From his book Sex and God at Yale
… without a doubt, the highlight of my Yale education… Our days were full of wonder after wonder—the catacombs, the Colosseum, the Pantheon at twilight. It was like we were lost in some beautiful, cerebral dream. (93-4)
Our summer in Rome was unequivocally the best academic experience I’ve ever had… Our lessons shaped the way I think about history, art, and architecture, and they have helped me to craft the rest of my career at Yale.
Before participating in the Humanities in Rome summer program, I had always considered writing papers and doing research a purely intellectual exercise—sitting in a small room, reading piles of books, and battling with ideas inside my head. The five weeks in Rome completely changed my approach to learning and researching. With Professor Jewiss as our guide, we learned by constantly absorbing new information with our eyes, ears, and feet as we walked archaeological sites, engaged with artworks in museums, deciphered the facade and interior of basilicas and churches, and made connections between the texts we read and the things we saw. For my individual research project, I spent days “treasure hunting” in the city, pondering the many pieces of art and architecture I encountered, and creating an engaging, original narrative to connect them all—for me, it was a feast visually, intellectually, and spiritually. For the first time, I felt a deep personal connection to what I was learning and researching. Months after I left Rome, my feet still remember the paths I walked and my pulse still quickens at the thought of the art I studied. Back at Yale, I pursued my studies with much greater motivation and rigor. The project I began that summer became the basis for my senior thesis—it is the longest academic project I have undertaken at Yale and certainly the most meaningful.
I highly recommend the Summer in Rome! It was the best summer of my life: nothing can replace studying history and humanities where the events transpired and the artists, writers, and leaders lived. We studied Rome’s origins while looking out over the Palatine Hill, the Empire’s conversion to Christianity while sitting beneath the Arch of Constantine, and Mussolini’s reign while walking through his fascist city EUR… I loved every minute.
The course was an intensive, comprehensive, immersion program into the city of Rome and all that it has to offer, and I couldn’t imagine my Yale educational experience without it.
The City of Rome was an incredible experience. I learned so much about the history, art, architecture, politics, religion, archaeology, anthropology, literature, and culture of Rome. We took advantage of being on site and learned by seeing and experience. We were exposed to experts - archaeologists, art historians, architects, politicians - who let us see Rome through the lens of their knowledge, and simultaneously encouraged to explore on our own in order to make our own discoveries and create our own adventures.
Reed Stefan Dibich
As promised, Rome forever changed the way I approach my studies and maybe the world.
We studied five transformative eras of Roman history, but this was no traditional Yale course. The city was our classroom. To study ancient Rome, we explored the dusty Roman Forum. To study the Counter-Reformation, we felt the involuntary visceral responses to Baroque art. To study Rome under Mussolini, we walked the boulevards of his fascist city, EUR. Throughout our entire stay, we sought to put ourselves in front of the sights and (where possible) sounds of past Roman generations in order to understand their lives as they understood them. Rome inculcated in me a desire to understand better my world.
A summer in Rome is a summer you will never forget.
When I reflect upon my experience in Rome, it’s the moments - the spotlight memories - that come back first. There’s the group of us, walking back at night to the apartment, singing songs and discussing life plans, only for the Arch of Constantine to awe us for twenty minutes, giving us pause. There are the solo weekend lunches in front of St. John the Lateran, as I anticipated the miles of wall left to walk, the dozens of artistic intricacies waiting to be explored. There’s the moments of sublime peace on the Capitoline, writing in a journal just as dozens of scholars before me, weaving in the narratives studied in class, the bliss of the present, and even my own personal stories from the preceding year, now put into context as part of a grand human experience. There’s the view of the sunset from the Pincian hill on the last day, the entire city put on full display as one personal experience closes.
Yet Rome cannot be condensed into mere moments. It demands more. The city is history layered upon itself, creating a holistic identity unlike any other place on Earth. Reading about it can prepare you for it but truly cannot compare to it. The city has a cultural vibrancy beyond that which be described. Best of all, the Rome program put me into the appropriate physical and mental context so as to best experience that culture. I did not simply learn about Rome; I lived Rome. Additionally, the community of colleagues in the program is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; the “community of scholars and friends,” so liberally cited by students and professors alike, has never seemed more present to me than my five and a half weeks in Rome.
