“Even though I may not, like them, be able to quote other authors, I shall rely on what is far greater and more worthy: on experience, the mistress of their Masters” (Leonardo Da Vinci, Selections from the Notebooks, ITR 188).
I realize that it is perhaps a bit paradoxical to start this, my 15th and final blog post from Rome, with a quote from an author who admits that he himself “may not…be able to quote other authors.” However, after spending more than a month in Rome, I really agree with Da Vinci’s defense of experience as a teacher. Before coming here, I did quite a bit of research about the city and the sites I was scheduled to visit. I even printed out pictures of the famous landmarks so that I’d recognize them on first sight. But the pictures, and the words I typed up in preparation, simply do not – CANNOT – do the city justice.
Seeing is just one small aspect of the full sensory experience; the secondary senses are essential to truly understanding the living, breathing atmosphere of Rome. It’s about hearing snippets of Italian being thrown around on the cool morning breeze. It’s about tracing a warm, soft aroma to the pizza parlor on the corner. It’s about feeling the rough, imperfect texture of the cobblestones underfoot.
I threw around the phrases “globally-minded”, “well-rounded”, and “worldly” a whole lot on paper in order to get here – on scholarship essays, justification statements, and the like. Now that I’m here though, I realize, yes, I have become a more worldly person over the course of this experience, but also that the word “worldly” has taken on a whole meaning for me now that I’ve lived outside the United States.
Being worldly isn’t JUST about being able to spout off specifics on foreign buildings, cities, and States. It’s also about flexibility. It’s about patience. It’s about losing yourself in a crowd of people who don’t speak your language, and finding the courage to not feel alone. It’s about making plans on the go, and not getting upset when they don’t work out. Above all else, it’s about exploration – of the landscape, of the society, and of yourself.
After being here for a month, I feel that I’ve had the chance to thoroughly explore the cityscape of Rome and the local Italian culture, and yet I still haven’t lost my sense of wonderment at it all. I still have to stop on my walk to class every morning to admire the dome of St. Peter’s as I walk across the Ponte Sisto; I still look up in amazement at Michelangelo’s bridge over the Via Giulia; and I still stop in Campo de Fiori to look up at the dark, brooding figure of Giordano Bruno.
Today, I went with some of my best friends here – Jacob and Christine – to the Galleria Borghese Gardens, which are effectively Rome’s “Central Park”. After a bit of an arduous climb up to the park from Piazza del Popolo (which is the northernmost square in the old city of Rome), we ended up renting a multi-person bike to ride around the gardens. I feel like the relaxing experience of biking around the park was a great way to cap off our experience here. It wasn’t as exhilarating as being inside the Sistine Chapel, looking out over Rome from St. Peter’s, or walking the halls of Uffizi gallery, but it felt good. It felt good to soak up the Roman sun with other Romans, to live and experience the serenity of the park alongside them.
|Biking through Villa Borghese! Photo Cred: Christine Carroll|
My plans for the next two days include visiting the Da Vinci museum tomorrow with our class, bidding farewell to all the friends I’ve met here at a group dinner tomorrow night, and packing up on Friday. I leave for the States bright and early on Saturday morning.
I’d like to end this post by thanking everyone who made this study abroad trip possible. I would like to thank the University of Arkansas Honors College for funding my travels – and specifically Kelly Carter for walking me through the application process. I would like to thank the University of Arkansas Rome Center Staff for working out all of the complicated logistics that it took for some 70 or so U of A students to participate in this year’s program. I would like to thank Professor Bill Quinn for situating the Renaissance authors and sites that we visited in a relevant, modern context. I would like to thank all of the wonderful friends I’ve met here at the Rome Center for keeping me company on this journey. And, last but not least, I would like to thank all of the friends, colleagues, and family back home who have been kind enough to read my blog these past few weeks. It really means a lot to me.
As soon as I get home, I will probably start researching further study abroad opportunities, and I will no doubt be blogging about it just as soon as I get the chance!
Thanks again for supporting me on this journey.
Brock J. DeMark