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Rome Study Tour
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Kyle Cunningham

Kyle Cunningham

Major: Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies
Hometown: Tamaqua, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about the Rome Study Tour through Professor Pamela Cole of the CAMS department in her CAMS 033, Roman Civilization class. Incidentally, Dr. Cole was a co-leader of the study tour this year. Specifically, a previous student of the trip came in to talk about the experience. I learned of the program in my junior year after moving up to University Park from a branch campus, but didn't actually apply until my senior year after pushing back my graduation to August. Aside from hearing about it from my professors, the program was very easy to find through the study abroad website in order to learn more about the specifics of the program itself.

"I found myself as a kind of teacher while in Rome, with my extensive classwork at Penn State contributing to helping my classmates who didn't take classes in Roman History."

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

The program itself was fantastic. I am an avid historian, and seeing in first-person sites you constantly read about in books and see in pictures is beyond incredible. Walking into the Pantheon, for example, a building built almost 2,000 years ago that has largely survived the ravages of time, and seeing its massive concrete dome and colonnade alongside renaissance sculptures and paintings, is a memory I will never forget. Just being in a foreign city for the first time in my life is an experience in itself. The food is incredible, and the people are helpful and considerate.

About the program specifically, it runs roughly two and a half weeks and you are very busy for much of it. The study tour is centered primarily in Rome, but the tour goes down into southern Italy to visit the sites of Pompey, Herculaneum, Naples, and Paestum for about four days. Obviously, we walked a lot. We visited sites like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trajan's Market, the Roman port of Ostea, the Mausoleum of Augustus, the Tomb of Hadrian (the Castel Sant'Angelo today), the Palace of Domitian, the Baths of Caracalla, etc... In our spare time we visited many of the famous churches in Rome, many of which are built into ancient Roman structures. On our free days we took a trip to the Vatican to see St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, which holds a lot of Roman sculptures and artwork.

How did this experience impact you academically?

The program was basically a personal choice for me. As I stated above, I am a senior who was going to graduate in May 2015. However, I had never been on a study abroad experience and heard very good things about other programs, so I decided to apply to the Rome Study Tour and push back my graduation to August 2015 to fit it into my schedule. The program has two credit options: a 3 credit 100 level class, and a 6 credit 100 level class and 400 level class. Considering that I had already met all of Penn States needs in order to graduate, I chose to enroll in the 3 credit option.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My immediate goal is to find a job related to history, and after a few years, apply to graduate school. What this study abroad program has done for me is confirm my love for history. I found myself as a kind of teacher while in Rome, with my extensive classwork at Penn State contributing to helping my classmates who didn't take classes in Roman History. I want to continue with that after graduating and help teach others about how fun and helpful learning history can be. My ultimate goal is to become a professor of history.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would recommend the Rome Study Tour, and any Penn State-led study abroad program, to liberal arts students. The university goes through great measures to ensure that everything runs smoothly, both by monitoring foreign threat to keep its students safe and by providing funding to students themselves and the faculty leaders to deal with minor programs like transportation. That is not to say that prospective students should give serious though to committing to a study aboard program. First off, they can be expensive, so definitely consider applying for funding through the university and your respective departments and colleges. Secondly, there is work required. My friends and I had a lot of fun going to restaurants and touring Rome, but we also had to put a lot of time into studying for our required quizzes. With that said, it is important to be respectful while abroad. The Italian people are very hospitable, and it’s only right that we as ambassadors of Penn State and the United States respond in kind.

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