Perspective Online

Buongiorno, UWG! by Megan Bell

The English Department’s study abroad program in Spoleto, Italy, was the most intensive and comprehensive educational experience of my academic career. We engaged Italian culture in an academic setting (creatively and critically in our UWG classes) and in our crash course in the Italian language (provided by the program). This training gave us a basis for our everyday experiences there, from visiting the tomb that awaits the bones of Dante Alighieri in Florence to ordering our daily cappuccinos at Café Vincenzo.

Electronic Column: Megan BellIn Dr. Masters’ critical class, we viewed and analyzed depictions of Italy, from gothic literature to true crime, from the Romantics to contemporary romance. This journey through many Italys and our rich and rigorous discussions in class provided a point of comparison for our developing views of our foreign surroundings. Complementing our critical course, Dr. Davidson’s class on travel writing ensured that we were constantly recording, dialoging with, and inspecting the new world around us, from the bare-headed dandelions growing from terracotta roofs to the changes in landscape and architecture on the train from Umbria to Campania. Our classes formed the scaffolding of our trip, supporting the weight of the grand intellectual experience of visiting and studying in a foreign country.

Traveling to another country, another continent, another language, can be overwhelming. Thankfully, our study abroad group functioned as a much-needed support system. As holds true in the best academic settings, you learn the most from your peers. Our cohort ranged widely in experience, age, and background. Yet in the crucible of a study abroad trip, we came together in a way that I have not often experienced. These relationships emboldened us to take advantage of our time out of class by traveling on our own as far south as Pompeii and as far north as Venice.

Magnificent works of art and architecture constantly surrounded us, and we had rich interactions with these sites, which included the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, the Keats and Shelley Museum, the Basilica of Santa Croce, the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (with its stunning Giotto and Cimabue frescoes), the mummified body of St. Ubaldo (reached by a “funivia,” which is a birdcage-chairlift-thing, up Mount Ingino in Gubbio), Roman amphitheaters, the tiny monastery that St. Francis built on Monteluco in Spoleto, our home base, and—lest I forget—multiple gelaterie. Yet, with all that beauty, my favorite aspect of our study abroad was the continual contact and interaction with Italians. Immersion in a language with which I previously had no experience was both exhausting and exhilarating, making every tiny interaction a puzzle of circumlocution and a true test of my miming skills.

In our age of increasing global intimacy and interdependence, cross-cultural education and language diversity, being a more globally aware student is a necessity. I am so grateful to the University of West Georgia, the College of Arts and Humanities, and my English Department for this important opportunity.

Megan Bell is an English major and Creative Writing minor. She took part in the inaugural study-abroad program in Spoleto, Umbria, Italy this past summer.

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