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Students introduced to Rome during spring break trip

Barry McNamara
03/19/2018
The Monmouth group in front of Trajan’s Column, a triumphal column that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – The book Res Gestae Divi Augusti is now available in the collection in Monmouth College’s Hewes Library to anyone who wants to read about the first-person accounts of the first Roman emperor Augustus.

But the inscribed book, which translates to The Accomplishments of Divine Augustus, will also be a permanent reminder of a learning expedition 13 Monmouth students took during their 2018 spring break.

The students bought and signed a copy of the book on their March 2-11 trip and donated it on Friday to the College’s Hewes Library.

The students, who received academic credit for the trip, were provided with binders in which they were asked to take notes and write their observations about sites visited during the trip.

One student, Alexandra Barrett ’19, an international business and classics double major from Oak Lawn, Ill., likely filled up the St. Peter’s Basilica page.

“The best thing we did by far was going to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica,” she said. “The view was amazing. As a Catholic, going under St. Peter’s into ancient Roman ruins, hearing the story of how St. Peter’s bones were discovered and then getting to see St. Peter’s bones was all extremely moving.”

The 13 students were led by an experienced guide on their learning trip – Emeritus Professor of Classics Tom Sienkewicz.

“I have visited Rome more times than I can easily count,” said Sienkewicz. “There’s always something new to see, and I never get tired of introducing students to Rome.”

Barrett was also introduced to the Trevi Fountain, which was also a highlight for Sean Klink ’18, a music major from Viola, Ill.

“My favorite night of the trip was walking to the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain and experiencing all of the small shops and nightlife of Rome along the way,” said Klink.

Klink also mentioned having an audience with the Pope, which the group experienced along with more than 6,000 others at the Paul VI Audience Hall. The Monmouth contingent even delivered a cheer for Monmouth and the Pope that they had practiced.

“Last time, they called out Monmouth College, and we gave our cheer with the Pope already there,” said Sienkewicz. “This time, he was still making his way in when we gave the cheer. Hopefully, he heard it.”

Two students – John Cotter ’19 of Chicago and Mackenzie Davis ’18 of Marlton, N.J. – had a different favorite moment. While on the trip, Cotter proposed to Davis, and she accepted. He originally planned to ask her at the Colosseum, but because it was so crowded there, he popped the question at a restaurant in Rome instead.

Other highlights included visiting Pompeii, which coincided with International Women’s Day. The women on the trip posed in front of a statue of Eumachia, who was a prominent woman in first-century Pompeii.

For Barrett, travel abroad meant more than seeing famous sites.

“School trips are a great way to connect and bond with students you never knew existed,” she said. “These trips are also an amazing opportunity to see what another country is like or what studying abroad might be like. They teach you a lot about yourself and the people around you, and they make you more aware of diversity and differences among yourself and others.”