Student Profile :: Cyber Connection in the Eternal City

Honors in Rome - Technology and International Engagement

Rome, Italy - Summer 2004

Before our plane even took off the ground the elderly Italian woman that was my seat partner on the airplane began chatting away to me in Italian like we were old friends.  Since I look Italian, due to my Italian heritage, and I could sometimes give short responses and polite conversational remarks, due to the two years of studying Italian, this kind woman thought I was Italian.  I didn’t have the nerve to tell her that I could not

The Roman Forum - Summer 2005

Helen Cicero , Class of '05

Major: International Studies


understand about 80% of the conversation and so I politely smiled and nodded throughout the plane ride until about five hours had passed and this woman asked me, in Italian, if I was indeed from Italy.  I responded no, I was American, but still every so often she would begin talking and our conversations would ensue in the usual fashion.  This was my first taste of Italy’s culture and lifestyle.  Once I finally arrived in Rome I was surrounded by a world of small cars zooming about at great speeds, ancient ruins every other block or so, and fashionably dressed Italian men and women holding cigarettes between their two fingers more often then not.

UW Honors women posing with ancient Roman muses - 2004

What brought me to Rome was the honors program annual study abroad to the ‘eternal city.’  When I found out about this opportunity, through the e-mails that the honors program sends, I knew I had to apply.  First, due to coursework, summer would be my only chance to study abroad (a good friend told me that one of his greatest regrets about college was not going abroad), second, I had a relatively firm grasp of the language, third, I have Italian heritage, and fourth, the honors thesis for my International Studies major requires primary research, and since I am writing about Muslim immigrants in Italy, it was the perfect opportunity to get some research

in.  I knew the biggest obstacle in getting to Rome would be financingthe trip, so I booked my flight early, and applied for scholarships.  The office of International Programs and Exchanges (IPE) granted me a scholarship that helped to finance my study abroad. 

Gelato 2004

One of the really interesting and interactive components of this trip was the PETTT technology that our program used.  This is a website that allowed us to post daily journal entries, Italian phrases, recipes (like tiramisu!), and even the final drafts of our assigned coursework.  One can even access this same information from the summer 2003 trip.  In a country where the phone system is below par (the phone in our apartment would not let us make outgoing calls), and the time difference from Seattle is nine hours, this website provided a great communication tool between myself and my family and friends.  They could look daily to read about the new adventures we were having and even look at some pictures.  Access to computers, in order to post our articles and entries, was relatively easy with the UW Rome Center’s computer lab, and wireless internet was even available for people with laptops.

Campo dei Fiori at night 2004

With this website my sister read about how we woke up in the morning to vendors setting up tents selling fresh produce, bread, and spices in the piazza outside our apartment, and went to sleep at night listening to the social buzzing of young Italians finishing up their dinners, musicians playing, and the ‘cincin’ of Italian toasts. .  My friends read about the wonderful beaches we visited with clear, blue water, and the amazing five course meals we ate that lasted for hours.

My parents read the presentations I prepared covering Jesuit churches, and the Arch of Constantine.  Ultimately, this website served as a day to day communication tool that kept me in touch with the people in Seattle, and now it serves as an easily accessible journal for me to reference whenever I get the urge for some caprese salad or gelato, or want to remind myself of the name of Bernini’s fountain in the Piazza Navona.  

The beach at Positano - 2004