As a student of architecture, the opportunity to study in Rome was invaluable. To be able to see firsthand the art and architecture created long before our country even existed was an incredible experience. Though it is difficult to narrow down what the most compelling thing I experienced was, the Pantheon is one building I will not forget.
On my first full day in Rome, a small contingent of our larger group decided to do some independent sightseeing. The five of us, mostly acquaintances at the time, walked from our apartment north to the heart of the city. After a brief visit to our program center, we headed in search of the Pantheon.
I still remember turning my head to look down an alley and seeing it. We were to the west, so we decided to circle around to meet it from the front. When we got to the piazza, it was crawling with people, but the Pantheon was foremost in my mind. We walked up the steps and were all overwhelmed by the monumentality of the structure.
I still remember the noise at the threshold and the change once we entered. There was a sudden hush—the act of crossing into the space seemed to demand silence. It was afternoon; the sun coming through the oculus was on the floor to our left. I went and stood right in the midst of the light.
The people around me faded. I stood in awe of the hemisphere above me and the floor below. I tried to absorb everything and failed. There were too many details; too much to see.
I remember standing by a column and simply staring at it, trying to understand everything I could. How it was constructed. How it was implemented. What it looked like almost 2,000 years ago. The possibilities that were left to my imagination were overwhelming. And for seven weeks, I felt this exact same way each time I would stand and gaze at yet another of mankind’s great masterpieces.
– Andrew Burgess, Lecce, Italy
Nearly every day presented something new for me to do and I loved the sense of adventure and opportunity to learn about a completely different culture. There is no one memory that sticks out further than all of the others; my entire experience in Lecce, Italy was amazing. I could narrow it down to a top three experiences which would be: the week off of class when my mother (who has never been out of the US) came to travel Italy with me, the weekend when 2 of my newest and closest friends and I traveled to northern Italy to stay with a friend we met in the first month of school, and the last days I spent in Italy with another of my friend’s authentic Italian family (that was a real test of our language lessons, let me tell you!) being fully and completely immersed in the Italian lifestyle. But, because I could write about all of those experiences for days, I’ll just stick with telling about the most treasured thing I came back to the States with: newfound friendships.
When you are thrown into a strange apartment in a foreign country that speaks a different language, I’ll be completely honest, it is quite terrifying. However, then you start meeting people and you realize that this is the best thing you have ever done. Sharing an experience like this is indescribable. It creates a bond between people that words cannot explain and pretty soon you have your own little community and get to know everyone in your study abroad group like you’ve been friends for years. I met some amazing people from our own U of O as well as from other countries and other places in the US.
I share memories with these people that I met over the summer that I will never forget and no one other than those who were there will ever be able to fully understand. Even when I explained stories upon my return to friends and family members, I felt they could not fully grasp my experience. Studying abroad and being submerged in a new culture can only be truly appreciated if you yourself go and do it. You cannot rely on stories from other people about their experience, you have to see for yourself and make your own memories. This sounds extremely cliché, but studying abroad truly was the best experience of my life so far.
– Sydne Sloy, Lecce Italy