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Once again I look at my blog and realize time has flown.  Our 2011 HDFS in Rome program was a smashing success and beginning to look like a distant memory.  We had a lovely group of students this year, with students in a variety of majors and from three PSU campuses.  We love to have variety in the students which enriches our studies and lives. 

The field trips to Florence, Venice, and Pompeii were terrific, as usual.  Students traveled on their own time to Barcelona, Paris, London, and Dublin.  My family and I took a side trip to Sorrento and Capri for our long weekend and then traveled on to Dublin and Galway in Ireland for eight days after the program ended.

All of this extra traveling is one of the perks of being in Rome.  It takes less than two hours to fly between Italy and most other European destinations.  It's like traveling to New Jersey from central PA in terms of distance to an amazing array of destinations.

But even those students who go to far-flung locales during the weekends return and make a sigh of relief.  After a short while the students begin to feel at home in Rome.  Walking miles a day and exploring the wonders of the city help students quickly become enamored with it.  Even years after the program ends, students report being "Romesick" and pine for their days back in the Eternal City.  I know that when I come back to the US, it takes me a while to get adjusted to only hearing one language on announcements at the airport, eat American ice cream again, and living with a car.  There are so many things to miss from Rome, especially the many friendly people and the different view of life.

Ah, Rome, by all means Rome, said Audrey Hepburn's character in "Roman Holiday"  when asked which city was her favorite. She definitely had that right.

Almost ready for liftoff!

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Well, another few months have flown by.  We have been very busy preparing for this summer's Rome program.  We have revamped some of the assignments and tried to add new and exciting field trips to our busy schedule.  We have a day camp to visit and more historic sites to show off.  I have been looking at a pictorial book of Pompeii getting more ideas about that trip.  I love Pompeii!!  I think it's such a great trip for its own purposes but it also fits so nicely with the history of the family class.  This is one of the best preserved ancient Roman cities.  I find it hard to believe that it lay under ash for centuries after the eruption without anyone knowing it was there. 

Cheryl is leaving for Rome from the Isle of Man tomorrow or Friday.  Mike left for England today.  The students leave on Sunday.  I am so jealous!  But on the other hand, I have so much anticipation for when I leave at the end of May that I get great pleasure in just thinking about it.  It's funny how I expect everything to be the same as when I was there last year.  And I am sure for the most part that will be true.  It's such a different, more timeless city than I am used to. 

How embarrassing!

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I just looked at my blog and realized I have not written anything since last April!

When I get to Rome, time flies by and I do not have time to sit down and write.  I also never know if anyone else reads these entries so don't know if I need to. On the other hand, I need to keep a blog when I am in Rome as some of our students have done to have a diary record of what I did.  I do use my photographs as a kind of record which is helpful but it would be good to have my recollections of what I was thinking and doing.  Last year, for example, Mike our TA and my friend Linda who was visiting went on several Caravaggio hunts which were great fun.  It would be good to have more details of what we saw when and what our impressions of these visits were.

Well, I'll vow to be better this coming year.  I am really excited, thinking about the changes in the courses and the additional field trips we are planning!  I really love Rome and know the students love it as well.  Below is a picture of Campo di Fiori, taken by my friend Linda K.  The students take a field trip to Campo and learn about how to buy fresh produce.  My kids and I love to go to Campo where we have met a few vendors who are there every year (LOVE Manuelo who sells the nuts and dried fruit). 

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Almost Rome!

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Well, Cheryl left yesterday for England and then Switzerland for some rest and vacation before getting started in Rome.  I am so jealous!  I would love to be on my way already.  I see from Facebook that students are counting the days until they leave.  Eleven days not counting today for them.  I have not started on my daily count yet, but once the semester is over, then I will.

I have been reading a great collection of short stories by women writers about their travels in Italy.  One I read yesterday was about a woman's Vespa travels throughout Rome.  It almost made me want to try the near-suicidal rides myself, but I do have to remember I have a family to take care of. 

