“Meet in St. Peter’s Square, by the obelisk.” This was my most recent instruction taken from my Art History in Rome course syllabus. Being directed to certain class meeting locations throughout Rome was yet another foreign aspect that I had to add to my study abroad experience. Being confined to a classroom, and learning from power points in large groups are entirely shattered concepts here in Rome. This adjustment, however, was not one that frustrated me; I got used to this one rather quickly.
I chose to take Art History in Rome simply because it fulfilled my Art General Education requirement. Honestly, my expectations for this class were not that great. I thought, “Sure, it’ll be cool to study art that I will be seeing on my everyday adventures through the city.” It only took one class to realize how false my expectations had been.
When my alarm woke me up for my first on-site class, it was not so that I could drag myself to a lecture; it was so I could learn about the Colosseum…in front of the Colosseum. There are not many things more beneficial than taking a class that is instructed in front of the object being studied. Now, naturally, I failed to really pay attention to my professor during the first few site visits. Can you blame me, though? I’ve never taken a class which had been instructed in this manner, and more importantly, I had never seen the Colosseum in my life before. The class got more in depth and interesting as the weeks went on, too!
Other meeting sites have included Piazza Venezia, a square which is considered to be the best in Rome, Piazza della Cancelleria, Piazza del Campidoglio, and Piazza Navona. In these locations, I adjusted, and learned how to become focused amidst all of the chaos and beauty around me. You would be amazed what you can learn during these three hours on-site. I can create a chronological list of every building within Piazza Venezia, tell you the respective architect, and give you a few insights as to what these buildings were inspired by. Never did I think that I would enjoy doing such a thing, and never did I imagine how beneficial it could be.
What I’ve been able to take away from this model of class instruction will stay with me through the remainder of my undergraduate studies, and further, force me to question my own city – the one in the States. There have been numerous times that I’ve walked through center city Philadelphia and passed a completely foreign building. No idea why it’s there, what its purpose is, or how long it has been standing there. So technically, then, referring back to previous posts, does that not define me as a tourist with-in my own country? My own city? I’ve learned more about Rome in five weeks than I have about Philadelphia in two years, and I’ve also learned how much that needs to change. When your classroom is, quite literally, an entire city, and moreover, a city as historical and exquisite as Rome, you gain lessons far from anything that you can learn in a classroom setting.