Ashland University Honors Program Students Experience Italy

Ashland University Honors Program Students Experience Italy
Students participating in the Honors Italy: Grand Tour pose in front of the Roman Colosseum.

7/16/15 ASHLAND, Ohio – Students in the Ashland University Honors Program were able to experience Italy this summer as part of the Honors Italy: Grand Tour study abroad trip.

Dr. Chris Swanson, professor of mathematics and director of the Honors Program, said the trip is a vital part of the Ashland University Honors Program’s mission, which is to offer academically talented undergraduate students cross-disciplinary experiences, participation in an intellectual community devoted to discussion and dialogue, and special projects and courses that challenge the mind.

“I believe the Honors study abroad trips tied to the Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar course help us meet each part of the mission. The course is cross-disciplinary by nature, with faculty members from four different disciplines teaching topics of the course,” Swanson said. “The trip helps develop camaraderie among the students that helps promote the intellectual community devoted to discussion and dialogue. Students also are required to complete a couple of projects related to Italy as part of the trip. More generally, I believe that students receive a great benefit by experiencing other cultures, ideally breaking down some of the preconceived notions they may have had about these cultures.”

Swanson said he wants the students to finish the trip with a sense of awe – “awe in the realization that they walked on the same ground that Julius Caesar once did, awe in the encountering archaeological sites such as Pompeii that they have only read about in textbooks and awe in visiting elaborately decorated structures like the Sistine Chapel.”

“I believe the trip enhances the students’ future academic and non-academic lives so that when they encounter people, books or films tied to Italy, they can think back to their trip and develop more accurate imagery,” he said. “I hope that students gain appreciation of other cultures and recognize that it is difficult to completely understand other cultures by simply reading about them in books, periodicals and newspapers.”

Students participating in the trip were Michael Byndas, Kelly Crowl, Nolan Dilts, Haley Dorne, Brady Douglas, David Grim, Stephanie Julian, Emily Kaiser, Ashley Lorah, Bethany Meadows, Dendara Oakleaf, Alexa Ross, Amy Shuster, Marissa Willman and Hannah Wittkopf.

The Honors Study Abroad trip is tied to the Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar course every other spring semester (spring of odd years). The previous two trips were the Honors Grecian and Turkish Odyssey and the Honors Capitals of Europe trip during which the students visited London, Paris, Prague and Berlin. Swanson is currently investigating possible sites for the 2017 trip.

During the 12-day Honors Italy: Grand Tour trip, AU students visited Venice, Florence, Pisa, Assisi, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Rome and the Vatican City.

· In Venice, students took a gondola ride through its famous canals and visited Doge’s Palace.

· The highlights in Florence included visiting the Duomo and the Accademia Gallery where students could admire Michelangelo’s David from multiple perspectives as opposed to the one perspective seen in an art book.

· In Pisa, students not only encountered the Leaning Tower, but stood on the soft ground that causes the Pisa Cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry to lean as well.

· In Assisi, students toured the Basilica of St. Francis, with its frescoes by Giotto telling the story of the life of St. Francis.

· Students walked among the ruins of Pompeii, a city founded in the 8th century BC that was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD with an eruption that was the equivalent of two atomic bombs. 

· The high cliffs of Sorrento provided spectacular views of the Gulf of Naples and a picturesque sunset while students ate dinner on the patio of the hotel. 

· The island cruise around the island of Capri included exploration of caves along the shoreline and passing through the Faraglioni rock formations before students rode the funicular to the city of Capri at the top of a cliff to explore the Gardens of Augustus. 

· Rome featured visits to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Catacombs of Domitilla and the Spanish Steps.

· In the Vatican City, students visited the tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica and quietly reflected on the magnificence of Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel after the local guide explained its history and details about each of the panels.
 

Throughout the trip, students experienced authentic Italian cuisine and sought the best shops to purchase gelato in each city.

For a more detailed description of the daily activities of the AU Honors students during Honors Italy: The Grand Tour, visit the Ashland University Honors Program blog or to see pictures of the numerous sites students visited see the Ashland University Honors Program Facebook page.  

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###