We have such great plans for the program this year!  Cheryl has purchased fabric to make an ancient Roman family in one of her first classes.  I have been re-thinking how to talk about our field trips to the Galleria Borghese and also to Pompeii.  The more I think about these trips, the more excitement I feel.  I wrote about the Villa Borghese in my blog before I ever went to Rome and I did not do it justice.  I have gone back there multiple times in the last two trips to Rome.  My children and I have rented the golf-cart type vehicles several times and loved touring around the villa.  What a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  The Galleria has an amazing collection of Bernini sculptures among other works of art.  These have motivated me to research more about the Greek and Roman myths that inspired the pieces of art there and many other places in Europe.

I have also been to Pompeii a number of times as well.  Cheryl does not like it there, since the area outside of the ruins is a bit seedy.  That's true, but I think the amazing nature of the ruins is worth the rest.  The scope of the ruins, particularly the fact that so much have not yet been excavated, boggles my mind.  I think the ruins really give a good sense of how life was in ancient Rome and beyond.  I would like to go to the Naples to see the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli which apparently has a fine collection of items from Pompeii and Herculaneum, both destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 A.D. I don't think I'll have time for this during this year's program, but hope to make a trip south to go there again soon. 

I will have to continue to dream of Rome for now.  I will live vicariously through Cheryl and the students in the meantime.  Sigh.



A New Year!

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Dear Diary...I cannot believe it's been so long since I last wrote in you... 

Almost a whole year has passed since I last wrote.  I am not surprised that I did not write again in the summer, since once the students arrive in Rome, things get really hectic.  I know I spent last May getting ready to go and buffing up my courses. 

I was thrilled with the new field trips we added to last year's trip, including the walking tour of central Rome.  Although I had spent many hours walking around there with my kids, I realized how many little nooks and crannies there are that are easy to miss.  I was amazed that a small, seemingly hidden church between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona had a cache of three amazing Caravaggio paintings including the one below, "The Calling of Saint Matthew", which was painted 1599-1600.  There are other Caravaggios in the Borghese Galleria but these three are just in the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi.  Reading up on this church and the paintings in Wikipedia, I see this church was where Martin Luther stayed when he came to Rome.  I have not found verification of this or the notion that he was on trial at the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (the church of St. Mary built over the temple for the goddess Minerva). 

I started out this blog entry thinking I would write about the new crop of students who I am really looking forward to meeting at the end of the month when we have our orientation meeting at the International Student lounge in Boucke building at University Park.  Then I got distracted by the interesting information about the paintings and Martin Luther and the sopra Minerva church (which has a 'minor' sculpture by Michelangelo!).  I realize again how much I love going to Rome and seeing the layers upon layers of history, both literal and figurative. 

I hope our new students find Rome as fascinating.  In Rome, history abounds and also seems mundane. On top of that history is a thriving city with people going about their daily lives.  There are loads of tourists, but they are easily ignored when one sees a fragment of a statue or building that is easily over two thousand years old.

Dear Diary...or Blog...I promise to write more often again now that I am back.  I am so excited to be going back to Rome and I will definitely revisit the chapel with the Caravaggio paintings.  I have learned a lot about Martin Luther this year from the lecture series on the Reformation that I have been listening to.  I feel better prepared to see those parts of history in my wanderings around Rome.  I can't wait to see and hear what the students learn as well.


Nervous and Excited?!

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I have been hearing from many of the incoming students.  They report being excited and nervous.  For many of them, this is their first international travel and for others it may actually be their first flight!  The good news is that we had a lot of happy students last year who realized their capacity to manage in new situations and their love of travel. 

One of this year's students asked for a list of things that is definitely needed for the trip.  I started out writing a short list and then I realized that would be insufficient.  I had gone online last year and culled information from several websites with suggestions on things to pack.  I was very happy with what I had brought last year, so suggest this list for a starting point.  Obviously each person will have specific needs and desires and can modify the list as appropriate.  I would be interested in seeing what others would add/subtract from the list. Cheryl has this blog entry about packing.  We had also sent everyone a Heads-up list with suggestions about packing.  I will be sending that again soon to remind everyone of what we suggest and what the students from last year suggested.  Here's the list I have compiled from a variety of sources:


For checked baggage

 * Make sure to check airline for size restrictions, weight limits on baggage, and # of bags allowed.  Remember you will have to haul your bags yourself up several flights of stairs in Rome and around the airport if you have to go through security more than once, so don't overpack!  Also, if you plan to travel after you leave Rome, you will have to take whatever you bring with you.

