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Every year WLC students travel abroad to study and to work.  This blog is a compilation of stories, pictures, and videos about what it’s like to live and learn abroad.  Every month new stories will be shared.  Follow us on Twitter or on Facebook to see when new stories have been added.  Join us as we follow WLC students on their adventures abroad!

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Palazzo Massimo Museum

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Nathan Pattee

After our morning visit to the beautiful Palazzo Massimo museum our entire group walked the short distance to monumental ruins of The Baths of Diocletian and its conjoined museums. Despite being the largest bathing complex ever found, it took only 8 years to build. Public and private estates were destroyed to make space for the bathing complex. Throughout the years various parts were recovered and reused- for example the baths have served as both a place for grain storage and a basilica. In 1889 the remains became home of the National Roman Museum.

Ruins of The Baths of Diocletian

We stared off our last of many museum visits with a brief introduction from Dr. Hollander. We discussed the importance of funerary inscriptions, and what we can learn from them. He shared some passages from one of his favorite inscriptions that stands testament to how informative and bizarre they can be. The inscription started with a beautiful eulogy about a freed women (someone who previously lived under Roman slavery) that talked about her energetic and humble lifestyle before awkwardly transitioning to explicit details of her body and love life. It was a perfect example of how insightful and personal primary sources like inscriptions can be.

Dr. Hollander speaking to students inside museum

The museum inscriptions provide information not only on individuals but also professional guilds within the Roman Economy. There were also a large number of sarcophaguses, and religious reliefs. The reliefs included multiple religious aspects absorbed into Roman culture from other civilizations- a concept we have been studying all trip. Some examples are the cult of Isis from Egypt and the cult of Mithras (Mithras related relief seen below) from the Middle East.

Sculpture of Mithras

This particular museum included some exhibits on pre-Roman History. It was really cool seeing how previous, smaller groups of people laid the foundation for the Roman Empire. I enjoyed seeing a full scope of Roman history in one place- from the urns of pre-Roman people to the ruins of the largest bathing house ever found in Roman antiquity!

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Ostia Antica

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Kyle Hatton

Today we had the opportunity to explore the ruins of the harbor city of ancient Rome. A brief jaunt aboard the train took us roughly 23 kilometers south-west (as the crow flies) to our final destination of Ostia Antica. Ostia is quiet, well preserved and not as densely populated by legions of tourists. The same cannot be said though about the young “locals”. Throngs of young Italian children pierce the air with their screams and yelps. We eventually learn to utilize their banter as a warning sign and quickly seize the opportunity to move deeper into the ancient city. Cue pictures:

Mosaic features Neptune riding a chariot and is flanked by several more mythological aquatic beasts

One of our first stops was a birds eye view onto an amazingly well preserved mosaic floor. The center piece to this mosaic features Neptune riding a chariot and is flanked by several more mythological aquatic beasts. We took our time to observe the detail and effort applied to this work of art only to be cut short by the shrill childish cry of “Andiamo!”, with roughly translates to “Let’s Go [cause chaos]”.

Theater of Ostia

At the Theater of Ostia we were granted an impromptu serenade by one of the German tourists, showcasing the remaining acoustics of the Theater. This was soon followed up by a report on theater archaeology touching on what used to be of this grand entertainment center.

View of Ostia landscape

For the report on Damnatio Memoriae we found a shady tree set on the bank of a hill that provided us a natural sloped theater and a great view of Ostia.

Entrance to Caves of Mithras

When granted our freedom about Ostia we made our first destination the caves of Mithras. Stepping into the caves we were greeted with an interesting sculpture at the end of the main tunnel.

Replica of Mithras killing the bull

Upon closer inspection we find a replica of Mithras killing the bull. From this main tunnel we mind many smaller and shallower caves that required a crouched stance and a flashlight to navigate them. These tunnels provided interesting views into the underworking of Ostia as well as a natural isolation from the screams of the Italian demon children.

Frescos of Horses

When browsing the villas we came across a few well preserved frescoes.

Tiled Mosaic Floors

As well as a unique tiled floor which was an interesting switch up rather than the traditional mosaic style for luxury floor decorations.

