in the Eternal City.
Having never traveled to Europe, I was quite eager to immerse myself in what I thought was Italian culture… which many of us came to actually identify as Italian-American culture. Our class spent a week in Washington, D.C. breaking such stereotypes, learning basic language skills, and preparing for the unknown. May 22nd, 2015 marked my last day in the United States; I traded my plans of sleeping on the couch and re-watching The Office (yet again) for three weeks of adventure in Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Along with about 20 other first year students, I traveled to Rome to take a course called Italian 221:Mapping Italy and Rome. I carried along with me my passport and an anticipation of what was to come. Class began, and we traced the rich history and culture of ancient Rome, from the Forum and the Vatican to Fascism and Modern Art and Architecture.
During the first weekend that we were here, the group traveled to Florence for a 48 hour visit. This time included travel back and forth to Rome. It was only about an hour trip, but it granted us the necessary time to rest, and maybe even sleep. In Florence, we were fortunate enough to see the Duomo: the main cathedral. This site was absolutely beautiful, and we were able to see both the church and the baptistery on our tour. If we wanted to, we were also able to climb the dome and the bell tower; my friends and I decided to climb the bell tower for a beautiful, and grand view of the red sea of rooftops throughout Florence. In addition to this beautiful site, we were also able to see the Uffizi, which included many works of religious art from the Renaissance Period.
In addition to Florence, we were able to visit the iconic city of Venice. Gondolas, glass, and masks are a staple of Venetian culture: all of which the group was able to experience during our short time in this beautiful port city. My friends and I were able to take a gondola ride, where our driver gave us a night tour of the city, in addition to sharing how he met his wife, who is also American. The group also visited the iconic Doge, and Galleria Academia in order to best grasp the history of Venice.
An Academic Marathon. There’s no other way to describe this experience. Our professor, Dr. Stefania Lucamante, and the rest of our class share a giggle every time we joke about the idea, but there certainly is truth behind this statement. While in the classroom for some parts of the day, we applied our knowledge throughout the entire city. During our classroom sessions, each student in the course was responsible for giving an oral presentation on a reading that we were able to select off of our syllabus. As a Media Studies major, it was interesting to read an article titled Italian Cinema in the Post-National Age. What better way to apply the introduction courses from the Department of Media Studies, and learn more about a topic that is relevant to this major?
My presentation was earlier this week, and included information about directors I had learned about during both Media 201 and 202. We learned about famous directors, and even about a film that took place in Italy, titled The Bicycle Thieves. In addition, The Lumière brothers were referenced in the article I read for the presentation. Beyond the scope of the Media Studies courses I took this past year, it was essential that I completed outside research surrounding how funds were raised specifically for Italian films. The project has sparked my interest in this process in the United States.
In addition to applying my knowledge of Media Studies directly to the academic portion of the trip, a group of students who wished to attend a screening of In His Image were able to join the audience of this show. We were able to see how the show was produced, and gain experience volunteering with public access television!
Perhaps one of the most memorable events on the trip was attending both a Papal Audience with Pope Francis and attending mass and a candlelight vigil for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Although not many of us on the trip were familiar with Italian, it was certainly special to attend mass with Pope Francis, in great anticipation of his arrival at CUA come the fall.
As this trip comes to a close, I am sad to leave this beautiful city, but excited to use the knowledge that our group gained from living and internalizing Italy. Working together and forming bonds with students that I hadn’t met in my first year proved to be a rewarding experience that many of us will never forget.