When in Rome: Summer Study Abroad

By: Emma Korolik ’17

This past summer, I spent a month in Rome, Italy studying abroad through the College of Arts and Sciences. As a double major (English and Sociology) with a minor (Education) and a deep love for Cornell’s Ithaca campus, I wasn’t sure about going abroad. Yet, when I heard about a four-week creative-writing summer program in the heart of Rome, I knew I had to apply. Italy seemed like the perfect place to feel inspired, and I was right.

With a little maneuvering, we managed to fit everyone in the program into our Cenci common room for some big, family-style dinners!

With a little maneuvering, we managed to fit everyone in the program into our Cenci common room for some big, family-style dinners!

Once I arrived in Rome, I moved into an apartment (called “Cenci”) with seven other students. Our apartment was massive – we had two bathrooms, a full kitchen, enormous bedrooms and a common room that frequently hosted Cenci “family” dinners, debates, card games and writing frenzies. Almost every morning, the eight of us would walk out our front door, turn the corner, and grab a coffee and a pastry from Bar del Cappuccino. Then we’d hurry to creative writing class, which was housed in Palazzo Lazzaroni, a beautiful old building just five minutes from our apartment.

We didn’t spend every day in the classroom. At least some of the day – or the whole day – was often spent traveling. We visited churches designed by Borromini and Bernini with Jeffrey Blanchard, an expert in Baroque art; sketched sculptures around Rome with Professor Taft, a Cornell art professor; walked through the ruins of Ostia Antica with Dr. Jan Gadeyne, an expert in archaeology and ancient art history; and wrote in the home of John Keats and the cemetery where he was buried with Michael Koch and Stephanie Vaughn, our two English professors.

Duomo di Orvieto, one of the many magnificent churches we visited on our trip

Duomo di Orvieto, one of the many magnificent churches we visited on our trip

We spent two days traveling to Tivoli and Orvieto, where we got to try wild boar, an assortment of prosciutti, all different types of homemade pasta, puff pastries with cream and black currants (oh, if only I could go back in time and eat that dessert all over again) and some truly excellent red and white wines.

In our free time, we visited Vatican City, where I sat in on my first ever Catholic mass at St. Peter’s Basilica (imagine that!), the Pantheon, and the Colosseum, all of which were within walking distance of our classroom and our apartment. We walked through the Borghese Museum, swam in the Mediterranean, took the train to Naples and ate in view of Mt. Vesuvius, and even explored Pompeii, fulfilling my dreams from seventh grade world history:).

The most perfect dessert: a puff pastry filled with cream and black currants

The most perfect dessert: a puff pastry filled with cream and black currants

I remember so much from this trip – so many names and places and experiences, and a lot of this is due to one of the defining parts of the Cornell in Rome summer program: each student is required to keep a journal for the whole month. Every day, we wrote three journal entries. What we wrote was almost completely up to us – we responded to prompts from the professors, updated Ovid’s myths for modern times, quickly jotted down details on a train ride back from the beach or wrote nonsensical sentences with our housemates on the Ponte Garibaldi as the sun set over the Tiber (8:33, the time the sun set that evening, has since become a rallying cry of sorts for all of us who lived in Cenci). Beyond that, we wrote several short stories (or poems), which we workshopped in small groups, and at the end of the trip, we read our favorites in front of the whole program before enjoying a final dinner together at our professors’ favorite restaurant.

The Cenci Eight: Amanda, Esther, Emma (me!), Joanna, Joy, Eily, Kai and Nigel on one of the many bridges crossing the Tiber River

Of course, this trip wouldn’t have been as special without the people experiencing it with me. In total, there were 17 students and three professors who flew over from the United States for the program. Fifteen of us were Cornell students, and some were rising sophomores, some rising juniors and several were rising seniors. We were split into three apartments, of which Cenci was the largest, and our class was split into narrative and verse writers, so within our 17-person program, we worked with an even smaller group for reading, writing and workshopping.

My Intermediate/Advanced Narrative Writing class with our professor, the incomparable Michael Koch

My Intermediate/Advanced Narrative Writing class with our professor, the incomparable Michael Koch

I’ve become amazingly close with everyone on that trip – one of my first nights back in Ithaca this fall, I went out for dinner with almost everyone from Cenci. Every time I run into someone from the program on campus – whether we’re at the homecoming football game, at a café, on the stairs on our way to class or out in Collegetown – we stop, say hi, hug and chat.

Everyone always talks about how, as cheesy as it sounds, college is the time when you make friends for life, and now I’ve definitely found my group – from all over the U.S. to Rome, Italy and back to Ithaca, we’ve stuck together and we’ll share those Rome memories forever.

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