A drive through Tuscany and visits to Florence, Venice, Assisi, Pompeii, Sorrento and Rome - not to mention the world's best pizza, pasta and gelato - was more than a tour of Italy for a group of MCLA students who spent their spring break abroad. The experience gave them valuable insight into a rapidly expanding global society.
By having the opportunity to travel abroad, "They realize how other societies function and how different they are from the American culture," said Emilia Sciarra-Laos, a professor of Spanish and Italian at MCLA, who accompanied the students to Italy. "Everything is very crowded compared to what we have here. In that aspect, I think they were able to experience a different point of view.
"They were also able to see how people dressed - that's another important cultural difference. I am hoping that, by seeing these differences, they will be able to be more open-minded in their view of people when they are working in a globalized society and with the growing diversity of the U.S., especially in terms of ethnicity and nationality."
"The travel courses are a great way to add to anyone's education," said Siobhan Tripp '11. "It gave me a broader perspective on the world. I think it's important to visit other countries and experience different cultures."
Jessica Smosky '11 said the opportunity to travel benefits all students, particularly when the trip is to an area completely different from what they are used to. "You have to learn different customs and ways of doing things. In some cases, you have to learn a different language."
According to Katie Bodnar '11, "I was walking and breathing in history."
"In every city, there was something to learn," said Stephanie Esposito '12. "Florence was an artistic epicenter with Michelangelo's 'David' and the Duomo. Assisi was all about St. Francis and his contributions to Christianity. Pompeii was, well, Pompeii! Rome was a bit of everything - the Coliseum and the Foro are a historian's dream. Vatican City is the heart of Christianity, with the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica drawing in thousands of tourists a day."
"I had always seen pictures of Tuscany, but to actually be there was a different experience," said Alejandrina Guajardo '11. "The countryside with all its colors, naturalness and not-so-touristy areas was amazing. While in Assisi, I had some of the best pasta and gelato. Of course, everywhere had amazing gelato, but something about being in a small town made it seem more homemade. Assisi reminded me a lot of North Adams in that it was small, but full of history."
Work in the classroom laid the foundation to enhance their experience.
"We did a lot of reading on Italian society, which has nothing to do with the ruins we visited, Sciarra-Laos said. "The places we visited are all a part of the past history of Italy. But because of their understanding of the Italy society, their experience was much more relevant. I think what they learned gave them more insight and dimension to their trip. It was more than just being a tourist in Italy."
"Taking the travel course to Italy was one of the best things I have done while at MCLA," said Amanda Alibozek '11. "Learning about the culture and history of Italy in the classroom setting was a great experience. Having a professor who was so enthusiastic about the material we read made the class more interesting. Being able to go to the actual country and see the historical sites that we spent the first part of the semester learning about gave us a true experience of the culture and history of Italy."