Italy travel study provides exciting learning opportunity for students

SIUE students at the Colosseum. Pictured: Emily Bowermaster, Brian Hayes, Caleb Hixon, Heather Kosydor, Emily McCoy, Emily Schertz, Dr. Carole Collier Frick. Photo courtesy of Stephen Fricke.

Each year, SIUE professors in the history department take students on travel studies. The College of Arts and Sciences supports these travel studies to provide both graduate and undergraduate students at the University to immerse themselves in a culture by spending a month in a foreign country. Every travel study is led by an SIUE faculty member, and students gain their knowledge of the country, culture, and history from their professor’s lectures and direction.

SIUE’s history department embarks on travel studies to different destinations around the world, including Egypt, Greece, Istanbul, and Italy. Since 2005, Dr. Carole Collier Frick has led the travel study to Italy. Frick teaches history at SIUE, and her expertise lies in the Italian Renaissance, especially within the area of gender roles during this time period. She says that she has been to Europe “about 35 times,” and even did her doctoral work in Florence, where she transcribed Italian diaries.

The travel study to Italy is open to all students at SIUE, whether they are majoring in history or not. Counting as three to six credit hours, students may go on the travel study to fulfill major or general education requirements. Each year, after spring commencement, Frick takes a group ranging from seven to sixteen students to Italy for a month-long visit.

During the trip, the students visit various cities in Italy to absorb the culture and learn the history by visiting both historical and commercial attractions, viewing architecture, sampling cuisine, and living in the cities, all under Frick’s guidance to ensure that they gain the most intensive experience possible.

“It’s really an in depth immersion experience for them,” says Frick.

View of Vernazza, a town located in Cinque Terre. Photo courtesy of Stephen Fricke.

This summer, Frick took seven SIUE students on the travel study to Rome, Vatican City, Pisa, Florence, and Cinque Terre from May 9 to May 31. During their visit, the group explored famous historical landmarks like the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Saint Peter’s Basilica. During the trip, students engaged in walking tours and excursions led by Frick.

The students got to see well known sites such as Michelangelo’s David, Brunelleschi’s Dome, and the Boboli Gardens. They visited churches and catacombs and got to see breathtaking sites such as marble mountains and the Italian Riveria at Cinque Terre. For five or six hours of each day, students participated in scheduled tours, lectures, and activities orchestrated by Frick to help them expand their knowledge of Italian history and culture.

When they were not with Frick, the students were able to go out on their own and explore the cities. Frick feels that this aspect of the trip is very important, as students really get to know Italian life and communities. Instead of staying in hotels, students rented apartments (one for males and another for females) to not only save money but to have a more authentic experience.

“You’re part of the neighborhood. You get to know everybody. It’s just perfect,” Frick says.

Emily Bowermaster, Emily McCoy, and Emily Schertz in Fiesole, a town located in Florence. Photo courtesy of Stephen Fricke.

Students participating in the travel study are required to keep journals during their experience and at the end, they must compose a research paper or presentation demonstrating their knowledge of Italian history and culture. Final papers and presentations have focused on a range of topics, such as Italian food and cooking, the culture and history of the Romani in Italy, and a compare/contrast piece on the Boboli Gardens and the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Frick takes students every summer to Italy, and all students are welcomed to attend. In order to attend, students must first sign up at the annual Study Abroad Fair, which will be held on October 12, 2012. At the fair, Frick will have a table with a panel of students who have attended the trip to share their experiences and ultimately, to encourage others to partake in this exciting learning opportunity.

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