“I took my first international flight. I rode a gondola down the canals of Venice. I had a glass of champagne by the Trevi fountain. I walked the streets of Ancient Rome. I climbed over 500 steps to the top of the Duomo. I ate pasta every day. The whole trip was filled with ‘firsts’ but I would love to do it all again!,” said Kelsey Butler.
Butler was one of the more than 40 UTC students spread across five different classes who spent 18 days in Italy over the summer.
This interdisciplinary trip was the first of its kind for UTC, when students of all majors signed up for classes complimenting their individual degrees or fulfilling general education requirements as they studied Survey of Italian Architecture, Machiavelli!, Arts Integration, Sociology of Sport, or World Civilizations, respectively.
With apartments in Florence as their home base, the students explored Rome, Siena, and San Gimignano. Some students even planned additional trips to Cinque Terre, Pisa, Venice, and Verona.
For some, this was their first time leaving the U.S. The experience changed their perception of Italian culture and life back home as well. Some of the new adjustments (that made them appreciate home a little bit more) were the concepts of no public restrooms–they had to pay to use them, and having to pay for water at restaurants. But, the students grew to appreciate the slower pace of life in Italy.
Marian Wayland explained, “I came away with a great appreciation for their passion for life and the slower-pace at which they live, which leaves so much room to savor every day.”
Zachariah Hall joined the trip as part of the Machiavelli! course. His views of Italy changed dramatically after the trip.
“It’s easy to look at Italy and see the beautiful hills covered in vineyards,” explained Hall.
“[And as] a country brimming with the masterpieces of the Renaissance, built on the artifacts of Rome. But the modern Italians don’t seem to identify with Rome or the Renaissance as their culture. Instead these are almost a burden to them. They have to pay millions Euros to continually restore and preserve the remnants of 2000 years of history that has been built in their country. They have some of the most beautiful buildings and art in the world, and they have to shoulder the cost of these beauties. With these great investments into preserving the arts, naturally a great deal of their economy has been built around these landmarks.”
Hall continued, “I wouldn’t have guessed that almost 70% of the entire Italian economy is based on tourism. Here in the U.S. we take for granted a fairly diverse economy with many sectors, but in Italy you will almost definitely work in a services or agriculture job, and would have to move elsewhere to get a job outside of those industries. So this focus on selling the past they have, and the fact that Italy wasn’t united as a state until a little after the American Civil War, leaves us with an Italy that doesn’t have much of an identity outside of its past.”
“[She] spent countless hours designing and planning the itinerary. Rather than limiting the trip to one class, Dr. Moody sought to expand the opportunity, and lower the cost, by expanding the trip to different disciplines” Seagle said.
The diversity of backgrounds and courses is what he points to as making this experience so successful for all involved.
“The amount of collaborative and experiential learning that took place over the course of 18 days made this trip a memorable experience for all participants,” Seagle added.
Sunsets on Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, the Holy Stairs, gondola rides, the views from the bell tower Giovanni Campanile in Florence, gelato, exploring the Vatican, and of course, the food, were all named as highlights from the trip. But, the universal highlight was the friendships and camaraderie that evolved among the classes.
“There were around 50 of us, and I now have special bonds with all of them. The professors are those that I can go to about anything, and I am so thankful for UTC and this experience. Italy will always hold a special place in my heart and so will the friendships I made,” added Sheree Dennis.
Idi Melendez provided some tips for future globe trotting Mocs,
“Pack very light! If you bring a big suitcase that’s fine because you may want to bring things back home, make sure you have room for souvenirs. Exchange some money at the bank a few weeks prior to leaving, it is much cheaper to exchange at the bank than it is to exchange money at the airport. Enjoy it, this is the experience of a lifetime, enjoy the terrible WiFi that forces you to take in your surroundings, plan your own separate trips and tours during your free time while you are still home.”
She added, “The experience was just incredible, and I do hope this is just my first step in travelling the world.”
Whitney Hardin shared Melendez’s sentiment,
“Overall, I wouldn’t trade my experience on this trip for the world, and I will definitely be making my way back to Italy!” Hardin said.