As a preface to what I’m about to say, I should emphasize that the prerequisite to going on a trip such as this is to have the money. I spent 10 days studying abroad in Rome, and it was worth every cent of what I paid, but – thanks to a few scholarships – I didn’t have to pay much. This is all to say, there are many opportunities to get a trip like this paid for – take advantage of them!
Once you’ve knocked a good amount off the top, the value of the trip will far exceed the price. Certain things seem very difficult to deal with at the start – the language barrier, the transit system, the foreign cultural norms – but by the end of the trip you sit with the satisfaction of having learned to deal with all those things and more. Whereas the language problem led to many awkward interactions at the start of the trip, by the end of the trip I became a master of non-verbal communication. The struggle to communicate via language also makes moments of understanding feel really gratifying.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite day, or to choose just one from many great moments to explain here, but for the sake of time I will choose our last day of the trip. This was our free day, and after the previous nine days of sightseeing, our feet were acclimated to the average of 20,000 steps a day, so we walked from the hotel to the Vatican to climb the dome of the basilica of St. Peter. We had already been to the basilica once, but one could spend years there and never get tired of looking around. It’s hard to express just how immense the place feels, all solid marble intricately decorated everywhere you look, with huge statues of the Saints, and, incidentally, Michelangelo’s Pieta sitting away in a corner. As it happened, Sunday was a good day to return. We found Vatican square full already upon our arrival, and it turned out that we’d arrived just in time to see and hear the Pope address the congregation. This was awesome, but – given that we don’t speak Italian – we went onto the basilica. To get to the top of it you have to climb about 500 steps through narrow, spiraling corridors; it gets pretty claustrophobic, but the view from the very top of the basilica, which overlooks the entire city, is worth it. After descending the stair we looked around the main hall of the basilica, and after a while there came a huge procession of churchgoers, all singing and marching toward the altar. The sound of singing in that room is amplified in such a strange way; imagine burrowing a few thousand feet underground and a huge cavern and a prehistoric lake. Stick a choir in that, and you’ll hear something comparable to the sound of the singing in the basilica.
To conclude, I cannot recommend this trip enough. I had 10 days in Rome, and it was terribly short, but I’ve got enough memories from it to last for the rest of my life. If you decide to go on the trip, my advice is to swallow any shyness you have and spend every minute you can out and about. Also, don’t drink too much on the first evening. There is so much to see – the Colosseum, the Forum, the catacombs, the churches, and more – so hit the ground running and learn all you can!
Jackson Rowe (BA English) spent Spring Break 2022 in Rome, Italy as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Jackson had the following to say about study abroad, “Get the scholarships and go! You should spend as much time as you can but living in Rome for even as little as 10 days fundamentally changed the way I think about America, Europe, art, and life.”
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