On my second-to-last day in Rome, I learned how to say "I don't understand" in Italian.
Surely it won't take long for the irony of that statement to sink in; there I was, four months into my study abroad adventure and finally learning perhaps the second-most important phrase there is to know in any foreign language (after, of course, "I don't speak _________"). Better late than never though—I did manage to get one good use out of it on a Sunday stroll through the Borghese gardens when an Italian couple tried asking my help in taking a photo for them.
The Centro is unique among study abroad programs in non-English-speaking countries. Whereas my friends in France, Spain, and Russia were very much experiencing life in France, Spain, and Russia firsthand through interactions with host families and native students, my classmates and I lived and operated in an anglophone bubble that travelled with us on our weekly excursions into the city; the only times we really got to engage with Italians and modern Italian culture were on the weekends (though by the last month of the program, a large share of us had taken to getting Chinese take-out for dinner rather than spend the time and money required of a genuine Italian meal at a local restaurant).
Nevertheless, the Centro is unquestionably an immersive program—it just so happens that we students spent the semester immersed in an ancient, rather than modern, city and culture. The Centro is, in a way, a Classics incubator. Every semester, 36 students and 4 professors come to Rome to live and eat together under one roof and learn everything there is to possibly learn about the ancient history of Rome. Experiences will vary from year to year and group to group, but everyone invariably leaves the incubator with a much better understanding of the historical Romans and, I suspect in many cases, a stronger sense of how the study of Classics will fit into our futures (for me? not as a career—maybe some other time, grad school).
I've half-jokingly started to tell people that during my time abroad I learned more about Americans than I did about Italians. While I would have valued the chance to live a total immersion experience in, say, Paris *ahem*, I don't for one second regret the kind of immersive semester I had in the program I did choose. It's only my second full day of being back on American soil, but I can already feel the effect of living abroad on my outlook on life here in the US. Though I left Rome almost no more fluent in Italian than I was when I first got there, I took away the much more valuable gift of a broader perspective on life (I know, I know, so cliché—BUT IT'S TRUE!).
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Augustus Week, immediately following our spring break waaaaay back at the beginning of March, heralded the beginning of our study of Rome in the imperial age and beyond. At long last, we saw as a class the Colosseum; the arches of Titus, Septimius Severus, and Constantine; the Pantheon; and various other monuments whose presence was felt as far back as the days of looking at pre-Republican rocks in the rain. The details of all the days and site visits are now something of a blur for me—the one-two punch of our Campania trip (which I may discuss in a later post, pending whether or not I want to relive that particular chapter of my life...the odds are looking pretty grim right now) and our final projects due immediately thereafter set me back about two months in my blogging; my apologies! While I'm sure you're all interested in hearing about the architectural distinctions between the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, I leave you instead with a highlight reel of the final half of the semester.