Hitting the streets of Rome

Published: Wednesday 8th April 2015

Streets of Rome
Above: Exploring the streets of Rome (image courtesy of Duncan Cook)

Sitting in a lecture theatre in Sydney hearing about the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius can't imprint a history lesson in a student's mind quite like standing in the ruins of a palatial home in Herculaneum.

That's why 24 hard-working arts students have recently spent two weeks learning the lessons of geography, ancient history and modern Italian history in the very surrounds where all the action has taken place over thousands of years.

The inter-disciplinary, multi-campus unit, HUMA317 – History and Geography of Ancient Modern Rome took students on a study tour of Rome, with a little detour down to Herculaneum to study Vesuvius, its eruption history and one of the towns it buried.

For the students on the tour, their knowledge now extends far beyond just their chosen major or minor. Part of the unit's assessment included on-site presentations at such famous Roman landmarks as the Pantheon, the Foro Italico (the fascist-era sports complex), the Appia Antica (the most important road in the Roman Empire) and the Gianicolo (the location of the ACU Rome Study Centre).

Castel Sant Angelo 
Above: At the Castel Sant'Angelo (image courtesy of Morgan Wearne)

Morgan Wearne, BT/BA student and history major, has come home from the trip ready to hit the books.

"I hadn't ever completed a unit in fascism or geography and had only studied ancient history with any depth. So to be able to learn about other subjects and in the end love them was something that I was really surprised about."

"Everywhere I looked I saw something new. It's true what they say about discovery learning. To see, touch and learn in an environment where you stand in the middle of it, is wonderful."

For fellow traveler and BT/BA student Alex Petrocco, it wasn't just the chance to get up close and personal with places such as the Forum, the Colosseum, and see relics from Mussolini's Rome. Alex says a highlight of the trip for him was the camaraderie that developed through sharing the experience with fellow students and ACU Strathfield lecturers Nick Carter (modern history), Duncan Cook (geography) and Christopher Matthew (ancient history).

"I met so many amazing people who were interested in the same thing that I was. We all became like a family and to take that away from two weeks is pretty incredible. We learnt just as much about each other as we did about the sites," Alex reflected.

"It was a really good balance of study and fun. Anyone would expect you to concentrate on all the food and tourist spots. It was completely the opposite for me. I mean, don't get me wrong, the Colosseum was amazing, but I wanted to know about key events in Rome's history. I wanted to study this subject at an intense level. I couldn't help but get hooked when Duncan talked about the flooding of the Tiber or when Nick talked about Mussolini's gym."

Fascist Art 
Above: Fascist art (image courtesy of Duncan Cook)

Now, while these 24 lucky students settle back into life at ACU, Nick, Duncan and Chris have already begun preparations for 2016's HUMA317 Study Tour. After the success of the inaugural trip it shouldn't take much to convince a new group of students to take their learning out of the classroom and onto the streets of the Eternal City.