This summer, I was awarded the generous Department of Classics Study Abroad Scholarship from Hampden-Sydney’s Classics Department and I would like to thank everyone who made this possible. The study trip I chose to take was run by the Vergilian Society and focused on the Greek influences on early Rome, along the Bay of Naples. I anxiously awaited my trip and could barely contain my excitement the night before my flight. This would be my first time overseas and I could not believe how lucky I was to receive this scholarship. There were some flight complications that delayed my arrival to Rome, but all of my airport frustrations were relieved upon reaching the train station and riding into Rome.
The trip greatly surpassed my wildest expectations. The other people in the program were amazing and enhanced my fun tremendously. While I loved everything (apart from having an allergic reaction to something—I’m not sure what—that had me covered in itchy hives for a few days), there are a few things that I will never forget. The first thing that stuck into my mind was my visit to Pompeii. I had been hearing about Pompeii for years and had this picture in mind of how it would look and what it would be like. My mind was blown within the first fifteen minutes. I must admit, when I thought of ancient Rome or Greece, I almost completely neglected the idea that people lived there and that cities had to support and feed citizens. I just got lost in wandering the city and just reveling in the sheer size of it, staring at the ancient grafitti, listing to people in the program debate about the purpose of this and the use of that. The entire field of Classical studies came alive for me that day.
One of the other important things that I learned at Pompeii is the fact that the Italians have very lax security around their archaeological sites. (Although I certainly wasn’t going around carving my initials into the walls of villas or something destructive!). At almost every site, there was some section that was closed off by some sort of crudely constructed barrier. I quickly gained the reputation of the guy you would go get to explore any easily scaled barrier, dark tunnel, or anything that looked remotely cool. With my trusty headlamp and disposable clothes, I did things that I never even thought about doing: crawling through aqueducts, sitting in the stands of an amphitheater, and ending up on some sort of nude beach for people over 60. I have always been the explorer type, but the extent of my curiosity expanded exponentially while I was in Italy.
Everything on the trip was great and I’ll never forget it, but the most memorable and impactful moment was one of the last nights of the program. We were staying at the Villa Vergiliana in southern Italy (http://vergil.clarku.edu/villa.htm) and the majority of the people in the program were all on the roof relaxing. I was the only person on the trip who hadn’t taught Classics at some point in his life so I decided to ask the people on the rooftop why they thought it was important to study Classics. What followed was a conversation that lasted about three hours and it made me positive that a career in Classics was the right path for me.
Lewis Bell ‘13
The Department of Classics Study-Abroad Scholarship was established in 1999 by Dr. C. Wayne Tucker and his brother, Larry C. Tucker, with additional contributions from other friends and alumni of the College. Hampden-Sydney College awards the scholarship to students in the Department of Classics to participate in programs conducted in Italy, Greece, and other countries with considerable ancient ruins. Preference is first given to students of the Greek and/or Latin languages and then to students of English language courses on ancient topics, such as ancient history and Classical Studies. Recipients are selected by the faculty members of the Department of Classics in consultation with the Director of International Studies. Contact Dr. Siegel (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.