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Study Abroad: Italy

Robert Wilson, Ph.D took a study abroad group to Italy to explore Rome, Florence and the Tuscan countryside March 2 - 10, 2013. This blog is an opportunity for students who went on the trip to record their experience.

An Education by Imani Bowers

We sauntered about the streets of Rome, Florence, Siena, and San Gimignano, but I couldn’t help, but notice that everywhere we went there were student tours nonstop. They go on field trips, in rain or shine. It seemed like there could be a field trip twice a month for students to experience art, language, history, architecture, and social studies first-hand. I thought maybe it’s the place, but in reality we have plenty of opportunities regarding those subjects in the US, too. As a preschool teacher, I felt this pondering of whether or not education systems provide such field trip experiences to be a worthy discussion. Do we take those opportunities often enough or are we reduced to one or two field trips an academic school year? How do students benefit from field trips? How can we bring such experiences into the classroom if unable to provide field trips?

Before I left for Italy, I showed and discussed with my 2.5-3 year-old students where “Ms. Imani” was going. I posted maps of Italy as a country as well as on a worldly scale. I prepared my students for “Ms. Imani’s vacation” by explaining, “I is for Ms. Imani and I is for Italy.” My last day before I left, I hung up a cutout picture of me, which I taped above the cutout picture of an airplane. My students knew where I was going, how I was getting there, and that I would be back because vacation is when you go away somewhere and then come back.

While abroad, I sent my “preschool friends” a postcard telling them I was taking lots of pictures for them to see when I got back. The pictures included bridges, water, stairs, trees, cars, cats, houses, etc. I even bought back souvenirs: a miniature Duomo from Florence and the children’s book Pinocchio.

The day I returned to work, I read the previous day’s classroom times sheet on the bulletin board: “We are so excited Ms. Imani is coming back from her Italy trip. We can’t wait to see pictures.” I walked into the classroom and watched the children play. One of them turned her head towards the door and said, “Ms. Imani! You’re back from Italy.” My postcard hung on the bulletin board in the back by the window. I got hugs and questions: “Are you back?” “Are you going to stay with us?” For show and tell, I showed the class pictures of my adventures and souvenirs. The children all crowded around to see what I saw while I was away in a distant land they had never been to.

Do I wish I could take my preschool students on field trips? Yes- because I see the value in it even at the young ages of 2 and 3 how much their knowledge and curiosity expands whether it involves a simple trip to the library or an exploration trip to the aquarium. Life should be filled with adventures and so should an education.


Delizioso! by Imani Bowers

Pranzo di Paradiso
We were wet and cold all day as we ventured out into the countryside of Italy for a wine tasting luncheon.
Who knew what was on the other side of reaching our destination: the Dievole Vineyard. From the warmth of the bus with the fogged windows, we crawled out.
We wandered semi-prepared: Umbrellas, hoods, and scarves.
The splash and showers never desist.
I heard the resonance of squishiness beneath our feet as we made our way from the bus (smallest bus one did ever see) to -where are we?
The earth was mudded and the ground sloped downward to a sanctuary out in the middle of the Siena hills.

We stumbled into the hall of the heavens that was to be our midday meal. It seemed we were expected and should expect quite a feast based on the décor. The large oval dark wooden table was set for 8. Each place had: a tumbler glass, a wine glass, two forks, two knives, and a spoon sprawled across the top of the golden placemat which draped off the side. In the center of the placemat sat a fanned shimmery gold dinner napkin. The center piece- a bronzed ivy vine entwined around several lit candles. Above us hung a matching, but larger bronzed ivy vine knotted around electric lights- it was a vineyard style chandelier. The antipasto was quite delightful and included vegetables grown on the property (sweet potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, chickpeas, and arugula). For the main course, we had a cheesy and thick spaghetti sample as well as handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, and topped with a wild boar sauce. We tasted 3 wines: La Vendemmia Chianti Classico (a dry and lovely), Toscana (a sweeter blend), and Broccato (spiced and woodsy choice). I had 2 bottles shipped home-hurray for Tuscan souvenirs!

An Italian Dessert
Tiramisu. Tiramisu.
Pray, explain to me: Just what is Tiramisu?
There is black and white lasagna with a sprinkle of brown on top.
Tiramisu? Sure. Tiramisu.

Tiramisu. Tiramisu.
The taste of crushed coffee beans in my mouth left an awful impression.
No thank you very much, Tiramisu.
No gratzie, Tiramisu.

Tiramisu. Tiramisu.
I tried it there in native lands, Tiramisu.
You have not won me over yet since I walked off of that jet.
What’s for dessert? HAA!- Tiramisu? Niente!

Tiramisu. Tiramisu.
Low and behold I tasted the chocolatiest Tiramisu.
Ahh. The puffiness of the cream, the softness of the chocolate cake, the graininess of the nuts- no, those are cookie crumbs on top!
Tiramisu! Perfecto!

Rome or Florence
Rome is where you lose yourself.
In Rome, you get run over, dragged around, and lost!
Watch out!
Painful cobblestones, litter, and dog poop before my feet.
Go, go, go!!

Florence is where you find yourself.
In Florence, you wander in serenity and bliss.
It truly is a city of dream and shadow.
It is as if the streets of Florence are massaging my feet.
Florence is where you find yourself.


Layers of Ancientness by Imani Bowers

Coliseum: Day
The sun and the clouds stand overhead
Below them and above us sits an ancient ruin;
Colossal and rundown.
How did things get so brown?

Materials like marble, brass, and iron were
Taken and used again for other purposes.
The Romans were one of the first people to recycle.
People didn’t just steal, they reused
To build layers upon layers of ancientness.

Coliseum: Night
The cool air upon the city streets
Where seldom a wave of cars speed
By nearly running us down.
T ’is better than during the day at mad rush hour.

Now in the quiet of the night, the electric lights stand
Alone- the sun has gone!
Yet the statues move and speak
-A shadow here, a whisper there.

Towards the curve of Il Capitale we pass the Romans by then.
A glimpse of the Coliseum straight down the road ahead stops us all.
It is a giant in the round and brown,
With an orange glow beneath the arches.

A breath, a look
Is all it took
To appreciate the
Ancient hallow frames
On a moonless stroll.

Palatine Hill:
Here we are small and seemingly weakened,
But just tired
Of climbing up the slanted slope,
Then hoping we will have time to stop- nope!
An di amo! An di amo! Let’s go, let’s go!
What? No break? No souvenir shopping?!
A heavy-hearted sigh.
One looks up and catches one’s breath
At the sight of historical wonder.

La Città di Gatti (The City of Cats):
Orange, Black, Calico, Grey
Those are the cats I saw today.
They crawled out and stretched,
Hopped over and leapt,
Then greeted the ruins on the morn of Monday.

Over the wall of what was a road of ancient Rome
A bunch clustered together and a few stood alone
To stay out and tan under the warm sunglow
Some strolled and others laid down with no place to go.

One cat, two cats, three cats more
Four, five and six cats galore.
Eight, nine, ten, eleven cats there.
Twelve cats, thirteen cats all stare.

The Vatican:
We passed the people rushing by to get in line. A TV reporter interviewed Dave and asked him how does it feel to be going to the Vatican before it closes for the conclave? Did I hear the reporter right?

As we went inside it was confirmed by our tour guide Giovanna that the Sistine Chapel would be closing at 1:30. Woohoo! We made it! For days there had been no pope- the seat vacant and now history was occurring before my very eyes. Today was the last day to entire the Sistine Chapel before Conclave 2013.