By Oscar Avatare, Foster Undergraduate and GBC Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient who participated in the 2016 Honors in Rome: Art, Identity, and Structures of Exchange in Rome and Italy study abroad program.
A story that best highlights my international experience in Rome is the first group walk I took with my 2016 Honors in Rome group. As we started out from the UW Rome Center, you begin to realize you are in a city where you must leave behind everything you think to be true. Nothing is rational here, and you must embrace the chaos and energy of Rome. As we left the Campo de’ Fiori, you begin to see new modern stores, yet just two blocks later in the Piazza Navona you see Baroque sculptures, a glorious fountain, and an Egyptian obelisk. This is another paradox of Rome, where the contemporary and the ancient coexist so naturally next to one another that it seems as if they have always been there. After the Piazza Navona, you take a right and continue down the narrow streets until you reach the Pantheon. This is the best example of Rome’s timelessness. It has existed since the Roman Republic, and has served as a temple, church, and a tomb. It is a microcosm of Rome because it can mean anything to anyone. The meaning is derived from the perspective of the individual, and this spirit is what the greats of the High Renaissance captured and why I feel that their art is so deeply revered. After this we returned to the UW Rome Center, but I couldn’t forget what one of my teachers had told me on that walk. He said Rome would have a special aura and energy to it that would set it apart from any other city in the world. I totally agree with him and I feel that going to Rome allows a person to reflect upon their own culture and beliefs and see how they are a product of the culture that they come from. You realize you may as well exist in a different universe when you are in Rome. There is monument after monument in plain sight, yet the irrelevance of the location of the monuments makes the city even more absurd to a traveler. The Pantheon is tucked between apartment buildings and restaurants and the Coliseum is surrounded by cars and roads. Nothing in Rome is glorified and everything is different, but that is the beauty of it all.