Rome is a reason—the reason—for any student to participate in the Yale Humanities in Rome program, but I feel the experience is so much more than the city or class work. In our non-stop lives in New Haven, students are rarely (if ever) given the opportunity to immerse themselves in a kind of learning for learning’s sake. Although we were certainly busy running from Roman site to site and completing our reading and research, “schoolwork” in the program felt more like a personal desire to intellectually engage with my surroundings. Our class did feel highly accountable for our work and attentiveness, but this was in order to have thought-provoking discussions rather than for a grade or end result.
Moreover, I personally found the five weeks in Rome a tremendous opportunity to explore myself, learn about and live with students I may not have encountered before, and quite honestly learn some valuable life skills I was sorely lacking (my mother will be forever grateful I learned how to cook and do my laundry).
I don’t know if I quite understood how special our time and opportunities in Rome were until afterwards, but last summer certainly stands out as one of my best experiences at Yale.
When I enrolled in City of Rome for the spring semester, I imagined myself joining a grand tradition. Upperclassmen and alumni friends had recommended the class as a must-do during my time at Yale. I’d heard stories about living in Trastevere, having walking lectures throughout Rome, and even some romantic jaunts along the Tiber, but all my expectations were exceeded by my own trip. The summer transformed from simply being a break from my usual engineering internships to an epiphany about what education is and how we use our past to shape our future.
The journey of five short weeks was accelerated. My personal growth came from the ability to focus singularly on the city. At Yale, I was constantly pulled in a million directions, with classes, politics, family, and responsibilities. Yet in Rome, I was able to retreat and focus all of my attention on reading and learning. I let Rome teach me what to care about and how to learn. I focused my individual research on the evolution of the Latin Language and its relationship to the Roman state.
The course is an opportunity for a brief, but meaningful immersion into a city and culture that are both ancient and modern at the same time. Walking through the ruins of the Roman Forum during the day, eating at the city’s finest Italian restaurants at night, and cooking lessons and wine tasting in between, the experience is a life lesson in traveling and learning—Yale’s own version of a Grand Tour in Rome!
City of Rome was truly an incomparable academic experience. The rich, interdisciplinary nature of the course carried over into my other studies at Yale and become a paradigm for my learning, research, and senior essays.
All that I studied about Rome was intensified and brought to life during the five weeks of the summer program. My most vivid memories include encountering Bernini’s sculpture of the legendary Aeneas as he flees Troy; visiting a WWII museum and listening to letters written from a soldier to his loved one; climbing the steep steps to the church of Aracoeli where Gibbon was inspired to write his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; exploring the Colosseum and thinking of Henry James’ Daisy Miller, who caught her death there; experiencing Rome’s layers of history as I descended two levels of churches to the shadowy remains of a pagan temple in San Clemente; finding pagan inscriptions on the columns of the Christian church Santa Maria in Trastevere; embarking on solitary, early morning walks in the silent piazzas and streets of Rome; visiting the cloister of Quattro Coronari where a nun hands me a key through a grated window and I am soon surrounded by stunning frescoes of Constantine’s life.
There really is no better way to capture the magnificence of Rome than studying there. Livy takes on a new meaning when he’s your metro reading, Tacitus’ wit is all the more delightful as the Italian government wrestles with corruption, and Gibbon’s romanticized tales of vespers at Aracoeli become real after hearing them yourself.
As I made Rome my own, I gained greater confidence and sense of independence; I set out on solo explorations, navigating my way through the city, revisiting favorite sites and finding new ones. I also came to understand and enjoy the “dolce far niente” - shopping in open-air markets with friends for rooftop dinners at our Trastevere apartment, wine tastings, long lunches, leisurely cooking lessons, and the never-ending search for the best gelato.