“You know what,” I said to my friend as we walked past the Pantheon towards our art history on-site meeting spot, “I’m really going to miss being able to casually walk to major Roman monuments on a Wednesday morning for class.”
On-site classes are one of the best parts about studying abroad. And if I hadn’t made the last-minute decision to switch into my art history course, I would’ve only had one other course this semester that was a site-based class. Being able to walk around Rome and stand next to a historical artwork or to paint pieces of Rome adds another layer to experiential learning.
Additionally, on-site classes have taken me to places that I would have never sought out to visit on my own. A couple of weeks ago, my Painting on Paper class spent our time in Rome’s zoo. We all leisurely walked around, observing and painting different animals. I was able to watch baby lemurs swing throughout branches as their parents reclined in the shade. Since we went early in the morning, I saw many animals enjoy their breakfast or bask in the morning sunlight. Visiting the zoo and watching the animals peruse about was a welcomed break from the city landscape and ruins that I have grown accustomed to seeing.
The zoo was not the only location that my painting class visited. Each week, my painting class meets at Temple Rome’s campus, and then we all trek off to the designated location of choice to learn a new painting technique. The intimate class size and traveling to unique parts of Rome allow for the class to bond as well, creating a supportive and enjoyable art experience. Such a large chunk of the studio time is painting various aspects of Rome, making it a one-of-a-kind art class.
My other primary on-site course is Art History. It still feels surreal that I am able to take an art history course in one of the richest locations for art history. Towards the beginning of the course, I asked my professor how she ended up living in Rome and teaching to study abroad students. She briefly shared her experience as an undergraduate student who spent a semester abroad in Rome. It was her undergraduate on-site art history course that made her realize that she wanted to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in art history. She also spoke to how rewarding and enriching all of the on-site courses she took were.
Although seeing Michelangelo sculptures in churches that rest on top of the city for a class makes me doubt my major for a split second, I don’t think I’ll be following the steps of my art history professor. However, my on-site courses while abroad have made me appreciate a different approach to education and learning. There are moments when the less structured approach of many of my study abroad courses cause me a little stress or discomfort, they also open me up to sights and places I never would have heard of before.