Meeting new people can be intimidating. Jumping into a four week study abroad program with only four other students, knowing you’ll be spending almost every minute of the day with them is even more overwhelming. One of my biggest worries while preparing for my time in Artena had been making friends. I constantly asked myself: Will I come out of my shell enough to fit in with the group? Will I be the only architecture major? Will I be the only one who does not speak Italian? I was trying to look on the bright side of meeting a new, diverse group of people, but at the same time, could not help but run unfortunate scenarios through my head.
We are a very different group of people, coming from a variety of places in the U.S, schools, majors, interests, and ideas. I am in fact the only architecture major, but only two others are archeology majors, as well as one environmental science, and one linguistics major. Only one of us speaks Italian. This range in backgrounds has created an atmosphere in which we are always learning new things from each other. We have endless questions to ask each other and things to talk about. The fact that we eat every meal together, work together, and live together has brought us close together, and allowed us to get to know each other in multiple capacities over a short period of time.
For the past four weeks we have been living in a local hotel at the very top of the hillside of Artena. It is family run with a restaurant full of home cooked meals. We know the staff well by now and joke around with them in a mix of very limited Italian and English. We all live in side-by-side rooms on the top floor with balconies that connect. We eat cornetti and drink cappuccini together at 6am, picnic lunch on site together, and enjoy a big group dinner at the hotel restaurant every night.
We work on site with each other for 5 hours each day, pick-axing, shoveling, scraping dirt, identifying patterns, and then we spend 2 hours in the afternoons to clean and inventory pot shards. We know each other’s work ethics, strengths, weaknesses, and interests when it comes to the site. As if we couldn’t get enough of each other, we also spend all of our free time reading, talking, and hanging out together and our coveted weekends traveling together.
In terms of the academics of the Artena program, if we had all known each other already or come from the same academic background, we would all have a more narrow view of the information and findings of the excavation. The more perspectives we have, the more we have to teach and learn from each other, and that’s what we’re really here to do. We’re here to learn and gain experience that is unattainable from a typical classroom. Learning from my peers has been one of the most valuable parts of this entire experience, and looking at the site through their lenses, combined with my own perspective, has helped me glean a more sophisticated and complete story from the artifacts and structures of the Piano della Civita. This also applies to our relationships with each other and perspectives of the world in general. I have learned so much about the world by spending time with these friends, and hope to continue to look at the world through different lenses as I wrap up my time in Artena and head back to the United States.