By: Christina Hallowell, President 

The Island of Capri (Photo by Christina Hallowell)

The Island of Capri (Photo by Christina Hallowell)

When I set out for the UMF May Term Travel Course to Italy four months ago, I had a slight idea of how great the trip would be, the friendships I would inevitably strengthen, and the amount of pasta I would inhale. However, what I didn’t know was that I would leave a part of my heart there, as this trip truly changed me for the better.

On May 18th, 36 students and four professors set off for two weeks in Italy. There were some students who were seasoned European travelers, some who had never left the state of Maine, some who were freshmen, and some were fifth year seniors, with majors ranging from psychology to history, to business to art. However, these 40 strangers got on a bus together in the Roberts parking lot that Monday afternoon, and returned two weeks later with countless memories shared.

The UMF Italy trip is different from a lot of other May Term travel courses because you have a choice of 4 classes you can take. Professor Sarah Maline taught Art History, Professor Stephen Pane taught Music History, Professor Scott Erb with Political Science, and Professor Luann Yetter gave lectures on Italian Literature. However, a lot of the learning was very interdisciplinary, and one class couldn’t be taught without having some knowledge of the other. Most of the lectures were taught by the entire team of professors, each giving a little bit of information on how their field helped shape Italian culture.

We stayed in Florence, Rome, and Sorrento, with day trips to Fiesole where we got to meet “Mama Lu’s” son and his fiance, and Naples where one student ordered the “Americano” pizza which was topped with hot dogs and french fries. We also visited Pompeii where we lost Professor Pane, but found him a few hours later. Positano was where I had the best panini of my entire life (it had potatoes inside. Yes, potatoes.) and Capri, where my friends and I rode a chairlift to the top of a mountain where we had a gorgeous view of the entire Island.

Beyond these silly memories, my class and I got to see famous sites like the Brunelleschi’s Duomo, the Colosseum, the ruins at Pompeii, and the Pantheon (the Trevi fountain was under construction though! Boo!) I got to see things that were built centuries ago and are so perfect and beautiful that people travel from all over the globe to see.  For me, the best part of the trip was exactly that. Just getting to make connections with these millions of people over hundreds of years was extraordinary. Having that shared experience with my peers from UMF and strangers from around the world was unforgettable.

Telling you to “get out there and travel” would be incredibly cliche. Everyone knows that experiencing different cultures is good for the soul and really does make you a better person. But one of the best kept secrets of travel is UMF’s travel courses. After being on two international trips over my three years here in Farmington, I can say that they are essential to learning the ways of the world. Not only do you get to immerse yourself in a new culture, you get to do it with knowledgeable professors who you already know and love. Traveling in a group can sometimes be a hassle, but I cannot stress enough the importance of sharing these experiences. Whether it be learning how to navigate the underground public transportation, attempting to order your meal in a foreign language, or striking up a conversation with a complete stranger, these memories are fonder because I got to share them with my fellow beavers.