Baylor in Italy — Emily Varley (’20)

Spending the summer abroad is a magical, life changing experience which I was lucky to have this year. I traveled to Italy and spent five weeks working, exploring, and learning in an ancient world. Through the Baylor in Italy program, I had an incredible time learning and working. It was a transformative experience, which sometimes I cannot believe was even real.

As an anthropology student, my study abroad experience featured working every day in the Italian countryside at an archaeological excavation site. Led by Drs. Mr. and Mrs. Zori, I studied and learned under some of the best professors at Baylor. We were based in Barbarano Romano, a tiny farming community with ancient Etruscan roots, dating back to a pre-Roman civilization. It was fascinating to find artifacts in the dirt and then have one of the specialists on the trip explain the meaning behind what was found. Digging in the dirt all day was such a treat, we never knew what might be found.

In addition to digging, our group travelled around Italy on the weekends. In Rome, we ate at the restaurant which is supposedly built on the site where Caesar was stabbed to death – it was quite charming. We saw the Ara Pacis, displaying its fantastic propaganda for Augustus. We experienced the Coliseum, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, and all the gelato stands in between. Not only did we get to see Roman history on display, we spent a great deal of time in the Vatican and Vatican museums. Rome is giant and fantastic and still a bustling city complete with such rich history. My favorite Italian city was Venice though. Being on that island was like stepping back in time, the surrounding waters a constant reminder of the city’s rich history. All the cities in Italy are like that to a degree, transporting us back to the world of the past.

The weekend travels were fantastic and tiring, but my favorite part of the trip was working during the week. A typical day started at 7, after waking up and getting dressed, I’d check my hiking boots for scorpions and then head to breakfast. Afterwards we loaded up the vans and headed to the nature reserve where our excavation sites are located. From there we’d hike up to our assigned work places and the day’s work would begin. Going until about five, with field lunch at noon – everyday was exhausting but completely worth it. At the day’s end, we’d be covered in dirt, dust, cobwebs, thorns, or mud and we’d have to race our roommates to the house to get first shower. Lab work was essential too, and until dinner we would go clean pottery sherds, glass shards, and bone fragments. Dinner in Italy is a long affair, and from about 7:30 to 10:30 we’d be eating, laughing, talking, and trying to enjoy frizzante. The van rides home were always the best; we blasted music and sang along, while trying to beat the other vans home so we could get on the wifi first…

Overall, this trip was one of the highlights of my life. Many of the Baylor students from the trip are dear friends and I look up to the professors who I learned from on this trip immensely. Nothing will ever beat the feeling of working hard all day, digging the dirt, carrying it, and examining it and then finally finding something you recognize. Whether it was a bone or a decorated pottery sherd, finding something made all the work worthwhile. On the trip, I found myself living fully, learning constantly, and loving the work. I am so thankful for the opportunity to study abroad.

Emily Varley is a sophomore anthropology major from Saint Charles, Missouri. Emily also serves as a Mentor in Examined Life.

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