Shoes (walking/dress/beach/hiking)





Rain protection





Shampoo, hairspray

Hairdryer (if it's compatible with 220V)


Nail polish/polish remover pads


Contact lens stuff


Shaving cream, shaver, shower gel

Nail clippers, emery board




Pain reliever, hydrocortisone

Travel plugs/adapters

Extra luggage space for purchases

Sanitary pads/tampons

Bag for carrying groceries

**You can buy much of this stuff in Italy, of course, but you may want some at first.**

Course material (books/readings/syllabi, printed or on computer)

In carry-on luggage  (have carry-on luggage that can be used for short trips once in Europe)

*Check airline restrictions for how many bags you can carry

Prescription medications (in original container with prescription info.  If you have a liquid medication, please check with doctor about travelling with it)

Vitamins and over-the-counter medications (travel sickness, headache, indigestion, diarrhea--again, if liquid, make sure to consult airline website for restrictions on total amount of liquid allowed in carry-on luggage)


Extra pairs of sunglasses, prescription glasses, contact lenses


Camera, video camera, film, batteries, binoculars

Magazines, books, portable music or DVD player, playing cards, Kindle or other portable reader if you have one)


DVDs (to watch and share in Rome, if you want)

Head phones

Travel maps, guidebook, phrase book


Lip balm

Towelettes/hand sanitizer

Ear plugs

Travel pillow

Wallet/purse (may need to pack purse away if restricted on # of bags)

Credit cards

Health insurance card/printed-out insurance information

Student ID card

Driver's license

Passport/visa/paperwork for stay in Rome

Copies of passport (to carry around in Rome)

Recent photo for Sede to have to submit permission of stay in Rome

Airplane tickets/copy of e-ticket

   Address book/list of contacts (printed) (I printed out labels last year to make sending postcards easy)


It's really going to happen!

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Cheryl has already left for Europe, with a brief stopover in the U.K. to continue some research she started last year relating to identity issues.  Her leaving has signalled that we are about to begin our program, since she'll go directily from the U.K. to go to Rome!  I am sort of jealous, since I would love to be in Rome, although I am also relieved, since I still have a month to get working on my stuff. 

I have finished the syllabus for the Early Childhood in Italy class which was challenging since I am changing the journal assignment to having students create blogs.  Some of the students have already been writing blogs for other classes so hopefully they'll be able to help the less technologically able.  And Mike will be there to help, of course.  It's so great to have a TA who I know will be a great help!

Finals are almost upon us.  Oops!  I just realized I have to write my final for the HDFS 129 classes today!  I was thinking I could just play around with the Rome classes today.  Glad I got that reality check now and not late tonight!! 


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Every day I feel that I have to pinch myself to see whether I am dreaming or really going back to Rome!  After the meeting at Boucke the other afternoon, I realize that this reality just keeps getting better and better.  It was so exciting to see all of the students who are going to be joining us for this year's program. 

Imagine my delight when I opened the New York Time's this a.m. to find an article about Venice from the Frugal Traveler.  Although the main point of this article was about travelling with a small family on a budget in Venice (and in the off-season), I still got a thrill from thinking about being back in Venice.  I went when we had the five-day weekend open last year with my in-laws and kids.  We took the train to Venice and stayed over night in the same hotel the students stayed in.  It was great; it was near the train station and we were able to keep our luggage there the day we checked out while we walked and walked and walked around Venice. 

The pictures from the article remind me that it rained almost the entire time we were in Venice.  When the students from last year's program were there, it rained as well and they even got to see some of the flooding of San Marco!  Now that's a story to remember.  I remember the rain and shops with loads of Venetian (Murrano) glass.  We bought the cutest glass 'candy' to give to my daughter's friends and some other odds and ends.  I realized then that I paid WAY too much for the earrings I got at the market in Pompeii.  I had been so proud that I had haggled, but the students had been t  oo kind to point out how badly I had been taken.  Sigh. 

