Immersion in the Ancient World

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Tara McKenna

My time spent abroad in Rome was one of my most memorable semesters, and one of the most important for my intellectual experience at Duke. One of the most exciting things about studying abroad was that most of the lectures were taught on cite. Rather than simply looking at pictures of remains and monuments, we were able to see them for ourselves and to stand in the very places where events took place as we learned about them. This immersion into the ancient world allowed me to internalize what I was learning more than I was able to at home.

As a Classical Languages major, it is important to work on translation ability, as well as to understand the history and culture of the Greco-Roman world. Studying in Rome enhanced my major because I was able to take Latin and Greek courses, as well as a quality course in Roman history, covering everything from the Etruscans to Constantine. In my Latin class, I read Juvenal’s Satires, and it was exciting to relate what we were translating to the places we’d been. For example, we saw the grotto of the Sybyl at Cumae, and the remnants of baths at Baiae, two places discussed by Juvenal in Satire III.

Living in Rome for three months allowed me to understand what a deep history the city has. Rome is truly built upon itself, with layers of remains from many different periods of history. Traveling outside of the city for class was important as well, as we spent time in Cosa, the first Latin colony, whose remains show the typical structure and layout of colonies, or Ostia, the port city, where many buildings and mosaics are preserved. Roaming through the ruins of cities such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, I could really imagine that I was living in the ancient cities, seeing where various temples, stores, and houses were located, and looking at the graffiti and well-preserved wall paintings.  

In addition to enriching my knowledge of Classical Studies, studying abroad exposed me to a different modern culture and language. The Centro is in a non-touristy neighborhood on the Janiculum hill, so Italian stores and cafes where we could try out our Italian skills were readily accessible. We ate delicious Italian cuisine daily. I took a few side trips to see some of the cities we didn’t trek to as a class, and I really enjoyed traveling through this beautiful country, both in class and out. Partaking in the ICCS in Rome study abroad program was a wonderful experience for me, and something I would highly recommend to any undergraduate who is passionate about Classics.

Tara McKenna, Duke 2011