JanTerm is more than just another month at school for the students of Austin College—it's an adventure between traditional semesters where students immerse themselves into unique opportunities. Grace Auth, a junior on the Kangaroo women's soccer team, is using the opportunity JanTerm provides to travel abroad, taking her all the way to Rome. An All-Conference defender as well as being a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Academic Honor Roll member, Grace is documenting this once-in-a-lifetime experience below.
Rome is a known for being a city built on seven hills and for being the capital of the old world. Growing up with a mom who was not only a history major in college, but continues to study history in all her free time meant I have heard of Rome my entire life. Seeing my mother's fascination for Rome and its rich history made me slowly fall in love with it too. In the spring of 2017, I pondered the idea of going on a travel abroad JanTerm. When looking at the options for the following year, I saw one that went to Rome and in that moment, I knew I had to go. Here I am almost a year later and I am loving it here.
The trip began with a nine-hour flight to London and then a four-hour flight to Rome. By the time we reached Rome, it was 8 a.m. in Texas and 3 p.m. in Rome and I was truly exhausted. All I could think of was getting sleep while on the plane, but once we arrived in Rome the excitement hit. The little kid finally getting to live out the dream as reality and not just a fragment of my imagination. The first day we spent exploring the city to try and stay awake and get used to the time difference. Seeing Rome for the first time was exciting. The smells, the sounds, the architecture, and the overall flow of the city was just so different from America. The next six days that followed consisted of having class in the morning with our professor and having the evenings off to explore the city on our own and immerse ourselves in the culture. The classes started off each morning with going to sites all over Rome and learning all about the history. Over the course of the first week we saw many churches, temples, tombs, and famous monuments that are rich with Roman history. A few personal favorites were the Circus Maximus, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and the Coliseum.
The Circus Maximus was a chariot race course that was built for entertainment by the Romans. Upon walking through this course, it made you as an individual feel small in a massive track. This race course was and how they set up forms of entertainment. It was how we view sports games today with betting and food and an overall fun time. This was just one example that allowed me to see how Roman culture was in ancient times.
The Pantheon is a site that many people all over the world hear about and want to see. It was fascinating to learn the history behind the Pantheon, such as how it was built by Marcus Agrippa for "all the Gods" but was changed into a church. If it had not been altered into a church it most likely would not have survived. It makes you wonder about all the ancient history that is lying underneath all the modern buildings. This spot specifically is special to my friends and I; every evening we get some time to explore on our own and somehow, we always end up walking to or by the Pantheon. Therefore, this place is extra special in my heart.
We saw the Capitoline Hill, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill on day five. This was the major part of Rome. These two hills were considered the capital of Rome and the common area for the people as well as the palace for the emperors. Walking around the two hills and the Roman Forum between them made me appreciate the way of life more. There is something about seeing ancient history in person that makes you appreciate it on another level.
Nero was an emperor of Rome that had a bad reputation. After a "mysterious fire" that burned down the area where the Colosseum is today, he built his own palace and a private pond. This didn't sit well with the people so the next emperor built over Nero's private pond and constructed the Colosseum. This structure was a one of a kind and was the biggest amphitheater in the known world. When it finally opened, the people got to experience glorious gladiator games, beast hunts, and maybe even some naval battles. Walking around and in this huge amphitheater made me appreciate the way of life the Romans must have lived and felt when they stepped foot into the Colosseum.
Day seven was our first off day and we could spend this day doing whatever we wanted. I spent this day going to Florence. It began with buying a nonrefundable ticket the day before but not realizing it was nonrefundable until 6 a.m. My friend and I were at the train station trying to change it to Sunday in order to visit museums in Florence since they're closed on Mondays. However, we found out we couldn't change them so we decided to go anyway. This day turned out to be very relaxing and was spent walking through Florence while observing the shops and the surroundings. By luck, we saw an entrance to a garden and we went into it to explore. This was honestly one of the best things we could do. The Boboli Gardens were beautiful. At one point, we turned a corner and saw the skyline of Florence. The beauty of the skyline made it one of my favorite moments in Italy. It was a perfect end to a perfect week.
For someone who is a student-athlete, it is neat to go to a school where you can play your sport, stay on track with your major and minor, and still get to travel abroad. Having an option to travel and to be able to learn about the other cultures from an Austin College professor is an experience that I am glad to be able to have. This is one of those experiences that lasts a lifetime and I am living it right now.