Sculpture of Perseus holding the head of Medusa
Perseus holding the head of Medusa
Sculpture of Mithras killing the bull
Mithras killing the bull

And to end our time spent in Ostia we visited the Ostiense Museum which showcased many of the original works that were present in Ostia in ancient times.

View of Beach and Water

To cap our day off we took the remainder of the train route to the local beach only a few short kilometers to the west. The waters were too frigid for the locals but provided no challenge to the +10 cold resistance we have developed while living in Iowa. Sandy toes and a sun-burnt nose later we were on our way back to Rome with a deeper understanding of how Ostia played into building the Roman Empire.

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Anna Fromm

We began our day as we usually do, getting breakfast at our favorite little coffee shop just down the road. Leaving a few sleepy heads behind, and reminding them of our 9 o’clock meeting time, we enjoyed cappuccinos and pastries and hopped on the tram. From there we made our way to the bus stop to get on the 170 bus. Carefully choosing the correct bus to get on is truly a science here in Rome. The bus routes still don’t make sense and the traffic is maddening. After a long journey we finally made it to Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. This long name can be summarized in two words, sweet serenity. Stepping into this museum we were greeted by a welcomed silence. There were no tour groups of children in bright yellow hats, no cars honking for no reason, no guards yelling. We practically had the place to ourselves. Slowly wandering through the halls we saw some of the best examples of Roman sculptures. This includes Augustus as Pontifex Maximus (head priest).

Sculpture of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus

We were able to enjoy portraits of ancient Romans that we have spent so much time learning about, and analyze inscriptions.

Student Studying Scuptures

Student Reading

My personal favorite pieces were upstairs though. The top floor was filled with mosaics and frescos found throughout Rome and the surrounding areas. The mosaics in this museum were among the most detailed and elaborate that I have seen. There must be thousands of tiles making up these large designs.

Large Mosaic on Wall

Many of us also really enjoyed the room with The Painted Garden of the Villa of Livia. This room had all four walls covered an impressively complete fresco of a nature scene with many animals. This beautiful room also had very comfortable ottomans that were great to do some writing in our journals and napping?

Fresco of Nature

When 11 o’clock rolled around and we all gathered outside the museum we finally ran into our sleepy roommates. Turns out they had also gotten on the 170 bus, but in the wrong direction which made them horribly late, missing the museum completely. Everyone then proceeded to tell them that they had missed out on one of the best museums we have been to yet. They had totally missed the sweet serenity of Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Siena and Florence

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Brittany Grosskopf

  • Brittany, Michelle and Rebel at the Duomo in Florence

For our free weekend, four students and myself decided to venture north to visit Siena and Florence. We had our activities planned, routes checked and no one slept through an alarm, we were off to a great start. However the Italian train system had another plan for us….. so after two trains, a bus ride and a taxi we finally checked into our hotel and set off to explore Siena on Saturday, May 21st.

We toured the Duomo, a cathedral, St. Catherine’s statue and her church. We saw some amazing views and a peaceful hotel to come back too. We were dropped off about a block from the duomo, so the piazza opened up to the cathedral and I tripped in the middle of the road. The architecture was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I loved the commentary from Michelle on her Renaissance knowledge. The beauty in all the churches left me in awe and the history behind each painting is fascinating.

On Sunday the 22nd we took a much needed easy train ride north to Florence, to experience some more Renaissance churches and sculptures. Our first stop, at the train station, was technically to get a cappuccino…but after we got in line to see the Statue of David museum. This was number one on our list and it did not disappoint. Next we went on a Renaissance walk through the central portion of Florence to see famous pieces of sculpture. The walk ended at the Ponte Vecchio, from there we explored the city.

The weekend was an adventure, even with being exhausted by the time we reached our apartments, the traveling was well worth venturing north to see more of the history that Italy has to offer.

  • The Duomo, Florence

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Hadrian’s Villa

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Rebel Clodi

View of Landscape from Hadrian's Villa

We started off the morning pretty regularly, a lovely coffee trip with Legio XIII group to the regular coffee shop, and then a trip down back to the Trastevere station. It was the first time in a while that (almost) the whole group was together for a group breakfast.

