William Woods University students will expand their global knowledge by spending their spring break, March 11-19, in three of the most influential cities in Italy.
The trip is part of a cultural-exposure class called Woods Around the World. Students spend the semester learning about a place and its culture and they travel to the location for firsthand experience.
The class, which is multi-cultural, interdisciplinary, collaborative and service-based in its curricular approach, is taught by the WWU chaplain, the Rev. Travis Tamerius. This is the fifth year of Woods Around the World, which has studied Kenya, Peru, civil rights and the Holocaust.
“An important part of a good education is the ability to appreciate a story other than your own,” Tamerius said. “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 are exploring the Roman story and how that rich tradition from the ancient world has influenced our lives today.”
This is the largest group yet traveling as part of Woods Around the World, with 22 students going to Italy. Along with Tamerius, the students will be accompanied by Dr. Sherry McCarthy, academic dean, Venita Mitchell, dean of student life, and Paul Clervi, professor emeritus of art.
While in Italy, the travelers will visit Rome, Florence and Venice. In Rome they will see the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. They will also take a trip to the Vatican City, where they will explore the Sistine Chapel and the works of Michelangelo.
On the way to Florence, the group will stop in Assisi to view such works of art as Michelangelo’s David. Finally, after a stop in Bologna, the group will spend time in Venice, traversing the city’s extensive canal network. The trip ends with a watertaxi excursion to the island of Burano for sightseeing and dinner.
“My favorite part of the Woods Around the World trip last year was getting to talk to the locals and spend time with them in an unstructured setting. That was when I learned the most,” said junior Katherine Wortmann of Mexico, Mo., who will be making her second WATW trip.
Freshman Darian (Lightfoot) Horn of Fort Madison, Iowa, said, “I have never left the country before, so the whole aspect of getting to see everything in a completely different manner is what I am most excited about. Just getting the opportunity to be the foreigner is going to be great.”
According to Tamerius, the students are studying hard in preparation for the trip. They specifically are looking at the history of the Roman world, the legacy of the Italian Renaissance and the art and architecture they expect to see. The students are exploring the various facets of Italian culture through textbook readings, online resources, guest lectures and video documentaries.
“Our students have some fascinating projects they are engaged in for this particular class,” Tamerius said. “Some of the subjects they are exploring include the intersection of imperial politics and religious ideology, the cross-cultural experience of immigrant Italians, the stories that are told in canvas and stone and gender roles in the ancient world.”
Freshman Mary Raines Scriber of Bentonville, Ark., said, “I’m really excited to learn all about Italian culture; everything from the food to talking to the people to shopping. Traveling is a great way to learn about a country and then immerse yourself in everything you’ve heard about.”
In addition to Wortmann, Horn and Scriber, students travelling to Italy are 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.; Stephanie Chism of Sturgeon, Mo.; Gina Davis of Chesterfield, Mo.; Bridgette Doig of Escondido, Calif.; Nicole Elliott of Fulton, Mo.; Amy Folkedahl of Weatherby Lake, Mo.; 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.; Kelcie Spradley of Fenton, Mo.; Elizabeth Thomas of Cleveland, Ohio, and Katie Wolfert of Rolla, Mo.
“The learning experience that traveling abroad provides is immeasurable,” said Wortmann. “Not only do you learn about other cultures and how they compare to our daily lives, but you learn about how you personally handle different situations and what your core values are. Everyone should experience a trip overseas at least once in their lives.”
The students will blog about their trip, using first-person accounts, photographs and video interviews. Those interested can follow the trip at www.watw2011.wordpress.com
“So much of our class is spent considering what it might mean to live in someone else’s place or times,” Tamerius said. “And because we focus on what it means to be a Roman citizen in the ancient world or an Italian living in contemporary Rome, it helps us to understand what it means to be an American, as well.”