Anyway, I appreciate how this year's batch of students in helping me get into the spirit of Italy again.  Not that it is taking much effort for that.  I am recalling all of the wonderful places we went, sights we saw, and people we met.  I think I'll write about our travel "angels" we met who helped us immensely in my next blog.    



International Programs Fair

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What a day!  Cheryl, her husband Wayne, and I spent the whole day on Tuesday at the International Programs fair at University Park.  We met loads of students who were looking for study abroad opportunities.  It was so exciting to see all of the international programs that Penn State and other universities were showcasing at the fair.  I enjoyed talking with students and finding out where they were interested in going and what programs they wanted more information about. 

We already have a few students who have completed their applications for the HDFS in Rome 2009 program!  That is wonderful.  Our application is at:  It is important that students fill this application out.  There is another one on the International Programs/Education Abroad program's website, but that is for after students are accepted into our program.

We had a lot of students wondering how we decide about whom to let into the program.  Here is what Cheryl came up with as the "prescreening" test.  Here are the questions and some brief information about those questions:

1.  What is your major? 

We can accept students from all different majors at the university and from other universities.  Students should check with their advisors to make sure the courses we offer can work towards their degree, if desired.  For some students, it may make more sense to apply to the programs designed specifically for their major alone.  We do give priority to HDFS majors and HDFS minors, but we enjoy having a diverse group. 

2.  What is your grade point average?

We require a minimum of 2.5 cumulative GPA for students to be considered for our program.  Beyond that, we will be looking at the student's other information, such as major, reasons for wanting to go to Rome, and so forth, in addition to the GPA when determining whom to accept.

3.  Are you a serious student?

We are looking for students who want to have an excellent academic experience in another culture.  We do not want students who are planning just to party and be on summer vacation.  There are other ways for students to fulfill that desire.  Our program requires students to complete 9 credits of coursework in 7 weeks, so we need them to be serious students!

We are looking forward to another wonderful year of making plans for the program in Rome.  We are already discussing the field trips to Florence, Venice, and Pompeii.  We have ideas for new projects, readings, and assignments for the three different classes we offer.  We know that this year will pass quickly as we plan.  We are looking forward already to the the best gelato in Rome contest.  I am sure that Cheryl thinks she knows which is best, but just wait and see!

Ciao for now.



  (Photo used with Creative Commons license permission:

Next year already?!

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I cannot believe that we have already started planning the 2009 HDFS in Rome program!  I am so excited to be continuing on with this program.  I had such a wonderful time last year, getting to know Rome and working with the students.  I have lots of ideas on what to add and the students were kind enough to provide feedback so that we could improve the program and give suggestions to incoming students as well. 

Some of the suggestions for incoming students were: 

•          Be prepared for anything and everything.  Keep an open mind.

•          If you think you'll need it...bring it.

•          Get Oriented:  Don't be afraid to explore take yourself on walking tours of the city. Use maps as much as possible as soon as possible.

•          Learn about the Rome public transportation system ASAP: metros and buses are super easy and useful. (Get a free metro map.)

•          Bring a Rick Steve's guide book.

•          Be prepared to spend money...there's no way around it.

•          Don't expect to be well-groomed all day every day - your feet WILL get dirty!

These are great ideas.  We have plenty more ideas to share as well.  We hope that you will come by the International Programs fair on Tuesday, September 23 from 11-5 in the HUB Alumni Hall.  We are hoping that some of our students from this summer's program will attend and chat with you.  If you don't know where the HUB is, go to: and look for G5.  The HUB is short for the Hetzel Union Building.  There is a parking garage right next to the HUB.  If you can't make it to the fair, don't despair (hey, I'm a poet...).  You can contact me at

Ciao for now!  I hope to see you on the 23rd.  I'll be there all day!!

 This is a picture of the cat sanctuary at Largo Argentina (photo by Maggie Brock) 















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