The Coins at Fontana di Trevi

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the 2023 fall semester program in Rome, Italy…

What most don’t know is that the perfect time to see the Fontana di Trevi would be at night, specifically 12am. Although dark, there are less people and the lights still shine to show its true beauty. When no people are around you can sit and take in how this masterpiece is still so important for Italian culture. The fountain can be seen in multiple movies and pop culture references. The most important would be Three Coins in the Fountain, depending on how many coins you toss will be what comes true for you. I tossed one coin in my left hand over my right shoulder, with the hopes of returning to this beautiful city (Submitted during Week 1).

A Visit to Cork

Submitted by Danny Maney on the 2023 summer session program in Ireland…

Visiting Blarney Castle

This past week, we had a “free weekend” and a majority of the people I was with decided to go to the next largest Irish city, Cork. The main reason for going there was to visit the Blarney Castle, which apparently is an Ireland tourism staple. When we went, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The trip up to kiss the blarney stone was a must when we visited. One of our inside jokes was that we would rank all the castles we went to based on how hard it would be to siege them. This started when we went on a tour of a tower in Waterford and the tour guide talked about how they made the steps uneven so it would be harder to siege for a long time. Anyways, the Blarney steps would have been particularly hard to siege and it was this long spiral staircase that had a bunch of little doors to the different rooms of the castle. There was also a “murder hole” where I guess the castle dwellers would dump hot water down on invaders, I found it interesting that this was something of note in the castle. When we got up to the roof, the stone itself was a lot smaller than I expected it to be. It was part of the castle wall and when we went to kiss it, we had to bend backwards to reach it. I never really thought I was afraid of heights until that moment. There was a railing and there were workers to hold us up but the whole ordeal was quite terrifying. I can’t think of any American tourist attraction where something like that would happen. We also got to walk around the grounds after and it honestly didn’t feel like we were even in Ireland anymore. There was lush greenery that made me feel like we were in the middle of the jungle. 

Me on UCC campus 

Another thing that we did in Cork was go walk around the University College Cork campus when no one was around. There were a lot of differences between this campus and UD for example. There was an art gallery that was open for us to wander around and was free. Also, we made it into one of the lecture halls and it was significantly smaller than the ones in UD. There was also a main green area which again was smaller than the one at UD. This campus was also very different from Trinity college, which is where we stayed in Dublin, mostly due to age. Trinity was founded in the 1500’s while UCC was founded in 1845. There was also a river that flowed through campus and it made for some really nice pictures. I found it odd that we were just able to go into most of the buildings, even though there weren’t that many people there. This would never happen at UD as I think that most of the academic buildings are closed on the weekends. We also got to see a cathedral and again I am absolutely in awe of the way churches are built here. A lot of the catholic ones were built more recently, as after the protestant reformation under King Henry the VII, all the old churches were seized and converted the Protestantism. The Irish Catholics really had a chance to build magnificent churches in the 19th and 20th centuries. (Submitted on July 18, 2023)

Last Week in London

Submitted by Moira Gervay on the 2023 summer session program in London, England…

Standing in front of Abbey Road Studios

My last week in London is very bittersweet. I had such an incredible time on this trip, and I’m sad to be leaving. I learned so much, both about myself and the culture I was immersed in. 

Our last week mostly consisted of working on our final projects and cramming in any last-minute visits that we wanted. On Monday, we visited Pentagram as a group. Pentagram is a global design agency comprising 22 partners stationed at various locations. Each partner has their own design team, and the agency is run entirely by them, including the business side. I loved this visit, as it gave me insight into how an agency can run on such a large scale while staying fairly in-house. I hope to open my own design agency one day, so the advice we received was super helpful and interesting.

Later that same day, we visited Abbey Road. While it was cool to walk across the crosswalk that the Beatles did, it was very dangerous to do so considering how many cars are trying to drive through on their afternoon commutes. All the tourists are such nuisances in their eyes. It was cool to see Abbey Road Studios, even if just from the outside. I’m a huge music fan, and I often incorporated it into my design work.

We spent our last day shopping up a storm trying to cover all of our friends and family’s souvenirs. We returned to Borough Market in the early afternoon to get some lunch. I got more chocolate-covered strawberries. I think they were one of my favorite parts of this trip. After Borough, we took the tube to Portobello Road to keep shopping. I found some perfect gifts for my friends and even scored a red leather jacket for myself. I always have fun chatting with the shop vendors and digging through piles of old things. I wish we had more markets like this in Delaware!

