Katie Ribbens — Staff Writer
Florence, Italy: the smell of quality espresso and freshly baked croissants wafts through the air. The shuffling of feet and friendly banter can be heard as Dordt students make their way down the stairs of their hotel and meet up for breakfast. Afterward, they eagerly step into the quiet morning and plunge into the day’s exciting events awaiting them.
All semester long, students had been looking forward to the end-of-semester “Dante and the Italian Renaissance” class trip to Florence, Italy. Jamie Johnston, a history major at Dordt, chose to take the class and go on the trip to personally experience the works she learned about.
“As a history teacher, it’s important to be able to tell your students that ‘I went and saw this’ and be able to have those experiences to talk about with students,” Johnston said. “You should really go and experience history for yourself.”
This trip was open for all students, not just history majors. Trenton Ribbens, a civil engineering major, chose to take this course because he was interested in learning more about the Renaissance.
“I did my research paper for the class on how the Duomo in Florence was constructed and getting to actually climb and look over the city at night was really fun,” Ribbens said. “You could see all the other places that we learned about and the whole skyline is pretty gorgeous.”
The class also learned about some famous works of art, including Michelangelo’s David.
“Seeing the David was really impressive,” Ribbens said. “Actually being there and staring up at it, you’re seeing the blood vessels in the arms and trying to imagine how you would carve that out of stone.”
Johnston agreed that pictures do not do the 17-foot statue justice.
“Seeing the David was incredible because it is so famous, and you don’t think it’s actually going to be as big as when you see it in person,” Johnston says.
Students enjoyed the walkability of Italy. They were given freedom to break up into their own groups and conduct their own sightseeing in Florence. The public transport also allowed students to travel outside of Florence to nearby cities. Though Johnston enjoyed Florence, Siena was her favorite place to visit.
“It was so beautiful,” Johnston said. “It was a little bit more out in the countryside, and we went to this palace that had this beautiful view of the country.”
Ribbens also did some travelling outside of Florence. He and a friend decided to fly to Italy a few days before the class arrived to do some extra sightseeing on their own.
“We started with Sorento, and that was probably my favorite part of the trip,” Ribbens said. “It was a really peaceful coastal town right on the Mediterranean.”
Ribbens also visited Rome and Siena. “I think traveling in general is just fun,” Ribbens said.” I get to talk to people and just see how things are done differently.”
He believes a trip this length is a good way for a newcomer to get their feet wet and experience international travel without the commitment of spending a semester abroad.
For many students, studying abroad for an entire semester isn’t an option. Shorter trips, like this one, make it possible for all Dordt students to experience life in another country and culture.
“I really wanted to study abroad because I really like traveling and seeing other cultures,” Ribbens said. “At the time I didn’t think it was possible for my major, so I took this class and spent a little over a week in Italy instead.”
“I think it is a good alternative to those who can’t study abroad,” Johnston said. “A week is a really good period of time, though of course I wish it would have been just a little bit longer.”