This past May, I traveled to Italy to participate in a UPEI religious studies course called “Rome: Christianity and Culture.” I, along with nine other students and two professors lived and studied in Rome, Italy for three weeks. This global and experiential learning opportunity was organized and primarily funded by Saint Dunstan’s Institute of Christianity and Culture. Since seats were limited, there was a lengthy application process. When I received the acceptance letter, I was so excited to take on this adventure.

I experienced Rome’s history and culture in ways that no classroom lecture can offer. Instead of reading about stunning Basilicas and ancient grounds in a textbook, I was exploring them myself, first hand. Being physically present in this spaces helped me understand and appreciate their historical significance in a deep way. The course was based in Rome, but we had day trips to Pompeii, Assisi, and Florence. With the help of fabulous tour guides, we absorbed an abundance of information in a short amount of time. While away we studied a lot of art history, and as a business student, Art was never a subject of interest. But this course gave me a new passion for art history and now I appreciate the intensity of baroque architecture and artwork.

Thankfully, we were required to keep daily journals. In these journals, we’d jot down notable facts and reflect on how these experiences changed our perspectives on the Church and the world. Additionally, we met with several guest speakers, who have successful careers and strong connections to Catholicism, in Rome for enlightening group discussions. We met with a Dominican priest, a journalist, an economist, a professor, and the Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See. Occasionally, we had meetings with Dr. Dennis to discuss our readings, listen to lectures, and complete exercises. I really enjoyed listening to my classmates present their essays because even though we toured the same areas, we all experienced them differently.  

I’m happy to say I can now share smiles with ten more familiar faces around campus. We shared an amazing experience, one that I’m sure we will often reminisce. It really was a class of a lifetime. While in Rome I threw a coin in the famous Trevi Fountain, I hope the legends are true because if they are that means someday I will return to Italy and I will immerse myself even more in its culture.

I want to thank St. Dunstan’s Institute of Christianity and Culture for making it all happen,  Dr. Dennis and Dr. Velaidum for developing and leading the course, and putting up with 10 university students for three full weeks.

By: Carmelita Roberts

Photo: Lorelei Kenny