Overall this trip was unforgettable. I gained so much knowledge and insight (and an additional 5 pounds added to my suitcase from all the gifts), and I look forward to taking what I learned and applying it to my final year at the University of Delaware. (Submitted on July 9, 2023)

Picture of me and my flatmates as we wait outside before one of our final presentations.

Fun in Volterra and Florence

Submitted by Courtney Hicks on the 2023 summer session program in Volterra, Italy…

I have landed in Italy. I don’t think I have processed it but there are many emotions and feelings running through me. I arrived at the airport and waited for my group in arrivals. I was super nervous. Once they arrived I felt a bit shy and left out, which is very different for me as I am a very outgoing personable person. But since I know no one, I kept to myself till we were on the bus. A girl named Olivia sat next to me and a simple hi has taken us from strangers to inseparable friends. The bus ride to SIAF I was trying to take in everything I saw. It was so different from the US. It was quiet, historical and most importantly beautiful. Looking out the window makes you realize the importance of location and where you are in life. Once we arrived I was eager to check out where we were staying. This is where Liv and I met up with more students in our group and wandered around campus. It was so nice and peaceful and the view is something I would have never expected from a campus. I couldn’t believe I got the opportunity to be able to learn, explore and enjoy such a well known country. I thought our first day we wouldn’t be going anywhere but we got to tour the city of Volterra, our first Italian town. It felt like I was in a movie. The sites were unreal and there were so many people. This is when I was able to start listening to people talk around me and see how others communicate. It was fascinating. I know for this being my first day, I was in for a real adventure that will broaden my horizons in all aspects. I had to remind myself, I was in Italy. (Submitted on June 11, 2023)

We are off. 9:30 and the bus is off to Florence. As I was half awake on the inside I was nothing more but excited to go back to this lively city. I landed in Florence Monday, June 5th one day before the trip started. Because of this, I had a day to admire a few of the monumental attractions. Friday, June 9th I was able to go back and finish what I have started accompanied by my classmates and friends. We were able to go on this excursion, an in-depth tour of the building of this city and how it became such a tourist attraction and crowded city. Then as 5:30 started to approach Fanta, Shams, Lydia, Olivia, Liv, Dayana, Sarah, and Camielle meet for a vegetarian dinner to end the day. It was very peaceful and a way to get close to each other on more than a student-to-student level. After that was the trip to the hostel. Where I experienced a new adventure. Who would have thought I would be sleeping under the same roof in the same room as people I have never met before? Crazy. It was an experience that I hope to try again. Meeting new people, hearing their stories, and understanding their ways for a short time was fascinating. Not only was Italy giving me a different perspective on life but we’re the people I was meeting in and outside of the trip. 

Two nights in Florence will always be one of the most memorable memories I acquired here. I got to spend my weekend with fellow females on this trip without the distraction of male humor and comments. I was able to take in the atmosphere, and admire the different fashions and pricing compared to Volterra. One complaint that I noticed straight away was how much of a tourist town that was and the number of employees that worked in all the local stores who spoke and understood English. The values these locals had for Volterra differed drastically. Many are money oriented in Florence because of the takeover of tourism, which Volterra is very community-orientated. This I noticed while I browsed the aisles of each clothing and retail store I entered. It was an opportunity and learning experience I wouldn’t change for the world. I wonder what’s in store for next week. (Submitted on June 18, 2023)

Beyond the Pale 

Submitted by Danny Maney on the 2023 summer session program in Ireland…

Visiting Malahide Castle

The second week in Ireland has been very eventful and jam packed with new experiences. We have settled into more of a routine and the streets of Dublin have become more familiar to me. One thing that has stood out to me this week is just how old everything here is. For example, we visited the Book of Kells, the oldest Bible in Ireland as well as the Trinity College library. In contrast to America, where the oldest things are 400 years old at most, there are a lot of things in Ireland that are significantly older than that. And the fact that they just sit on a college campus akin to UD is so cool. While the Book of Kells was relatively small, it was still very pigmented and impressive. It made me think about how these people crafted such a thing when they did not have access to modern technology and how painstaking it must have been. 

One of the other excursions that we went on this week was to Malahide Castle, which is in the northern part of Dublin. This is by far my favorite experience thus far, I felt it was something out of the Netflix show Bridgerton. The tour guide explained to us how the castle used to be used for balls and that the ladies would have to avoid the fireplace as it would melt their beeswax makeup and it would cause them to need a touch up. This is where the phrase “mind your own beeswax” comes from. I didn’t realize that there were even castles in Ireland, but due to its complicated history with England it makes sense. There were also beautiful gardens on the grounds that we walked around.

