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Rome, the Eternal Classroom

Sam Stryker | Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When students think of a classroom, they picture an area enclosed by four walls, with a door and perhaps a window and desks. However, for many of the Notre Dame students studying abroad in Rome at John Cabot University this semester, the opportunity to escape the confines of a building is presented in the form of “on-site” classes. Instead of being enclosed by four walls, the Eternal City itself becomes the classroom.

For those enrolled in “Ancient Rome and its Monuments” and “Politics and Power in Roman Architecture,” class meets weekly for three hours on the streets of the city. Students wander about, learning the tales behind famous monuments and buildings along the way. One class may meet at the Roman Forum and end inside the Colosseum; another may visit the Vatican Museum and include a stop in the Sistine Chapel. Some students have even traveled to the ancient port cities of Pompeii and Ostia Antica with their on-sites.

Students said these out-of-the-classroom experiences are valuable for several reasons. First, learning about famous monuments and buildings is much more effective when you can see the structure in person. On-site classes also give students a better understanding of the city they live in. Most Roman buildings within the city center are hundreds of years old, and even the less well-known structures have a fascinating history that remains untold to most visitors.

As residents of the city for a full semester, it is rewarding to know the significance of the many buildings and monuments we pass on a daily basis. It gives students a better understanding of and respect for Rome. It also doesn’t hurt to have a teacher show you around on a weekly basis, much like a personal tour guide. One can never complain about earning academic credit for doing seemingly “touristy” things.