Twenty-two students and five chaperones returned Sunday from a trip to Italy—a trip they described as an “incredible experience” and “truly amazing.”
The trip, which was part of the cultural exposure class Woods Around the World, took the students from Rome to Venice and many cities in between during their spring break, March 11-20. This is the fifth year of Woods Around the World, which has previously studied Kenya, Peru, American civil rights and the Holocaust.
“An important part of a good education is the ability to appreciate a story other than your own,” said Travis Tamerius, the class’s professor and campus chaplain.
“Woods Around the World is designed to give students experience in entering imaginatively into someone else’s life and times, to help them gain new perspective by sharing perspective. This year, we explored the Roman story and how that rich tradition from the ancient world has influenced our lives today.”
Such an approach broadens students’ education, helping them to better understand globalization and equipping them personally and professionally for their future endeavors.
“Learning about all of the history before traveling was the best thing I did. This made visiting and seeing them myself 100 times better! I could rattle off facts about them and it really connected the dots for me! It was truly amazing!” said Gina Davis of Chesterfield, Mo.
Prior to the trip, students spent classroom time studying history, art and architecture and prepared for individual projects that reflected their time and interests.
“Seeing with my own eyes places that I have learned about in textbooks was the most incredible experience. It seemed like no matter which direction one looked there was always some beautiful and historical piece of art or architecture to see,” said Stephanie Chism of Sturgeon, Mo.
In addition to Davis and Chism, travelers were Ilana Archuleta of Fulton, Mo.; Angela Arizpe of St. Louis, Mo.; Erica Begley of Hannibal, Mo.; Linsay Bernard of Weare, N.H.; Meghan Bleigh of Chamois, Mo.; Tiffany Bounds of Kingdom City, Mo.; Bridgette Doig of Escondido, Calif.; Nicole Elliott of Fulton, Mo.; Amy Folkedahl of Weatherby Lake, Mo.; Darian Horn of Fort Madison, Iowa.; April Jones of Choctaw, Okla.; Syndee Kuster of Bunceton, Mo.; Jordan Murray of Farmington, Mo.; Madeline Ortego of Fayetteville, Ark.; Jason Rose of Louisburg, Kan.; Mary Raines Scriber of Bentonville, Ark.; Kelcie Spradley of Fenton, Mo.; Elizabeth Thomas of Cleveland, Ohio; Katie Wolfert of Rolla, Mo., and Katherine Wortmann of Mexico, Mo.
The students were accompanied by Dr. Sherry McCarthy, vice president and academic dean; Venita Mitchell, vice president and dean of student life; Paul Clervi, professor emeritus of art, and Susan Krumm, WWU’s former director of university assessment, and Tamerius.
“The trip for me was everything that I had hoped it would be and more. The art and buildings that were pieces of history of the areas we visited were amazing and beautiful works,” said McCarthy.
While there, the students experienced the spectrum of sights and history that Italy has to offer.
In Rome, they saw the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. They also toured the Vatican, including the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
They spent time on Italian highways, passing through hillside villages of the Umbria and Tuscany states on their way to Assisi, where they saw the St. Francis Basilica and the adjoining monastery.
They visited Florence, where they saw the Duomo, Academia which houses Michelangelo’s David and the tombs of Italian figures such as Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Dante. They also took a tour of a leather shop, an industry for which Florence is renowned.
Student learning extended beyond history. They ate at traditional Italian restaurants, became accustomed to meals with multiple courses, saved money for restrooms, monitored their drink intake as refills were not free and got used to drinks without ice – “If the drink is cold, why put ice in it?” said Margaret, the group’s tour guide.
A few interpreting students even got the opportunity to hone their craft in Bologna, where they met two different groups of Deaf students.
“It was so great to be able to communicate with them and see the different signs they used – using our own American Sign Language and seeing their Italian Sign Language,” said Horn. “It was also very cool that we were able to exchange names for Facebook.”
Following a tour of Bologna, which included Italian Unification Day celebrations, the group traveled to Venice, the