A Lesson from Ancient Cultures: USciences Honors Students Travel to Italy, Greece

Written by Jenna Pizzi
Published on June 6, 2017

USciences Honors Program Abroad 2017

This spring, 19 students in USciences Honors Program traveled to Rome, Florence, Athens and Delphi during their annual trip abroad. 

The locations helped to tie together the unifying theme of the honors programs studies in the 2016-2017 academic year, which focused on creations and creativity. Greece and Italy were chosen because they are both famous for their enduring creations in the arts, humanities, sciences and social-political life. See more photos here.

Throughout the experience, students are asked to keep a journal and reflect on the things that stand out to them or will help them remember this experience in the future.

Here are a few excerpts from the student journals:

Paulina Lowery MSPAS'20
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
The Vatican 

VaticanBeyond having a stellar guide, the artwork was unbelievable. From the sculptures to the mosaics and tapestries to the paintings, I’ve never seen so much beauty contained in the span of one day. The Vatican Museum going into the Sistine Chapel was so alive with art that I didn’t think anything could out do all of the colors and talent presented by these pieces. I was then proven wrong when I walked into the Sistine Chapel, and saw the ceiling, the sides of the chapel, and the wall with the Judgement Day painting. The Judgement Day painting was my favorite in the Chapel. (It has 391 figures painted on it. They were originally nude, but someone was hired to paint clothing onto the people when Michelangelo died.) I think I like this painting so much because it really made me stop and think for a second about where I would end up. So, there I was, standing in front of a painting that is hundreds of years old, amazing in every way, and I still managed to apply it to my own life by reflecting on my own actions and where they would place me if in fact today happened to be Judgement Day. I believe that is some of the true beauty in these places: how even the work of people that have been gone for so long still manage to touch people generations later. 

St. Peter's BasilicaSaint Peter’s Basilica was no less impressive. I didn’t realize how many tombs it contained, and the tombs within it are very extravagant. We saw two Popes in the Basilica that are coated in a thin layer of silver to preserve the bodies. They are on display in the Basilica, and they’re slightly uncomfortable to look at. The layer of silver is so thin that the details in the skin are very evident, and even the fingernails were still visible. (I was so hooked on this and I’m not sure why). It made me feel like the Pope could just suddenly sit up because everything was still there and intact.

As I walked out of the Vatican territory, I could not get over the beauty of it all, and being able to turn around and look at the Basilica and one of the entrances to the Vatican and see it as a picture-perfect scene.

Emily Brand PharmD'21
May 14, 2017
Athens – The Parthenon

The Parthenon Today, we saw the Parthenon.  It was incredible.  Part of what made today so amazing was our guide, Fay.  She was definitely one of my favorite tour guides – very sweet and funny.  She told us a lot about the city of Athens. We went to the first modern Olympic stadium that was built at the end of the 1800’s. I learned a lot, not only from what she told us about the city, but also from what she told us about herself. […]  Fay said she’s a tour guide not because she makes a lot of money, because she doesn’t, but because it makes her happy. She goes home and she feels fulfilled. 

I didn’t expect to see all of the cranes [and scaffolding] on the Parthenon for restorations and it surprised me to know that they will always be there.  The Parthenon Museum was also amazing to me. It upsets me to know that London [the British Museum] still has pieces of the Parthenon that they found. Even though Greece has been trying to get them back for 200 years, London still will not give the pieces back. 

 

Neil K. Shah PharmD'20
Undated 

ColosseumWhen we go on vacation or see a new place, and at the closure of the vacation feel a great sense of satisfaction and amusement, we don’t necessarily feel this because of the things we see or do during that vacation. Rather, it is the experience of encountering something unexpected, new, refreshing and sometimes even uncomfortable that makes us enjoy our vacation so much. The places and things we do during the vacation around the places we visit can bring about these feelings, but it’s not exactly the places/activities we participate in themselves that necessarily cause this. […]

GreeceThese Honors program trips aim to bring cultural/global awareness to students and expand their experiences to stretch their concept of the world beyond their horizon of understanding. But, the only way to truly do this is to expose students unapologetically to places and cultures that they are not familiar with. If human understanding is not tested it will always be what it is. Thus, choosing a location that is foreign, perhaps uncomfortable and unique is far more important that choosing a location that is necessarily desired by students.

Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge and expanding the reach of what we consider normal. The more we learn, the more accepting and understanding we are of each other.


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