One of the coolest things I’ve found about studying abroad with IES Abroad is how I’ve been able to discover the coolest places that I wouldn’t have found on my own! You have field studies and day trips for most classes, which are actually super fun and cool. Field studies are required excursions for your IES Abroad classes, that help you explore museums and cool sights in your host city. Most are just two hours long, but every once and a while a class has a full day trip, like my Greek & Roman Mythology class did to Sperlonga.
Sperlonga is this tiny beach town a few hours south of Rome. And when I say tiny, I mean it's super tiny. Like try not to blink. The coolest part about Sperlonga was the Grotto of Tiberius, a huge natural cave under a rocky hillside that used to serve as the dining and entertaining room for the emperor Tiberius.
The massive grotto has pools of water out front and as the floor on the inside. The view looking out is breathtaking, you see the Tyrrhenian Sea with a misty island off in the distance and the picturesque white buildings of Sperlonga clinging on to the hillside of the mainland for dear life. It was one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen, and it really makes you feel more connected to the history and the myths of the ancient Romans. Looking out at that terrifying, misty, massive island on the left, I understood how the ancient people could believe in the cyclopes, the furies, giant sea monsters, and the gods of Olympus. It completely changed my perspective on the mythology, which I used to see as silly stories that I didn't understand how people believed; I wonder if that was the point of the trip!
In those days the Grotto housed 4 giant statues of mythological events: the blinding of Polyphemus by Odysseus, Scylla’s assault of Odysseus’ ship, Odysseus and Diomedes stealing the Palladion from Troy, and Odysseus and Achilles. At some point the statues were destroyed and chopped up into bits, but they were rediscovered in the last few hundred years. They are now in the museum at the top if the hill overlooking the grotto, pieced back together with the found parts. The statues are massive! Its ridiculously cool to see these discovered statues and then walk a few hundred feet and see exactly where they were found.
The history and the extremely cool cave aside, the town of Sperlonga is fantastic on its own. We wandered through the narrow pedestrian streets of white buildings and blue door frames and I honestly thought I was on the set of Mamma Mia! Since the town is on the top of a giant hillside overlooking the water, the end of every street was a panoramic view of the beach. At this point I didn't think it could get any better, and then we went down to the beach! The water was freezing but everyone rolled up their jeans and waded out as far as they could. I have never been to a more beautiful beach in my life. The whole time we were all thinking: how in the world is this is an academic field trip? It was way too much fun.
I’m extremely happy I had the opportunity to go on this day trip. Although brief, I know I would have never made it to Sperlonga on my own, and this way I got to discover a new town. IES Abroad is super nice because they understand the students’ desire to travel because they know you’re here for the culture and the discovery of new and exciting places. I wouldn't have traveled to Sperlonga on my own time if all of my travelling was left up to me, but I’m so glad I got the chance! And I’m absolutely coming back to this amazing Italian beach town when it's a bit warmer and I have more time just to lay by the water and enjoy the view!
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<p>I am a Cognitive Science Major (which encompasses Cognitive Psychology, Computer Science, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Neuroscience), with a concentration in Cognitive Psychology. I am also a huge history nerd, and am more than excited to study abroad in a place packed with so much historical significance. I am the Assistant Music Director and Vice President of a philanthropic A Capella group called The AcHOOstics, and I have a very decent background in music! We sing at nursing homes and for fundraising events, and a portion of our proceeds go to the UVa Children's Hospital. Additionally, I volunteer in a program called Holiday Sharing, where we have been working for months in partnership with the Salvation Army to provide tons of food and toys to families in the Charlottesville area. I love to play piano, and I'm a big reader.</p>