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Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

A First Taste of a New Learning Experience Abroad

Our first excursion into the city took us south to a residential neighborhood near Villa Bonelli along the Tiber River.

Welcome to the Spring 2017 Cornell in Rome blog. I’m Adam Bronfin, and I’m a third-year student in the Urban and Regional Studies program at Cornell. This semester I will be sharing my experience in Rome with all of you. I hope to give everyone an inside look at the day-to-day life of a student in Cornell’s most famous abroad program.

I’ve been in Rome about three and a half weeks although classes only just started last week. I participated in a two-week intensive Italian course, which gave me the very basics of the language.

This semester I’m enrolled in four courses, the Rome Workshop (CRP 4160), Topography and Urban History of Rome — Antiquity to Late Middle Ages (ARCH 3820), Introduction to Drawing (ART 1504) and Contemporary Italian Culture (ARCH 3117). In today’s opening blog post, I’m going to focus on the workshop, a six-credit class taught by Professor Mildred Warner — my advisor in Ithaca — and Professor Greg Smith.

The workshop focuses on how individuals on the edges of the age spectrum — children and the elderly —  experience a neighborhood. Cities are traditionally planned exclusively for working age people, and kids and old people are left to navigate a city not created with them in mind. As the semester continues, the class will break into four groups and perform in-depth analyses of four particularly neighborhoods in Rome.

As a precursor to this large-scale research project — an antipasto, if you will — we split into pairs and Professor Smith assigned us to disparate areas of the city. My partner — and roommate — Joshua Glasser and I were tasked with exploring Magliana Vecchia, a very residential neighborhood due south of us.

We recorded ourselves as we meandered the streets, pointing out facets of the city that would be beneficial to the elderly or potentially hazardous to children. As we walked, we took time to see the city from a different vantage point than we were used to. By paying attention to the unique needs of kids and senior citizens certain aspects of the neighborhood become clear in ways that would have been invisible had we just walked the street without it in mind. After about two hours of walking, we headed back to our apartment and synthesized everything we had just seen.

Despite a combined 10 semesters on campus, Joshua and I had never encountered anything like this experience. We’ve learned about cities and neighborhoods and streetscapes and pedestrian activity, but never had we been able to go into the field to experience it for ourselves.

What excites me most about this semester is just that: traveling into the field to do research firsthand. Nearly all of my classes offer some sort of hands-on learning experience.

I’m going to writing for the next four months about lectures, classes, field trips, sightseeing, and, of course, the food. Check back for updates all semester!

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