Archive | 12:09 PM

Study Abroad Rome: Then and Now

14 Jan

Fortunately, history does repeat itself, albeit with some changes.

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Later today, our daughter Benita will depart for a semester at Loyola’s Rome Center. Her bags are almost packed, carefully staying under the 50 pound weight limit to avoid a ridiculous $150 fee for a few ounces over. Her backpack is filled with all the technology used today to communicate and record life’s events…computer, tablet, smartphone, digital camera, etc. And she has already set up a blog, Romeisalwaysagoodthing to document her experience. While I don’t have the exact numbers, I think about 200 students from about a dozen universities will make up the group. She’s not going over with any of her good friends but is sure to return with many.

Later today, we will hug goodbye (and yes, I’ll cry) at the Lufthansa counter hours before her actual departure, then I’ll check flight tracker when I awake tomorrow. During her time in Rome, or wherever she travels, we can communicate for free using various downloadable applications. While her study abroad adventure is yet to be written, it is sure to be incredible as she visits new cities and countries with her new friends.

In 1970, I left for a similar adventure. If my memory serves me correctly, we numbered over 200 students from about 90 schools across the country. Most of us left in August and returned the following May – one entire academic year! Back then, Loyola offered one of the few study abroad programs, unlike today where nearly every college and university has an affiliation. 

While I can’t remember, I imagine I brought two suitcases with no regard to weight limits. What I do remember is that all the parents waived goodbye to us from the window at the gate as we pulled away. Although there were tensions and targets in the world, US airports were not among them…no security, no TSA.

I always loved photography and wanted to document my adventure, so I purchased a Minolta SRT101 while in Rome (which Benita still uses for B/W photography). The only live communication most students had with their families came through very short and expensive collect calls we made home from the hall pay phone. We actually wrote and received  letters and even received care packages filled with homemade goodies.

Mostly college juniors, we left the US with a few suitcases and returned one year later with lifelong memories and lifelong friends. A salute to my fellow campers!

While some 40 years separate Benita’s adventure and mine, some constants remain. There is nothing quite like having the opportunity to experience living like a local in a foreign country. Absorbing the culture, speaking a different language, learning and practicing new traditions, experiencing new tastes and smells, seeing sites thousands of years old, learning about history and life by living it, and creating lasting memories and friendships are just some of the amazing opportunities afforded to study abroad students – then and still now.

Perhaps Mark Twain said it best:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

To Benita and all those on this adventure, Buon Voyage!

Ciao!

Judy

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