When in Rome…
Studying during Winter Break may have been the last thing on your mind, but it is something that some students actually opted for. Over break, 25 students packed their bags and headed overseas for a special J-Term class in Rome. This class, a collaboration between Exhibition Management and Fiction writing, taught by Bob Blandford and Randy Albers respectively, was the first of its kind. According to Albers, both he and Blandford have taught separate classes in Rome for the past two summers and they have been trying to find a way to collaborate. While it may seem an unlikely pairing, the two thought it opportune to link the courses because of their mutual interest in storytelling. Despite the initial “language barrier” between the two classes, their idea proved successful.
“I’ll admit, it was a little tense at first. But I think Bob Blandford said it best, ‘Writers and curators/exhibitors are really in the same field, they both want to tell stories. We just have very different ways of going about it.’ Overall, though, it was a really positive experience, I felt like we learned a lot from each other. I know I’ll never look at the way a painting is hung on the wall the same way again!” senior Fiction Writing student Lindsey Hauck said. And the Exhibition students agreed. “It was interesting and fun to be taking the whole trip in alongside the Fiction students. Their perspectives were different and driven by their search for creative inspiration while I was mostly trying to learn about logistics and administration-it was refreshing. As a Fine Arts student, I feel the collaborative aspect of the trip brought me back to my love of art and creativity, and made combining academia and art a more accessible process,” senior Erin Schiller stated. Freshman Katie Buske added, “Collaborating with the Fiction students was a new experience for everyone. It’s really interesting when you take two different types of creative people and put them together for two weeks. While there were disagreements, there was a strong sense of yearning to understand each side’s passions. By the end, each class had the other thinking and seeing Rome in a new light, which really added to the experience as a whole.”
Blandford and Albers also wanted to offer this class during J-Term as an opportunity for students to study abroad at a different price point than the typical full semester trip “I support myself financially 100%, and could never have afforded to take an entire semester or year to study abroad. I’m a senior, and thought my chance to take part in an abroad program had passed me by, but when I learned about J-term in Rome, I saw it as the perfect opportunity for someone like me to participate in. I only had to take a few weeks off work, and although the trip was a little costly, it was certainly affordable in comparison,” Schiller said. This was one thing everyone could agree upon. “I had always wanted and planned to do a study abroad program, but it became sort of impossible now that I have a job, a lease, etc. So this program was really perfect for me, it allowed me to have a little bit of that study abroad experience without having to pick up and leave for months,” Hauck mentioned.
Studying abroad is an excellent and one-of-a-kind way to experience another country. “You’re not just a tourist,” Albers explained, “you have the opportunity to see things in a different way. I’ve taught abroad for 16 or 17 years and it really changes your life.” And the students couldn’t have agreed more Senior Rob Nick commented on this transformative experience as well, “What I saw amazed me, not just the astonishing architectural structures, but even just the people were awesome. I simply fell in love. Many days when I had free time, I found myself exploring the city further, purposefully getting lost for hours and reflecting on life. By the end, I found out a lot about myself I never knew, and I didn’t want to leave.”
Not only did the students have the opportunity to learn in the classroom and from visiting historical sites such as Pompeii, Palatine Hill, the Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum, but they also learned from each other. “The most valuable thing that I got out of this trip is the use of a journal. We kept a journal for our notes of each exhibition we visited and as a medium for personal thoughts as well. It is a beautiful way to reflect and keep thoughts together; I think I realized that through seeing how some of the fiction writing students used their journals,” sophomore Alexis Brocchi said. Schiller agreed, adding, “Sharing thoughts and ideas, and reactions with everyone was probably the best part; sort of the whole idea of ‘what’s an experience if you have no one to share it with?’” And share in the experience they did!
The whole experience culminates Thursday, February 28 at the Hokin Gallery with an exhibit featuring the work of both classes. Visitors will receive a take-home catalog from the show featuring excerpts of some of the writing generated by the Fiction class.