We all hopped on the bus on time, and there was plenty of room for us to spread out in every seat. I wound up sitting next to Carlos and across the aisle from Spencer, which turned out to be an interesting event in itself, as the two of them decided it’d be fun to engage in a staring contest for the duration of the ride. It was about a forty five minute ride to Hadrian’s villa, and the pair gazed longingly deep into each other’s eyes, waiting for the other person to break eye contact first.

Eventually that fun had to end, as we got off of the bus and entered into Hadrian’s villa. The weather was a little cloudy, and a tad bit windy. We had a brief lecture at the beginning of the villa next to the large wall that was built up around much of the villa, and then split into groups.

Hadrian’s villa was a large imperial villa built on top of a slightly smaller Roman villa. It is a huge complex with many different buildings with various uses. The whole complex was exciting to walk around and explore, and it’s hard to imagine what it would’ve been like in its full splendor. A vast number of artworks were found here depicting many people as well as Gods and Goddesses of the Roman era. All of these things have since been moved into museums for preservation, and it’s not uncommon to see the collection split into many different museums.

View of Ruins

As I began wandering around the site, I just took a moment to appreciate all of the greenery and how natural everything was. It was so relaxing to just be away from the city and enjoying natural things. I wasn’t a fan of the bugs, though. It seemed like I was fighting them the second I got off the bus. Aside from that, it was very pleasant.

View of Greenery

I wound up in a group of four, just me, Jasmine, Brittany, and Michelle. We were wandering around looking for the libraries when from across a field we see Carlos, alone on a bench next to the Greek and Latin libraries. We added him to our group and began to wander around again.

View of Inside of Ruins

The ruins were extensive, and much of them were open which allowed us to wander in and out of them as we saw fit. It was impressive to just see how large these buildings were, and to think that they were all for private use by the emperor and his guests.

View of Outside of Ruins

Towards the end of our trip at Hadrian’s villa, Michelle decided it would be fun to give a typical “tour guide” tour. Essentially it was a mockery of the people who have tried to lead our group, or the people we overheard spouting incorrect information to gullible tourists. Part of our tour stated that the villa was in the Black Hills, nestled between the forests and Mt. Vesuvius.

Of course both of those things are poppycock, but it was fun to goof around and make up false truths much like the ones we’ve heard from various tour guides in passing around Italy.

We then concluded our tour and met back up, loaded onto the bus and went off to find lunch and explore our next destination.

Unfortunately my SD card isn’t working with this computer, so all photos are credited to Andrew Lipp.

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Villa Gregoriana

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Michelle Becker

Today ended up being a great day despite some disappointment early on. Being a Renaissance enthusiast, I was quite disappointed when we didn’t get the chance to visit Villa D’Este (it was closed to the public). Our alternative ended up being Villa Gregoriana, a nature park set in the midst of Republican Roman Ruins. Located in the town of Tivoli, it was a quiet respite from the large hordes of tourists and people selling selfie-sticks.

Right off the bat, we were welcomed with amazing views of the waterfall and the surrounding hills with homes and hotels dotting the landscape.

View of Hills from Villa Gregoriana

View of Waterfall at Villa Gregoriana

Without a map, the park seemed somewhat daunting to traverse through, with many paths ending up as dead-ends and flights of stairs having to be re-tackled sometimes. The sudden lookouts made up for this, as walking along the path, trees would suddenly give way and open up to the amazing landscape (a fascination with the views with one of our group mates would lead to some tardiness later) . Along the walk, ruins of the Villa of the Roman consul Manlius Vopiscus could be spotted, reminiscent of the Republican period and a somewhat popular point for picture taking was a large amphora (a sort of large pot) that was nestled in a large tree stump also along the way. A favorite of mine however was hiking through a large walkway that had been cut out of the side of the mountain leading to the Grotto of Neptune. Here a smaller waterfall could be followed to the top and the deafening roar of the water made speaking to each other difficult. The more adventurous of us climbed up as high as was possible to get some amazing pictures of the light reflecting off of the water as it fell.