A herd of dairy cows, spotted on the train back from Waterford 

The reason why I titled this post as beyond the pale is because this week we took a trip to Waterford in the south east of Ireland. This term comes from the original English occupation of Ireland in the middle ages where the area surrounding Dublin was the only place that was under English control and it was referred to as “the pale”. Everywhere else was known as the “wilds” as it was controlled by the native Irish people. The reason I wanted to talk about this trip was because of what I noticed on the train there. We passed many pastures full of beef and dairy cattle, as well as sheep and horses. The proximity of these pastures together as well as the mixing of species are practices that I have not seen in America. On UD’s Webb farm each of the herds has their own pasture and they rotate accordingly. I think that the reason they do this is because of the lack of space. America has endless pasture land whereas in Ireland it is probably limited, so it makes economic sense to keep animals closer together. I would really like to learn more about Irish livestock keeping practices while I’m here as this is the area I am interested in studying in veterinary school so I will be sure to add more in subsequent posts if I learn anything more. 

Wrapping up, there is still a lot of adjusting I need to do to become accustomed to living in Ireland. There are a lot of social cues and norms that I struggle picking up and this sometimes leads to awkward situations of not understanding people. For example, ordering stuff at restaurants is particularly difficult. One morning I went to starbucks with my friends and I said my usual order and I got something slightly different. I also struggle with a lot of general anxiety and homesickness while I am here. I realized that I have never been so far away from my family and friends in my whole life and it is quite jarring. As the trip goes on, this is just something else I need to become adjusted to. (Submitted on June 24, 2023)

The Chronicles of Italy: Coffee, Fear, and Portofino

Submitted by Jack Roff on the 2023 summer session program in Volterra, Italy…

Getting coffee in Siena

After returning from Rome, we went to the town of Siena and spent about the first hour of our time there getting drenched in the rain. Despite this, I still loved the town because to me it looked like a cross between Volterra and Florence. Exploring the town was a real highlight for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite it being so wet. However, the real joy for me from this trip came from the feeling I got while I was there, which I would describe as a feeling of belonging. I don’t think this word fully encapsulates what I’m trying to convey but it works well enough. What I mean is that as I walked through the town I felt as though I had a better understanding of the town and what it meant to be there. In the first few days at Volterra, I was uncomfortable. A foreign traveling novice in a richly cultured ancient town trying to interact with locals and understand customs. But by this time in the trip, I had been around Volterra many times and had even navigated my way through Rome. Walking through the streets of Siena I felt as though I belonged there. One of the best examples of this is when I went to get coffee from a little coffee shop just off the town center. I have had to get used to the coffee culture in Europe. In the U.S. not only are all the sizes bigger and more complicated (filled with extra ingredients like sugar), but the entire way you drink coffee is different as well. In coffee shops, you walk up to a bar order a coffee and then you are given it in a small cup that you drink there on the spot. There is no sitting and talking. You get it, drink it, and go. At this point, I felt like a local because I was able to go up to the barista and order the coffee without seeming lost or confused. While it seems strange to me that you wouldn’t sit and talk to friends over coffee going to enough of these coffee bars gave me an idea as to why the quick coffee culture exists. My current experiential understanding is that coffee is not a social drink in Europe (at least where I’ve been). Instead, This is replaced by the wine that is drunk not to become intoxicated but is meant to pair well with food and perhaps open up the conversation. To me, this explains the difference, wine became culturally recognized as a European social beverage long before coffee was really introduced and therefore coffee is used more as a quick “pick me up” while wine is considered a social drink. This connected with Europe’s history as coffee migrated from Ethiopia to Yemen and became the middle east’s social drink because Muslims were not allowed to drink wine. Coffee was not introduced to Europe until much later, possibly explaining the difference. This is a concise and seemingly unimportant topic but as someone with an interest in coffee, it was a really interesting revelation to have. 

A picture of the Christian Church while we were floating above the statue of Jesus.  

