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New shoes broken in on ancient cobblestones with eyes fixated on 2000 year-old architecture. Standing in the presence of history’s greatest artworks and sharing perspectives on life’s oldest mysteries. The St. Ambrose University Study Abroad Program has again provided an opportunity for a group of Bees with a once-in-a lifetime experience this past winter. 

The study abroad program at SAU has been on a rollercoaster ride the past few years during the heights of the global pandemic. Faced with many challenges due to constant changes of travel policies and issues with health safety, study abroad trips were canceled just weeks before the flights took off. As international tourism begins the long road to recovery, the Bees have once again traveled abroad this winter. 

“I was excited for students to have the experience. For everyone to see that it’s happening without me canceling a couple weeks ahead of the trip. I wanted everyone to be excited and actually get on the plane this time,” Morghan Lemmenes, Study Abroad Coordinator, said. 

Under the instruction of the Rev. Bud Grant, Professor of Theology, and Dr. Ethan Gannaway, Professor of History, 11 students traveled to four different cities in Italy from December 28, 2022 through January 14, 2023, for theology and history courses specifically studying the history of Rome and Christianity. 

SAU junior Dan Salazar said, “Being on this trip I was able to expose myself to multiple different communities, both present and from the past. There is an equation both educationally as far as learning what things were and what they were meant to do, and theologically as well. Exploring not just the logistics of the educational aspect, but exploring the possible spirituality.”

“The outcome for our class is to understand how culture influences the shape that Christianity took and how Christianity influences the shape that culture took so that they influence each other,” Fr. Bud said. “I would like it if from now on when a student looks at a building design, work of art, they have a conversation about the place, the religion and the world. Our conversations on that trip will transform their thinking.” 

SAU senior Alton Barber said, “We have a group of well rounded and intelligent people. We all come from different places and believe different things. So having to talk that out amongst each other was really fun because everyone brings their own sides to the table and we are able to talk and explore unanswerable questions using those perspectives.”

Fr. Bud has been taking students to Italy since 1999 focusing on the history of Rome and Christianity. Dr. Gannaway, Professor of History, joined years later and incorporated the historical aspects of architecture. 

“We get a lot from visuals in a classroom setting. However, being in a context where you can walk around something and touch it, smell it, hear it, and taste it, it’s like you soak up the soul of that culture,” Dr. Gannaway said. “You get to consume the whole thing from here and there, make twists and turns, emotional states on the face. You get in touch with the aspects of the culture that you just can’t read from a distance.”

“Before I got on this trip, I was never the type of person to go to a museum and look at a piece of art. So when I first saw art pieces in the Vatican and saw the intricate details and the story behind them, it really opened my eyes,” Robert Burroughs a senior at SAU, said. 

During this same time and across the globe, Dr. Duk H. Kim, Professor of Political Science, and Dr. Jim Baumann, Professor of Communication, lead a group of students in South Korea. 

Studying abroad can be a key factor to gaining cultural awareness. As students explored these new environments, Dr. Baumann also visited South Korea for the first time. “It is important for students to adapt and learn about different cultures so they can become more aware, realizing that there’s a world outside of the US,” Dr. Baumann said. 

Students also traveled to Ecuador for international social work, social welfare and speech pathology studies. The study abroad program is looking forward to the summer of 2023 when students will be traveling to Germany and Austria for theology courses. 

“It’s a great feeling to resume the study abroad programs over the winter break, but I want to see students spending a whole semester abroad and really experience the culture and grow in their journey,” Lemmenes said. 

For more information on the SAU Study Abroad program, contact Morghan Lemmenes at [email protected] or call 563-333-6210.