View from Top of Waterfall Looking Down

After the grotto the path could be followed up to the very top of the other side of the ravine from the entrance to get a look at Republican temples. Greeting those who made it to the top was another amazing view and the ability to really examine the temples . One member of the group wouldn’t get the chance however, as he got caught up in the views and confusing nature of the park and could be spotted from the other side of the ravine sprinting through the path with his book-bag and sweater on, struggling to find his way to the meeting point. After meeting up with the group on the bus, lots of heckling followed.

At the end of the day the general feeling was one of contentment, as the park served as a way to work out any excess energy and a nice view of nature outside of the hustle and bustle of the city of Rome.

10/10 would definitely go back.

View of Rocky Landscape

Michelle in front of a Waterfall

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Day 10

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Daniel Weber

So today we hit up the city of Paestum, home to some classic Greek style art. As much as we all love Rome, it was nice to see something just a little different. They started at the Archaeological Museum of Paestum which held a variety of statues and paintings from the city’s antiquity. There were even materials from Paestum’s prehistorical days, like old hand axes, chisels, and spear heads.

Next we visited the park area where three temples representing Athena, Juno, and Neptune are still standing in incredible condition. The old city also had remains from various other types of buildings, including an amphitheater and forum buildings. As an added bonus, there was a nice view of the surrounding hillside, which we enjoyed during the lunch break, until security kicked us out to the designated picnic area down the road.

The last stop was on the way back to Naples. We got to see the house of San Marco, which apparently belonged to a very wealthy Roman citizen before he realized the area surrounding Pompeii was less than prime real estate. It stood as an exceptional example of Ancient Roman architecture, interior art, and engineering through its water heating systems.

The day concluded when we finally returned to the institute in Naples, and made lots of new friends with the incoming group of Italian middle school students moving in for the week. Totally didn’t lose sleep at all.

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Napoli

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by Taylor Walsh

Our Sunday we started out making our way to the station to catch the bus at 8:45am to start our new adventure in southern Italy. Because Italian culture is still something we are not completely accustomed to, a few of us were almost late. On our way to Napoli we stopped at a very nice rest stop and got lunch. Apparently most rest stops on highways here are nice, unlike the US. We arrived in Napoli around 13:00 and stopped at the Archeological Museum wherein the famous mosaic of Alexander the Great resides among many other wonderful pieces of art. My favorites were the Egyptian artifacts in the lower part of the museum. I also enjoyed seeing the painting of Aphrodite since that is a piece of art I have learned about in multiple classes, so seeing it in person made me appreciate it even more. An interesting surprise at the museum was a modern art exhibit throughout which included interesting pieces featuring comic book characters, mainly Batman. Multiples debates and discussions have ensued contemplating the interpretations of the pieces. One theory was that the artist was telling people to challenge the authority of the church and what it stands for. Another was that we have come to idolize comic books characters as the ancient Romans idolized their gods. Whatever the theory, many were frustrated about modern art being in an archeological museum. I was intrigued and a little confused although one or two of the pieces were not appreciated by me. After the museum we made our way to the Vesuvian Institute, where we will be staying until Wednesday at which point we will return to beautiful Roma. The institute provided us with dinner and we were able to enjoy a great group meal together before going to bed early which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog

Adventures Abroad in Rome – Summer 2016: Day 9

This past summer sixteen students guided by Dr. Rachel Meyers, WLC, and Dr. David Hollander, History, traveled to Italy to explore Rome, the Bay of Naples, and the physical remains of the Roman Empire. Every Monday through the month of November we will share students’ stories about their adventures abroad in Rome.


Written by William Walker

Vesuvius
Buongiorno, Vesuvius

Today at 8:15, we ventured to the ancient city of Pompeii. The city of Pompeii lays in the daunting view of Vesuvius, giving a clear reminder of the tragic day of 79AD. The eruption of Vesuvius buried the city under feet of ash and pumice- this preserved the city for centuries, until it was recovered in the mid-18th century. Now, the site of Pompeii is populated by temporary visitors, who stop for a view of one of the best preserved Ancient Roman cities.

