Windsor, N.J. -- With students and faculty members alike suffering
from gelato and Limoncello (more about that later) withdrawal,
a group of intrepid travelers from MCCC's Study Tours program
gathered for a final evening class on June 3. Students shared
photos and reflections of their nine-day whirlwind tour of
Italy May 19-28.
off the sessionm, students enjoyed a feast prepared by instructor
Chris dePagnier. "We are dining on historic Roman dishes
that date to medieval and ancient times," he said. The
meal included wheat polenta with flaxseed, kale soup flavored
with wine, and chicken cooked with almonds, pomegranate and
saffron. "In ancient times, saffron was considered the
'gold' spice. If you ate it, you would have increased wealth,"
dePagnier noted. Almond and chocolate biscotti - and espresso,
of course - completed the meal.
Associate Professor of Business Andrea Lynch, who coordinated
the trip, listened to students' presentations with fascination.
"We all went into the trip with different perspectives
and got different things out of it," she said. Of the
23 students who participated in Mercer's inaugural Study Tours
experience, some were enrolled in Professor Marilyn Dietrich's
"International Architecture and Culture" course,
some came from dePagnier's "Food and Culture" course,
and still others traveled as noncredit students. They also
ranged in age, spanning three generations.
Students credited their tour guide, Massimo, with making the
trip an incredible learning experience. Brian Rue and Lara
Orner, both studying Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management
(HRIM), agreed that it exceeded expectations. "We learned
so much. We could not have asked for a better experience,"
said Orner, who had never before left the East Coast of the
United States. "Every nook and cranny of Rome hides something."
Rue added that he had not expected to travel abroad as a Mercer
student. "I had always wanted to go to Italy. This was
a great opportunity. We squeezed every single minute out of
the trip. When I go again - not if - I want
to do it on my own."
The lessons learned were both academic and social. Lynch was
struck by students' enthusiasm and attentiveness as they made
their way around the sites. "These students were in the
moment," she said. "Education is all about engagement.
That's where learning happens." They also formed close
bonds. "They were from all different backgrounds and
they became friends. The experience allowed them to connect
naturally," she said.
As they recounted their experiences, students spoke passionately
about many special places - the Vatican, the Coliseum, St.
Peter's Basilica, the ancient city of Pompeii, and the magnificent
Amalfi coastline. A cheese-making demonstration and a tour
of the Limoncello Distillery, which included samplings of
the strong Italian liqueur made from lemon rinds, were also
Just experiencing the culture was great, Dietrich said. Especially
popular with students was the Italian custom of heading out
in the evening to the many small cafes that line the streets.
But Dietrich's students also soaked up the majestic and historic
architecture that surrounded them everywhere.
Architecture student James Reslier-Wells shared his photos
that captured columns, arches, sconces, angles and intricate
inlaid detail. "The symmetry and perfection in the structures
were amazing," he noted. "Even the modern architecture
reflects elements of the ancient." Reslier-Wells was
particularly impressed by the scale of the Coliseum. "It's
massive, unbelievable, magnificent."
Kristie Cepparo, also studying architecture, was struck by
the Coliseum's innovative design elements. "You could
see the layers in the concrete blocks, the seating, all of
it so ahead of its time and similar to the way things are
built today," she said.
South African student Maghia Neuman spoke of her fascination
with Italian history. "History is what makes us understand
each other," she observed. She also recalled the grandeur
of the Amalfi Coast. "I thought I had seen mountains
in my country, but I had never seen anything like this."
She was intrigued by the elevator installed in the mountains
that takes visitors from the shoreline to the top. "There
was even a cemetery at the top for those buried there to enjoy
the view. That was very touching to me," Neuman said.
Pompeii was Lara Orner's favorite stop. "It's a place
preserved in time," she said. Following Pompeii, the
group stopped at Mt. Vesuvius. "We toured the entire
city of Pompeii and then decided to hike up a volcano,"
she said with amusement.
Seasoned traveler Leon Nolting, a retiree, signed up for the
trip as a noncredit student because he wanted the input of
professors and guides. "I want to absorb history, culture,
economics, the whole thing," he said. He was particularly
interested to discover that archeological excavation is still
actively going on in Rome and Pompeii. He noted with satisfaction
that he had no trouble keeping up with his younger traveling
Orner, who completed her HRIM degree at Mercer this semester,
missed MCCC's commencement ceremonies while on the trip. But
she has an even bigger regret, echoed by numerous classmates.
"I wish we'd had more time," she said.