Ever since I started college I wanted to study abroad. I knew if I didn’t try I would regret never experiencing traveling with my classmates. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to grow in multiple different ways. You get to learn about new cultures and experience different cultures, but you also learn about the people you travel with. I had been on a study abroad trip to Costa Rica in high school and I remember how close everyone gets on those trips. Studying abroad is great for learning and making new friends. My sophomore year of college I saved up enough money to attend a UTC led trip to Milan, Italy. However, Covid-19 happened and my hopes of studying abroad in college were dwindling. Fast forward to my senior year, I saw that there was a spring break trip to Rome, Italy. I decided to take an extra general education class so that I could travel to another country during my last spring break.
I was attracted to visiting Italy because of the architecture. As an Interior Architecture and Design major, I was desperate to see the buildings that I had learned about in my design classes. Rome was the perfect place to see some of the greatest architectural feats in the world. Our schedule was packed full everyday, which allowed us to see more than most get to during the time span we were there. That is another reason why studying abroad on a school-led trip is better than traveling on your own time. On a school led trip we get to follow a guide who essentially takes care of everything for you. This means you don’t have to stress about communicating in a different language, scheduling tours, transportation, and simple things like just recommending local places to experience. Another reason why traveling with a large group is beneficial is because it ensures that you can get into museums. In Italy, due to Covid-19, a lot of tourist attractions are still closed and only allow school groups to come in. In all, studying abroad on a school trip is the last chance to attend a trip where you don’t have to worry about scheduling it yourself.
I highly recommend people to visit Rome, Italy if it is an option at UTC. If visiting another country causes anxiety, I think Italy would be a great first place to visit. The culture is very friendly towards tourists. Most Italians can speak English, so communication isn’t too stressful. There is also a lot of food accommodations towards celiac and vegetarian diets. It is a laid back country that doesn’t feel too different from major cities in America, it just has better architecture and cuisine. Some of the places we got to visit include St. Paul’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Golden House, The Vatican, Ostia Ancient Ruins, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and many more smaller attractions. The city of Rome is so unique because you can turn a corner and see a building that was built before Jesus Christ. Our tour guide also took extra time to show us attractions not on our schedule, to make sure we got to see everything Rome offered.
My all time favorite thing I did was visit St. Peter’s Basilica. We visited halfway through the trip and I was left in awe. The entire church is made up of mosaics, colored glass, that make it feel grander than any palace. The history and artifacts inside the basilica are all things I had learned growing up in the church. On our free day, me and some friends decided to revisit St. Peters and we accidentally ended up seeing Pope Francis too! We listened to him give his Sunday blessing. We then walked all the way to the top of the dome and saw the entire city of Rome. There is a law that no other building can be built as tall or taller than St. Peters, so we were really looking down to all of Rome. After the dome, we went back downstairs and we got to experience them opening the church doors for Sunday mass. It was moving to see the herd of people entering the church singing their praises as they followed the priest inside. It was an
influential experience seeing all of the traditional religious practices happen right in front of us.
Overall, studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It ensures that you get to see the most, it is comforting knowing UTC will take care of you, you get to make new friends, experience other cultures, and you get to connect what you learn in class to real life. I am very thankful that I was able to attend this trip. I got to go with my classmates and boyfriend, and now we all share this experience with each other along with new friends. Italy is a safe country to visit and offers the oldest attractions left in the world. This trip went above my expectations and it’ll be a memory I will cherish forever.
Elizabeth Hoilman (BS Interior Architecture) spent Spring Break 2022 in Rome, Italy as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Elizabeth had the following to say about study abroad, “College is the last chance you can have such easy access to studying abroad! It is a great environment with people your age to travel with.”
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