I’m a 1976 Temple University graduate and like a lot of Temple University grads, it took me more than 4 years to get my undergrad degree. For a lot of students, it was combining work and school, or taking time out for family that caused the delay. For me it was changing my major from archaeology to accounting that added the extra 1 ½ years to my college years—not a lot of overlap in those two fields! I don’t regret the extra time, in no small part because I got to spend two semesters at Temple’s campus in Rome during the archaeology years, in 1973-74. A few years ago, after a visit to the Rome campus for the 50th anniversary of the Temple Rome program, I vowed that I would go back again as a student. Now, after a lot of finagling and networking and not a little bit of begging, I am so incredibly happy to say that I am here, at Temple Rome as the first Senior Scholar enrolled in the 2019 summer session.
Sitting in on Orientation, I’m keenly aware of how things have changed. My memory is that we were pretty much on our own back then. When we weren’t in class, no one really knew where we were—there was no one to whom we reported our comings and goings—if we missed a class or traveled on weekends. We lived in pensioni, not in a residence as they do today. I lived on Via Babuino about midway between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna—unthinkable today with the high prices in that neighborhood. There were 4 other students in my pensione. Others had about the same number of students, some a few more. We were spread around the city and of course with no cell phones and no email, communication with other students and teachers took place only when we were on campus. Today there are definitely more rules, more oversight, less independence. But this is not the same world I knew as a college student in 1973 and so I understand it. The support today is amazing—t he attention to safety and security, to gender and race issues, access to healthcare. Did we have any of this? I’m not remembering it, but my 20-year-old self might not have prioritized those parts of the program. Certainly, it was not as well coordinated as it is today. But I am also noting the similarities. I have to laugh when I hear the questions, the same questions that we had; where to get the best gelato, how to take a bus in Rome. And especially how to cross a street when there’s no traffic light. Some things never change.
What will it be like to be a student again? I have, of course, taken classes in the intervening years—ongoing foreign language classes, a lecture on a subject I found interesting, professional education classes each year in my field… but that is not the same as taking a class for a semester in a subject not familiar to me. How will the other students react to me? They are a lot younger than my daughter! Will they be welcoming or not? Will the professors treat me the same as the other students? So many questions! I have an apartment here and it’s an easy 20-minute walk to school. I have some contacts in Rome and so can plan some activities for evenings and weekends. It’s easy to navigate the bus and Metro system with a phone app, so that will go a long way towards increasing my comfort level. All in all, my anxiousness about the unknown is outweighed by the sheer excitement of being back here again. I am looking forward to this adventure!
Post submitted by special guest blogger, Susan Cohen.