Entrance to Pompeii
Entering Pompeii

We started our trip to Pompeii by doing a reconnaissance mission to discover what parts of the city were open to visitors. My group found the Temple of Isis- open for visitors to explore the temple. The Temple was amazing- well preserved and you were able to explore the crawl spaces.

Triangular Forum in Pompeii
Candid group photo at the Triangular Forum

Following our scouting, we gathered at Pompeii’s Triangular Forum and had a lunch- where we compared notes and gathered a list. Then, we split up and ventured around the city of Pompeii.

A highlight for my personal journey was the Garden of the Fugitives, located in the Southern-Western quarter of the city. The Garden of the Fugitives was scarce of people except for myself and the casts of the victims of Vesuvius. The casts are in the same poses as they were at their death. Their pain of their final moments is evident on their face- which makes it almost unnerving to study them for too long. The victims of Vesuvius makes the site a visceral reminder of the mortality that we all possess.

Garden of the Fugitives
Garden of the Fugitives

On a brighter note- the rest of the trip was just as exciting. We were discovering the city- perhaps like a new visitor to Pompeii in its heyday. The walls of the city demonstrated a side to Antiquity that is rarely shown- just how bright and colorful it was. The frescoes that everyone painted for their homes, the public works of art, and even the graffiti painted onto the alleyways. An ancient visitor must have found the city of Pompeii to be an exciting resort- with its bright gardens, large amphitheater (which currently houses a modern art version of a Pyramid), and all of the “fast food” joints along the streets. And of course, many ancient visitors would have stopped by one of many brothels that Pompeii had to offer.

Pompeian bar
Pompeian bar
The Amphitheater
The Amphitheater
Lupanare/Brothel
Lupanare/Brothel feat. my new German tour group

The brothel, originally declared closed- but later discovered to be opened, was crowded with a German tour group. Spencer and I were forced to become part of their tour group for a quick tour of the brothel. The brothel featured stone beds and frescoes of erotic Roman art. The brothel, while obscene to our modern sensibilities, would have been a typical feature in a Roman town.

Prior to the brothel, we headed for one of the most famous of the Pompeian homes- the Home of Menander. The house of Menander stood tall and colorful, with bright frescoes covering every inch of the home’s walls. The house was obviously owned by a rich and wealthy family- who liked to live in style.

Garden at the House of Menander
Garden at the House of Menander

The House of the Faun, the largest home in Pompeii, was mostly an atrium- with a (replica) statue of a mythological faun, thus giving it its name. The house of the Faun was such a large building, it was confusing where it ended and another building began. This home is most famous for the Alexander the Great mosaic that decorated its floor. With the owner being of obvious wealth, it is not difficult to assume this mosaic costed a huge amount of money, for its detail and its skill.

Alexander the Great mosaic at the House of the Faun
Alexander the Great at the House of the Faun

After the house of the Faun, we were planning to make a stop at the baths of the Forum, one of Pompeii’s many bath complexes, but were stopped by Dr. Hollander. We came upon the group waiting at the Gate of Herculaneum- the exit to the neighboring city. Down the cobblestone road to Herculaneum was the exit of the city, but not without saying a symbolic goodbye to the Romans gone by, remembered by monuments along the necropolis.

The final stop of Pompeii was the Villa of the Mysteries. This villa is famous for it’s impressive, and well restored, frescoes of an initiation process into the Bacchic Cult. The Villa was obviously for the wealthy- frescoes that adorned every inch of every wall displayed the talent of the artist and the tastes  of the owner. This final Villa demonstrated just how colorful and well done the frescoes of domestic homes could be.

Villa of the Mysteries
Villa of the Mysteries

And so, we left Pompeii and its citizens as millions as others had before. The citizens remain there, with millions of people flocking from corners of the world to see their city, their bright and colorful home that makes us all temporary explorers of the Roman world.

Dog next to wall in Pompeii
Vale, Pompeii

Originally published on the CL ST 385 Course Blog