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Italy in the Spring

students standing in front of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
Study Abroad

When people hear the term study abroad their first thought might be of semester-long or year-long trips, however, Geneva also offers shorter study abroad opportunities. One of these shorter trips took place this past summer with several students traveling to Italy. After finals week in May, 23 students had the pleasure of taking a 3-week trip Italy through one of Geneva’s study abroad programs. The group spent time in Rome, Venice, and Florence as well as a few day trips to places like Vatican City, Assisi, Orvieto, and Luca. In addition to spending significant time as a group, students also had many opportunities for free time that they could spend however they wish.

Dr. Jeff Cole and Dr. Jonathan Watt were the faculty advisors for the trip and provided many opportunities for educational growth throughout the duration of the trip. Students had the option to take a 6-credit humanities course during the spring semester building up to the trip, but some students chose to attend the trip without taking the course. Both options are available for future students who may be interested in taking a trip to Italy. Regardless of whether students were on the trip for credit or not, all the students were able to hear many lectures by Dr. Cole regarding the historical significance of artworks and architecture. The trip certainly was not lacking in educational opportunities.

The students who chose to take the course received education that prepared them for the trip, by reading about ancient Rome and learning about the philosophies that have been popular in Italy from ancient times to now. In addition to other coursework, they were assigned to do a research project on an Italian architectural site. The research was conducted during the semester, but the presentation of the research was given on site in Italy. While these students were able to learn about Italian history, they were also able to take a more active role in the trip as they could instruct their classmates regarding the architectural site they had researched.


Throughout the trip, students were able to see a variety of historical sites and artifacts including the Colosseum, the Vatican Museum, the Academia Gallery, and the ruins at Ostia Antica. Each day was packed full of incredible sights and experiences. One memorable day for students was when they climbed the Duomo in Florence. The students climbed the main dome of the Duomo, scaling more than 400 steps, culminating in an incredible view of the city below. While it was certainly a challenge, and many students had to face their fears, it was ultimately an extraordinary experience.

Another memorable experience was when the students visited the Catacombs of Priscilla. These catacombs were located just outside the walls of Rome, and students descended deep into the ground to see the tombs of ancient Romans. Some of the tombs have been excavated, but many tombs have remained sealed since their creation in ancient Rome. This was an unforgettable experience for the students. Ben Wiegers ’23 remarked that “It was a perspective changing experience, being surrounded by the tombs of believers from so many years ago…. Being able to walk through underground tunnels created by members of the early church opened my eyes to just how extensive and real ancient history is in other countries.”

The students on the trip were also able to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It was one of the most elaborate churches they were able to visit. The attention to detail throughout the décor of this massive structure was truly extraordinary. Isabelle Sparr ‘24 spoke about her experience visiting the basilica. “I absolutely loved St. Peter’s Basilica because of how much it stood out. We had gone through many churches at that point in the trip and I thought that nothing could really impress me anymore. As soon as we got in I couldn’t help but look up, as the ceilings seemed to be higher than any other building I’ve ever been in. Also, I loved how spacious and well-designed everything was, with the gold and white being consistent throughout every tomb and ornamentation. It felt like the throne room of a great castle from a fantasy novel.”

There were many other unforgettable sights on this trip, and the students and faculty on the trip were certainly grateful for the chance to travel together. I personally was one of the students to travel on this trip, and I can say that it was an experience I will never forget. There were many big moments, like when we saw the Colosseum or the statue of David, that are etched into my memory. But I will also remember the smaller moments, like my first boat ride in Venice and walking the streets of Rome at night with strawberry gelato in hand.  From all of the big moments to all of the small moments, this trip was such a blessing, and I would recommend it to anyone who has the means and desire. You can find out more information about the trip by contacting the Crossroads office, but whether you go on this trip or another one of Geneva’s study abroad opportunities, know that it will certainly be an adventure you’ll never forget.

Mattigan Burleigh '24

Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Jan 4, 2024

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