June 14, 2012 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Faculty members Mark Yenson and Julius-Kei (JK) Kato are currently leading a group of fifteen students on a nine-day excursion to Italy bringing in-class learning to life. Stay-tuned to this page for updates and photos from the group.

Click here for backgroup information on the trip.

June 14 - update from student Valerie Hopkins

Rome has to be one of my most rewarding experiences. Our day began early, 7:30 am every day, and finished at 7:30 pm in time for dinner. Our dinner included several courses  The first day I was famished and thought the bread and huge plate of pasta was our dinner. They were only appetizers, followed by more appetizers, and more appetizers until dinner arrived, followed by cheese, fruit and dessert. Of course always accompanied with wine. Dinner was always a two or three hour affair, whether it was at our hotel or in a restaurant in the heart of Rome. Our meals were always full of laughter and reminiscing of our day.  Our professors, Dr Kato and Dr Yenson and our guide Gabriele were incredibily knowledgeable about the city and all of its history. 

I can't begin to tell you everything we saw.  Our guide, Gabriele, watched everyone so closely that no one was ever missing for very long. I'm sorry to say, I got lost, but I was found quickly (sorry Dr. Yenson). Rome does not have stops signs, but that didn't matter to Gabriele. Gabriele could nonchalontly walked into traffic and all the cars stopped.  If some of us weren't fast enough to keep up, the traffic didn't stop for them, so Gabriele casually walked back into traffic, again without looking, and all the cars stopped again, waiting for his little ducklings to cross the street. We were always in safe hands with Gabriele.

One of the more spectacular of our activities was when we climbed the 503 steps (yes, I counted them) to the top of St. Peters Basilica. You could walk around the top of the dome and see the entire city. We went to the bottom of the Catacombs of San Callisto, which are over 2000 years old and are the most sacred burial grounds of the original and early Christians. The Christians were renowned for how well they cared for their fellow Christians who had died. The Catacombs are very deep underground and lit by small electrical lamps on the walls and ceiling.  I began to think about how scary it would be if I got separated and lost or if there was a power failure or if something brushed against my legs when suddenly my roommate grabbed me from behind, scaring the evil right out of me. 

We visited churches that were enormous and ornate and small churches that were simple and serene. I stood backwards and threw a coin in the Trevi fountain to ensure I return. We were welcomed warmly, after being searched by armed guards who asked me if I had a knife, in the Jewish Museum within the Jewish Ghetto. Their food is delicious!  We visited the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, a huge church built over and around the small church St. Francis called his home.  We saw his small patched habit.  We visited the Sistine Chapel and saw the infamous original frescoes of my favourite artist, Michelangelo. His sculpture, Pieta, was especially moving for me. It was incredible to be so close to his magnificent artwork.

These are just a very small part of the things we saw and experienced but my favourite part of the day was our afternoon break for cappacino and gelato.  There is no place in the world that can make a cappacino like they do in Rome. Gabriele took us to a tiny store that made the best gelato in all Italy. Don't even get me started on the Tiramasu. The education and knowledge I received on this course and the trip was amazing.  Keeping a journal was an expected part of our course. It was the best part as, now as I reread my journal, I can't wait to return.   

June 4 - update from student Lynn Burke

We arrived in Rome, to sunshine, and were met by Gabriele, our guide during our stay.  Shortly after depositing our luggage at the hotel, we were off walking to get our bearings of the city. Immediately we were surrounded by the ambience of ancient architecture, cobblestone streets, the buzz of traffic and the local people.  Our first lesson was how to cross the street by ‘simply’ making eye contact with the driver, extending your arm, and crossing!  (I don’t think I’ll try it in London.)   Over the 10 days, we walked up and down many hills, visited basilicas (one which dated back to the 1st century AD) the catacombs, the Coliseum, and ancient ruins.  We shopped, and enjoyed the local cuisine, and took a side trip to visit Assisi.    We enjoyed our first taste of authentic cappuccino, gelato, and wine.   We walked in the sunshine and the rain, while learning from Professor Kato and Professor Yenson, Gabriele, and our archaeologist tour guide, Anna-Maria.  This was an exciting, informative and packed itinerary, which brought our course material and Roman history to life.  
Thank you to my professors and fellow students for making this trip educational and fun.  It was a joy and privilege to travel with all of you!

May 30 - update from faculty member Mark Yenson

A quick update. The last few days have been full, although it has been important for students to have the chance to explore the city on their own as well.

Highlights include the view of Rome from atop the dome of St Peter's, the Jewish Ghetto and Jewish Museum, showing the rich but difficult history of the Jewish community here, and the Basilica of  San Clemente, with its three levels (12th, 4th, and 1st-centuries) like a palimpsest of Christian Rome.

Tomorrow, a final day of visiting sites in Rome, the a day-trip to Assisi on Friday.

