Italy Teaching Experience Connects Students to History
An advocate of studying abroad, Jamie Smith says her recent semester in Macerata, Italy was her best teaching experience yet.
The Alma College assistant professor of history taught a class of American students, including three from Alma, through the AHA International study abroad program. It was Smith’s fourth visit to Italy.
“Normally when I talk about medieval Europe, I’m talking about it from Alma, so with the distance, some students have difficulty connecting to it,” she says. “The students in Italy were living in buildings older than our country, so I think the immediacy of being there made a difference in understanding history.”
In front of the Forum in Rome, from left: Paw Paw sophomore Willy Drouillard, Grosse Pointe Woods sophomore RaiAda LaNier, Assistant Professor Jamie Smith, and St. Clair junior Noelle Evans.
In order to help students connect to history, Smith took her classes on a number of excursions to different medieval towns, including two overnight trips to Florence and Rome.
She asked her students to each keep journals to record their thoughts on these excursions. When Smith read their journals at the end of the semester, her suspicions about how the students felt about the experience were reaffirmed.
“They loved it,” she says. “They were really excited and asked interesting questions. They came to class prepared every day. Most students are good about that, but class was their entire focus.”
Paw Paw sophomore Willy Drouillard says though he expected the experience to be more relaxed, found the trip positive in every way.
“The experience, for me, was awesome,” he says. “I got more out of it than I expected to. We weren’t in Rome or Florence where people speak better English than Italian. We were truly in Italy, no way around it.”
On numerous occasions, Drouillard says he found himself sharing what he had learned about history with random people.
“I know more about Italian history, thanks to Jamie and our well-structured excursions, which is a really cool feeling,” he says.
Smith says her future classes will benefit from the firsthand knowledge she acquired from the teaching experience.
Posted: Fri, May 7th, 2010 at 1:14PM