Students reflect on Poggio Colla experiences

BY ELIZABETH MCMAHON ’13
Staff Writer

Ware College House hosted a Poggio Colla information session Thursday. F&M began participating in Poggio Colla, a Classics department study abroad program, in 2003. The program takes several F&M students to Italy for six weeks during the summer to work in an archaeological field school there. Gretchen Meyers, assistant professor of Classics, and Ann Steiner, provost and dean of the faculty, are the F&M representatives of the program.

The information session began with a brief overview of the site itself given by Steiner. She went through the history of the site and discussed specifically what exciting things have been found there over 17 years. She also gave a brief overview of events at the site last year which allowed students to come up to speed on current projects.

Students who had previously participated in Poggio Colla then had the opportunity to speak about their experiences. They had prepared a PowerPoint to display, which detailed a day in the life of students who participate.

The presentation ended with a brief discussion about applications by Meyers. She explained the application process, which includes an application and an interview. She also detailed options for students who might need help paying for the program; each year the program does a Hackman Scholarship with two students. She also mentioned the Summer Travel Grants which are available to all F&M students interested in studying abroad in the summer.

After the presentation the students were invited to a catered reception. The reception gave students a chance to ask previous participants about their experiences. It also gave past students a time to catch up with each other and share some wonderful memories.

I participated in the Poggio Colla Archaeological Field School in summer 2011; it was my first study abroad experience and I really enjoyed it. It was very challenging since pretty much every day during the week is packed with things to do, but the freedom on the weekend gives students an opportunity to relax.

The experience was an incredible one, one that truly added to my experience at F&M. I also studied abroad that Fall (2011), but Poggio Colla was a completely different experience. To be able to go out into the field and actually find things and learn about the other aspects of the site (such as current research being done in the lab) is something I could never experience at F&M. I think studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity and a hands-on program option is even more exciting.

Although I participated in 2011, I still feel a connection to the program and the site itself. This is what inspired me to go to the Information Session and to swap stories with people who went this year. I have made many new friends just because we went on the same program, although in different years.

One of the participants from 2012, Benjamin Hollenbach ’13, wrote a blog while he was there.

“Although I journeyed to Italy several weeks ago with my head full of conceptions of what the Poggio Colla field school would require and entail, I have come to realize that this type of hands-on encounter with the past must be experienced to be fully understood,” Hollenbach wrote. “In what is, for many of us, an introduction to the practice of archeology, this summer has given us the opportunity to challenge ourselves on both a physical and mental level.

“Waking up at 6:00 a.m., field students greet the day by climbing a very steep hill to what remains of an ancient Etruscan site near the gorgeous Tuscan town of Vicchio, going to their individual trenches in the hopes of both understanding the site at a deeper level and uncovering precious artifacts for the first time in millennia,” he continued. “After working a full day, and certainly getting our exercise through vigorous excavation, we journey to the secluded Casa della Vigna, a restored farmhouse in which we get our much-needed sleep and eat some of the most delicious home-cooked Italian meals many of us have ever experienced.”

Another 2012 participant summarized his Poggio Colla experience for me.

“Poggio Colla was certainly one of the most unique experiences of my life,” Joel Naiman ’15 said. “It incorporated a cultural assimilation unlike any I had ever expected. Working long hours moving dirt on the trench, pottery washing, lecture, and the late long dinners were absolutely features that cannot be achieved in a normal classroom setting.

“The ability to travel around Italy on weekends really make Poggio Colla special,” he continued. “Not only was I able to learn about Archaeology and Etruscan culture, I got to experience many places, each with a unique flavor and identity.”

These experiences combined with my own are a testament to just how fantastic an experience the Poggio Colla Archaeological Field School is. It is an opportunity at F&M that really enhances what a student is learning inside the classroom.

Questions? Email Elizabeth at emcmahon@fandm.edu.

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