Buongiorno, UB Bulls
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Leave the books. Take the cannoli.
It’s time to go to Italy.
For the third year in a row, UB’s classics department is offering a trip to the Mediterranean as a winter study abroad program. The trip will be led overseas by Professor Bradley Ault and was designed by Professor Donald T. McGuire Jr., both members of the classics department.
On Dec. 26, students attending this year’s trip will fly from Buffalo to Naples. After spending seven days around the city, they will travel to Rome. The flight back to Buffalo is scheduled for Jan. 12, two days before the start of spring semester.
The Italy trip is cross-listed as a three-credit course, Archaeology and Rediscovery of the Ancient Mediterranean (CL200), which satisfies either the humanities or fine arts general education requirement. Students will be introduced to many aspects of Italian culture while studying at different archaeological sites and museums.
Two years ago, McGuire was incapable of leading his trip to Turkey due to health concerns. At the last minute, Ault stepped in and took the students. He loved it so much he ended up doing it again. This year, McGuire is playing it safe and waiting for a return to full health before traveling. He is unsure as to whether or not he will be leading this year’s trip.
To both Ault and McGuire, it’s the students’ enjoyment that keeps them coming back for more.
“I’ve been to many of these places multiple times, but it’s always wonderful to go back,” Ault said. “To see what a profound spiritual, intellectual and emotional experience that [the students] have is tremendous for me.”
Most students who study on this abroad program do so without any friends – they tend to worry about spending time without any familiar faces. By the end of the trip, the group becomes a family.
“I was nervous to be alone in a foreign country, but I knew that everyone was in the same situation,” said Steven Coffed, a sophomore aerospace and mechanical engineering major who went on the trip to Italy last year. “Within the first day we were all really good friends. We were all just talking recently about going to Duff’s as a group sometime next week to reconnect.”
Even for students not studying humanities, a course in classics offers an opportunity to develop cultural and historical literacy.
McGuire’s personal study abroad experiences as an undergraduate fueled his desire to pursue classics as a career. Traveling as a student brought him to many exciting places, and it’s something he now views as an essential experience to provide to UB’s undergraduates, he said.
“It is such a dizzying, tremendously stimulating intellectual social experience,” McGuire said.
McGuire has been designing tours for decades, beginning as a professor at University of Southern California, and thus has multiple foreign contacts that allow for this particular program to be cheap and organized.
McGuire’s contact in Italy takes care of all the necessities for the trip, which eliminates the cost for a foreign tour guide and other expenses. This program runs during the “low” season, in which tourism and the price of airfare are down. Sites like the Colosseum normally have lines of people waiting over an hour during the summer months but during this trip, most of the sites are less crowded with tourists.
Students begin their stay at the Villa Vergiliana, which is a farmhouse in Naples operated by one family. The villa is nestled in the countryside just outside the city with surrounding vineyards and a view of the Bay of Naples.
On New Year’s Eve, the sky is completely blanketed with fireworks, and the family at the villa sets off their own as part of the celebration. The festivities offer excitement and comfort to the students who miss part of the holiday season at home.
The family at the villa also invites their relatives to stay for New Year’s and the students join in for six courses of fish in addition to pasta, vegetables and other fresh dishes. Almost all the food is prepared on a wooden stove and students can taste and enjoy local wine with all meals.
“This is a very authentic experience,” Ault said. “It’s not like seeing it from the deck of a cruise ship. We’re embedded in living Italian culture all the time – the good and the bad.”
In Rome, the group stays at the Intercollegiate Center for Classics within the heart of the city. Students take the city buses everyday; they get the opportunity to interact with “real” Romans on a daily basis.
Some of the students don’t want to go out and leave the good food behind, but the pizza in the city is a must, according to Coffed.
“It’s like eating a cloud doused in pasta and it melts in your mouth,” Coffed said.
For many, the Italy trip serves as a good first taste before trying other longer study abroad programs. Several students who have participated in past trips are now studying in Turkey or elsewhere in the Mediterranean for a semester or full year.
Aside from the price, safety is usually the biggest concern for students when they travel abroad. While girls often fall victim to the catcalls of many Italian men, the trip is ultimately safe as the students always travel in numbers to minimize danger.