Our tours of the major sites include guides from the Opera Romana, all professors and lecturers in archaeology. Our primary guide, Gabriele, in addition to orienting us at all times, has also introduced us to traditional cuisines of communities in Rome, pointed us to the best coffee and gelato, and rescued the occasional student left behind at subway stations.

May 30 - update from student Valerie Marie Beneteau

I am twenty years old and I can safely say in one week I have made a significant dent in my ‘bucket Llist’.

Many foot cramps and long days later; we have criss-crossed our way through Rome, from church to church, and monument to monument. There is something humbling that can send chills down your spine about this city. I do not even have to step out of our hotel door to feel swept up in the moment. You’re in a city that look like it is frozen in time. You look left and to the right, all you see is history on every corner; whether the old man on the corner, the many piazzas, the cobble stone streets, or the smell of the air, it is all history spilling out in front of you. With a guide like Gabrielle, it is hard to ever feel like you are lost. He is one of the warmest and joyful people I have met in a long time, no matter how early the morning is or how late the night before was. As the only student from another affiliate taking the course it is amazing to feel right at home with everyone (not counting the 7000 KM between here and there). I have met many people I have learned to trust and care about. We walk, talk, and eat together, even get lost with on more than one occasion, but it is great fun and we share tons of laughs. It has truly been an honour to take this course. I have learned more than a textbook could ever teach me. Professor Yenson and Kato are fantastic and I look forward to taking more of their courses. Thank you for everything. These have been memories I will cherish for a life time.

My Bucket List:

  •  Volunteer for the Burden Bears/Hospice
  • -Graduate University
  • -Learn a new language
  • Sing unafraid and loud to a large audience
  • Speak to audience of over 100 people
  • Climb the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica
  •  Throw a coin into Trevi Fountain
  • Purse my passion
  • Stand in the Colosseum
  • Pray at the crypt of a former Pope
  • See the Mona Lisa
  • Travel to Peru
  • Keep $50,000 in the bank
  • Attend a mass in a different language and culture
  • Cry over something truly beautiful (works of Michelangelo and the chain of St. Peter and Paul – for the sacrifice they gave for their faith)
  • Tell a significant other I love them
  • Fly in a hot air balloon
  • Go to France, Ireland, and Egypt
  • Wiggle my toes a beach for every ocean (Atlantic and Pacific done)
  • Stand in the Sistine Chapel
  • Stand on the Spanish Steps
  • Move out of my childhood home
  • Write a book
  • Be a Godparent
  • Watch my best friend get married (in progress)
May 25, 2012 - update from faculty member Julius-Kei (JK) Kato

Day 2 of our Rome sojourn. We had a full day. We had a guided tour starting at St. Peter’s Square at around 9:30 a.m. Our very able guide was Ana-Maria, an archaeologist who works with the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (OPR – the Vatican office for the assistance of pilgrims to Rome). From there we went to the Vatican Museum and learned a lot on a whole range of things from history to art to aspects of Catholicism. The highlight of the guided tour was, of course, our visit to the Sistine Chapel where we saw for ourselves the frescoes painted by Michelangelo and other Renaissance masters.

After our tour of the museum, we went to an eatery specializing in ‘arancina’, a Sicilian delicacy. It is basically a ball of fried rice with different ingredients inside. After a full morning, we ate heartily and rejuvenated ourselves.

This was followed by visits to Piazza del Popolo, in particular, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, an Augustinian church where Martin Luther stayed on his visit to Rome. It is also there that precious works of art are found such as Caravaggio’s paintings of St Peter’s martyrdom and St. Paul’s conversion.

From there we walked to the Spanish Steps. It was a glorious day in terms of weather and we had a nice time basking in the late spring sunshine while looking at the splendid views of the eternal city.

We proceeded to the Fontana di Trevi, passed by the Gregorian University and Biblical Institute and made a short visit to the nearby Church of the Apostles where the remains of the apostles Philip and James (the lesser) are interred.

So far, we’ve had a fantastic time, full of learning and sharing with each other. It really makes a world of difference when one can actually walk in a city in which so many aspects of the Catholic tradition have been, in a way, engraved in its very stones. I’m sure we’ll have more enriching experiences in the days to come.

May 24, 2012 - update from faculty member Mark Yenson

Yesterday JK and I, accompanied by our guide from the Opera Romana, took the group on an initial orientation-walking tour through St. Peter's Square and the historical centre, to see the Pantheon and two of the important churches. Students expressed their excitement last night about experiencing firsthand figures, events and historical currents they had studied in the classroom, especially noting how the architecture mirrors history. We also left free time to explore, and several students revelled in the adventure of getting lost and finding their way back to the hotel.

Today we have a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, then more walking to see an imperial mausoleum, the Mausoleo di Augusto and Ara Pacis.