This summer, 10 students awarded the Rome Prize traveled to Italy for 15 days to study and experience the art, architecture, history, and food of Rome, Florence, and the surrounding region. The trip was sponsored by a handful of donors, and gave students who may not have the opportunity otherwise the chance to absorb another culture.
“We all think that traveling at a young age when someone is just starting at university (is important),” said Chiara Cusano, who led the trip with her husband, Andrew Rosequist. “It is a very good experience to broaden our minds, to learn about ourselves, to understand diversity and … how different cultures can collide, and also to understand what it means to be in a place that is not your home.”
Although the students faced challenges ranging from communication difficulties to withstanding the summer heat, they spoke fondly of their experiences and were grateful for the opportunity to travel abroad. Most of the participants had not traveled to a foreign country or had limited travel experience. Several students said the trip has created the desire to travel elsewhere.
Misty Martinez, a senior who spoke about the Rome Prize at an HNU community event, said the trip felt like a dream for the majority of the students the first couple of days. It took a tour of the Colosseum for Martinez to feel that she had arrived.
“We got to the Colosseum, and we were waiting in a really long line of (people) from around the world, because everyone wants to see the Colosseum. As soon as I walked into the Colosseum I started crying,” she said. “It was us taking in the experience and recognizing that we were actually in Rome, and that it was real. For me it was super powerful, because it meant that I had done something I never thought was possible, and the Rome Prize gave me that.”
Students who participated in the trip were required to attend six study group meetings to learn about Italian culture prior to their departure. They also had to journal about their traveling experiences and complete a final project. Projects ranged from personal reflections about the trip to a video from the student perspective to a series of short stories.
“As part of a study abroad program, a student has the opportunity to experience history first hand—learn about the lives of people in the past and how different events led our world to where it is now,” senior Katherine McGuire wrote on the Rome Prize blog. “As students, we get to experience and learn about the history of places and then take the time to think and write about what we’ve learned.”
McGuire’s final project evolved from a paper on Italian food to a self-reflective piece. Her mother, who had traveled often at Katherine’s age, died of cancer three years ago. McGuire felt that her recent travels—an unexpected experience that she was ecstatic to have—allowed her to connect to and walk in the footsteps of her mom.
In addition to Martinez and McGuire, the following students participated in the 2013 Rome Prize: April Aggacid, Bobby Domingo, John Kennedy, Yesenia Lechuga, Brandon Marzan, Isamar Quiroz, Ammy Reyes, and Tyrone Robinson.
The students selected for the 2014 Rome Prize will be announced in December. Trip expenses will be paid for up to 10 students. Participants are required to take 3 units of art history, a 1-unit course on Italian language and culture, and a journal writing seminar in late spring.