Auburn students spend summer in Italy for university's first Core Curriculum Program in Rome

Published: August 12, 2016
Updated: August 14, 2016
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A delightful Italian lady helps you learn the language as you sip coffee and study before walking to your morning class. In the afternoon, your walk back includes a frozen treat of gelato, Italy's signature dessert.

Just part of daily life in the Eternal City.

A group of Auburn students spent five weeks in Rome this summer as part of Auburn University's inaugural Core Curriculum Program in Rome, taking classes in the Palazzo Taverna, a 13th century palace within walking distance to renowned sites such as the Piazza Navona, Vatican, Pantheon, Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

It's a collaboration between Auburn's Office of International Programs, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the host organization, the University of Arkansas Rome Center, which administers the program and partners with schools such as Auburn.

"It's hard for me to find abroad programs that work with my class schedule," said Alisha White, a student from Enterprise majoring in biomedical sciences and psychology. "These classes [in Rome] are very accommodating to all majors. I am taking public speaking and global politics."

It's a chance for students to participate in study abroad earlier in their academic careers. The students, mostly rising sophomores, learned about Italy as they lived in neighborhood apartments, shopped at local markets and made their way around town on foot or on the Metro subway.

"We love to just go around and explore," said Erika Parker, an interior design major from Decatur. "We always find nice restaurants, often we just walk around without a map. Take a left here, right there. We've just found some awesome things. We found this cat sanctuary where Julius Caesar was killed one day. We just walked and found the Pantheon randomly without expecting it."

Students could select two of four classes offered by Auburn for a total of six-credit hours as well as participate in a noncredit, Survival Italian language class. Each year the program will feature different colleges and classes, allowing sophomores, juniors and seniors to enjoy the benefits of studying abroad while earning credit hours toward Auburn's core curriculum requirements.

This summer's classes included business calculus with Professor Andras Bezdek; dynamic earth geology with Lecturer John Hawkins; global politics with Professor Jill Crystal; and public speaking with Instructor Terri Knight – as they connected objects and places in Rome to their academic subjects.

"I'm sugarcoating calculus with some ancient math and names like Michelangelo and Galileo," Bezdek said. "I cover material and then we discuss art related to math and geometry, connecting with what the students saw on their excursions trips and what they did a day or two before the class. There are an endless number of buildings here. Immediately a person can talk about the shape of the arches, the circle, the semi-circle."

Letting the world be your classroom provides several advantages versus studying at home, says Hawkins. "The study abroad experience lets you actually engage with rocks, various types here in Rome and other locations that you wouldn't have back in the classroom in Auburn," he said.

In addition to touring and learning about the sites of Rome, students enjoyed excursions through the Italian countryside to towns like Florence, Orvieto and Ariccia.

"One of my favorite places we've visited as part of the program was probably Florence, Italy," said student Kristin Garrett, a graphic design major. "Being from Florence, Alabama, and getting to visit Florence, Italy, was really cool because that's the town that our city was named after originally, so that was a fun experience."

And, of course, Italy is known for great food.

"The food tour was one of my favorite parts," said Kathryn Jones, a political science major from Huntsville. "We actually got to go with a professional chef who took us to the Campo di Fiori market near the Rome Center where we go to class and we chose the vegetables and other produce that we used to make our meal for the day. We went back to one of his kitchens and cooked it ourselves. We got to hand make the pasta and roll it out and participated in the preparation, the cooking, and we got to eat it which was probably one of my favorite meals here."

More information on the Core Curriculum Program in Rome is available at www.auburn.edu/studyabroad/core.