La Sapienza – Knowledge Across Borders

Today’s post comes from ACCENT Rome Programs Coordinator Alice Mangia, who describes a unique opportunity offered through the ACCENT Rome Study Center. Each semester, students from UCEAP visit “La Sapienza”, one of the largest universities in all of Europe, a beacon of Roman history and a firm testament to the persistent quest for knowledge.

There’s no better way to get to know a culture than to be guided by the locals. Every semester, the University of California Education Abroad Program offers Italian university students the chance to take part in a curricular internship at the ACCENT study center. The interns shadow the Italian Language instructors during classes, organize conversation encounters in Italian, and take part in the cultural activities organized by ACCENT.

Every semester, guided by the interns, UCEAP student visit the campus of the University of Rome, “La Sapienza.” Founded in 1303 by Pope Leone X, La Sapienza is one of the oldest universities in the world.

Nowadays, the campus is located in the neighborhood of San Lorenzo but, originally was just a few steps away from the ACCENT Study Center, at Palazzo di Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza. The intricate cupola of this Baroque church peeks from the building that surrounds our study center and today hosts the State Archives. The name “La Sapienza” derives from there and it means “Knowledge.”

The University has been a sturdy witness of Italian history, from the dawn of the Papacy to the rise and fall of Fascism. It was, in fact, in 1935 that the new location in the San Lorenzo district was inaugurated. La città universitaria (the University City) is a city within the city. The architecture of the buildings— or facoltà– are in the rigid fascist style, organized in blocks with ample alleys and green areas. There are a couple of cafeterias, a post office, and a church among the 67 departments. The campus has its focal point in the Piazza del Rettorato, a square with the statue of La Minerva, the goddess of Knowledge. After the Second World War, the university grew, and today, it is one of the biggest in Europe: every day, it hosts 112,000 students and more than 8,000 employees.

Although different in many ways from an American university campus, the atmosphere is very similar, says UCEAP student Matthew Kim, who points out that, like American students, Italian students spend time relaxing on the grass (il pratone) between lessons.

“It was interesting to be there with actual students and understand their habits and educational system.” says UCEAP student Jacquelyn Broader, “We also discovered some of the quirky traditions that only a local student would know,” she continues. The most famous? That you should never look the statue of Minerva in the eyes— otherwise you will never graduate!~Alice Mangia, ACCENT Rome

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