Students Explore Istanbul as Part of Rome Semester

September 20, 2012

Like a growing number of St. John’s students, Alexander Johnson ’15TCB enrolled in Discover Italy: Rome Semester last spring for one reason — to spend the term learning Italian language and culture at the University’s residential campus in the Eternal City.

Johnson knew the semester would include the program's first side trip to Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. But he was not terribly excited by the thought of visiting the metropolis. “I really wanted to study in Rome,” he said. “Turkey just wasn’t a place I’d ever thought about visiting.”

The six-day trip changed his mind. “Istanbul is magnificent,” said Johnson, a business management major from Milwaukee, WI. “The sights and sounds were breathtaking — the bazaar, the mosques — but it’s totally modern. I’d like to go again.”

Spring 2012 was the first time that St. John’s students were able to experience Istanbul as well as Italy’s capital through the University’s popular Rome Semester. The expanded program continues this term, allowing another group to study Italian language, history and culture before concluding with a five-day visit to Turkey. The opportunity will be available again in Spring 2013.

Exploring Istanbul emphasizes the historic links between Christian Europe and Turkey — a modern, stable Islamic democracy, home to people of many nations and faiths. “The excursion exposes students to an ancient crossroad between East and West,” said Matthew Pucciarelli, Associate Vice President for Global Studies. “Look at the history of Istanbul — Greek, Roman; Christian, Muslim. It’s had an enormous influence on Europe.”

“It’s the perfect complement to a semester in Rome,” said Erin Nester, Assistant Director of St. John’s Rome campus. “They’re both modern cities built upon layer after layer of antiquity.”

The program reflects St. John’s focus on using Study Abroad to provide “a comparative education,” said Pucciarelli. “It’s the notion that you have a better sense of a place when you use another as a point of reference,” he explained. The Office of Global Studies also applied the approach this fall by adding several days in Morocco to its Discover France semester in Paris.

For Giuseppe Ferraro ’14TCB, last spring’s program was a chance to experience a culture dramatically different from any he had ever known. “It was like something out of a movie,” said Ferraro, an accounting major from Levittown, NY. “The mosques are so beautiful, very different from anything I’d ever known. If it wasn’t for this program, I never would have seen it.”

Students interested in seeing Istanbul may apply now for a seat in this spring’s expanded Discover Italy: Rome Semester.