On the ship, one of my favorite experiences was going ashore in Portofino. The area is beautiful, packed with the houses and boats of the super-rich, and there are some ridiculously cool things to do while you are there. The first thing my group and I did was walk through town until we got to a road that led to steps that led us up and into the mountainous area of the town. Even for someone who often hikes the sheer amount of stairs and elevation gain (650 feet) in that short period of time was challenging. What was even more challenging to get over was that there are people who live up in that area and farm. What I thought was a hiking trail was a thin road used to connect the town to the houses in the mountains. As we walked, we talked about what it must be like to live up there, joking about what a man’s wife would say if he walked all the way up from the town store only to realize he had forgotten milk. We decided that those who live up there must be self-sufficient in order to live. This line of thought led us to the idea that perhaps the locals who lived up there didn’t have farms simply so that they could sell their crops, but also because perhaps they needed them to survive. This could be the case or perhaps it’s just the thoughts of four comparatively soft Americans who need to get out more. Beyond this, I encountered another challenge when we hired a captain to take us out on a boat for an hour so we could see a 15th-century church and snorkel on an underwater statue of Jesus. This experience was a dream come true for me as I had never snorkeled before and despite being a swim coach, had never swam in deep water. Jumping into the water I was filled with amazement, happiness, and fear. I could fish swimming around me in every direction. I was living some people’s dream, snorkeling in the Mediterranean. I swam down into the water and saw the 2-meter-tall statue of Jesus about 20+ meters down. I really didn’t know what to feel. I felt amazed at how beautiful and cool the statue was but was also so unnerved by seeing a mysterious human-like object sitting at the bottom of the ocean. How could a symbol of love also inspire so much anxiety? Perhaps I just have a fear of the unknown of the deep ocean. In any case, as time in the water went on I became used to the statue and remembered how privileged I was to be doing what I was doing and that thought got me over the worry. If someone else were in my shoes they wouldn’t spend their time being worried about something so cool. I can easily say that going out on that boat was one of the best decisions I have ever made on this trip. 

Reflections on Fortezza Medicea

Submitted by Dayana Lara on the 2023 summer session program in Volterra, Italy…

Today as a class we visited the prison in Volterra called Fortezza Medicea. I was very excited yet intimidated when I was reminded of our visit while looking at the class schedule. This is because I have never been inside a prison prior to this so I was curious about what it would be like and was also interested to hear about how the prison functioned versus how it functioned when it was first built and operated as a prison. Once we were inside the prison we met with the warden who explained to us the history of the prison and the infrastructure of the building which was very interesting to learn about. The prison staff explained to us that in the history of Fortezza Medicea there was only one woman prisoner and she was sentenced for having an affair. Although this was unfortunate to hear that someone was sentenced so harshly for having an affair I did not find it surprising for the time period of the event as women have historically been disadvantaged and oppressed. The staff also explained to us that in the prison, there used to be what was considered a VIP prisoner. I was curious about what made someone a VIP prisoner and if there were any in the prison today. I wondered about this because I was under the assumption that every person would be treated equally in prison despite their crimes or sentences. I asked the staff and they explained that a VIP prisoner was one who was allowed to enjoy certain privileges not permitted by the prison rules and regulations. They also stated that today there were no VIP prisoners. Touring the prison was very eye opening as I learned that they operate very differently in Italy versus how they operate in America. For example, Fortezza Medicea focused on rehabilitation rather than in punishment and they intended for the prisoners to be integrated into society and work in Volterra as cooks, waiters, cleaners. There are also art classes, theater and sculpture classes and cooking classes offered to prisoners. This is something that I rarely hear about in prisoners in America and I believe that this is a more helpful approach and I wish that the United States had a similar approach. At the prison we also encountered dogs outside and we learned that they were therapy dogs. I found this very important as a Human Services major who hopes to go into therapy or social work after graduation. I strongly believe in the benefits of therapy and getting accurate help to resolve inner turmoil and help treat mental health conditions and I believe that this could prevent future involvement in crime. This made me think about the people who are in charge of  prisons in the United States and how they could move towards a prison system that values rehabilitation more. I was truly impressed by the leadership in Fortezza Medicea and their values and I hope to visit a prison in the United States to better compare them. (Submitted on June 14, 2023)

Things to Do Around Ireland

Submitted by Danny Maney on the 2023 summer program in Ireland…

My third week in Ireland has been chock full of new experiences. The crown jewel of this week was when we took a two-night trip to Kilkenny. This city was different from anything that I had experienced before. It was smaller than Dublin, yet it was still considered a city, and it had a lot going on. It really reminded me of the part of EPCOT in Disney World that has all of the different countries. I think this speaks to the fact that this is my first trip outside the US. Also, while in Kilkenny, I learned a lot about Irish history. For example, every church is doubled as there is one for Catholics and one for Protestants, yet they have the same name. There were two St. Mary’s and two St. John’s etc. This is a physical example of the divide between the two faiths that have been the main reason for all of Ireland’s issues over the past few centuries. We also got to visit Kilkenny Castle, where in the room I had pictured, there was a lot of beautiful artwork. This castle was once the home of the Irish Confederation during a rebellion in the 15th century. 

Visiting the Dublin Zoo

Another highlight of my week was when a few of us took a trip to the Dublin Zoo. I have always enjoyed going to zoos ever since I was very young, so of course, I had to make a stop at this one. There were a lot of differences between this zoo and the ones in America. I noticed more of an emphasis on conservation. At each exhibit, they had a sign saying what they were doing to help protect wild populations of these animals. Also, the exhibits themselves were a lot larger and had more cover, so the animals were not constantly on display. As a pre-vet major, I know that there is an ethical dilemma regarding zoos, as people are unsure if they cause more harm than good. Visiting this zoo has confirmed my personal belief that zoos do good as they educate people who would otherwise never know about these animals and that they need to be protected. It was also just a really fun day trip. My favorite animals that we saw were the giraffes. 

The final thing of note that we did this week was take a day trip to the coast at Howth. I think that people here have an entirely different concept of going to visit the ocean than I do. At the Jersey shore, where I have been going every summer for as long as I can remember, it is relatively flat and there, and the houses are built almost on a grid. In some towns, there is a boardwalk facing the ocean. In both Howth and the other shore town we went to, Sandycove, there are massive cliffs that face the water. It also isn’t as warm here, so it didn’t truly feel like summer at the beach. There were people on the beach, but not many of them got in the water. I’m sure it was very cold. This was one of the first times I felt like I was somewhere that was completely Irish, outside the influence of anything foreign. I am truly not an outdoorsy person, so it was kind of hard to keep up, but the views were amazing. That being said, I am excited for the week to come and will continue to update this blog. (Submitted during Week 3)

Unforgettable Moments in London

Submitted by Moira Gervay on the 2023 summer program in London, England…

Visiting friends in Dublin

This week in London was as busy as ever as we were finishing our school assignments. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t find some time to relax and have fun. We saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theater, which was incredible! We stood in the yard like the peasants used to and danced and laughed along with the actors. I remember reading Shakespeare in high school, but to see one of his plays live and on the same stage they used to be performed on was unforgettable. 

I wandered over to the Natural History Museum to explore the exhibits, which reminded me a lot of the Natural History Museum in Delaware. There were sections about Dinosaurs and Minerals, and they were fun to explore since I had such an interest in those topics when I was younger. It was also sweet to see all the little kids wandering around who were there on field trips.   

I took a weekend trip to Ireland to visit my friends Eimear and Lucy! The girls and I met through Ulster Project Delaware and haven’t gotten a chance to visit one another since 2019. It was my first time navigating an airport alone, but the reward of seeing them made the stress worth it. We ran around Dublin the first night and then headed north to visit their families. We wandered around Carlingford the next day and walked along the beaches with my friend’s dog. There was lots of bonding, laughing, and eating good food. I can’t believe I only have a week left in the UK! (Submitted during Week 4)

Expanding Cultural Horizons

Submitted by Shams Ibrahim on the 2023 summer program in Rome, Italy…

Although I initially felt a mix of excitement and apprehension (due to my tendency for motion sickness and a mild fear of the ocean), I knew it was essential to embrace new opportunities and adapt to unfamiliar surroundings. As I stepped foot onto the ship, any lingering anxiety was replaced by excitement. My roommate and I wasted no time going straight to our room to explore. Each corner of the ship held its own surprises (robes, tote bags, chocolate), and we wished that our time on board could extend far beyond the seven days.

Our first port stop took us to the beautiful Corsica, where our group unanimously agreed on a beach trip. However, we were uncertain about the proximity of the nearest beach. Determined to make the most of our time, we researched our options before leaving the ship. To our surprise, what was initially estimated as a 20-minute walk transformed into a mere 8 minutes upon arrival at the port stop. Eagerly following the path, we found ourselves greeted by a breathtaking beach with crystal-clear blue water. We will definitely always remember that day. 

Throughout the week, a friend and I developed a delightful tradition of attending shows together, either before or after dinner. It has been amazing to watch the incredible talent displayed by individuals on the ship, each showcasing their ability to adapt and perform under various circumstances. On the second night, unforeseen technical difficulties led to an impromptu performance by UpTown, a group that rose to the occasion despite the last-minute changes.

 The following evening, we made plans to meet up after dinner and attend the ABBA dance and sing-along, which turned out to be a fun experience. As the night progressed, we found ourselves upstairs, indulging in late-night pizza, and heading to the Solarium for some much-needed relaxation. Laughter filled the air as we talked, cherishing the time we had together. 

This week has been an incredible reminder of the transformative power of embracing new experiences, conquering fears, and building connections. I have learned the value of adaptability and effective communication. As time seems to fly by, I am determined to make the most of every moment, cherishing each memory and expanding my cultural horizons along the way. (Submitted during Week 3).