BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH GAETANO
When Gaetano first told me he was a civil engineer, my only response was a very
skeptical snort. The thousands of cautionary tales of amorous, wily Italian men
had made me suspicious of even the most innocent words. But as we walked past
the Pantheon that warm Roman evening, his technical knowledge (and his inherent
Italian charm) persuaded me that he was the real deal.
When I first set out for Rome my goals were to observe the ways of its citizens,
and learn as much as I could from its years of civilization, architecture and
engineering. I also wanted a working knowledge of the Italian language, so I made
a point of talking to locals whenever I could. I felt like the ancient gods had
given me a boon that evening when I bumped into Gaetano the civil engineer.
He refused to speak anything but English; he wanted to practice, he said. We
made a deal; I would speak in my halting Italian and he would reply in his perfect,
accented English. From this interesting and fairly slow conversation I gathered
that Gaetano was 26, and had worked with a civil engineering firm in Rome for
three years. He had been a project engineer for a few minor ventures but the next
one was to be his biggest yet. His firm is “exporting” him to Morocco to act as
project supervisor for a highway extending from Rabat in the north to the edges
of the Sahara in the south.
As we chatted I was astounded by Gaetano’s linguistic ability. Besides being
fluent in his native Italian, he knows English, French and Spanish, and is learning
My encounter with the multilingual Italian had left quite an impression on me.
The world is constantly globalizing; it seemed to me Italians are very aware of
the fact that economic success hinges on a healthy respect for the international
market. Gaetano’s multilingualism made him a prized asset of his firm; I believe
fluency in several languages is also a desirable trait to have in corporate America.
Thankful as I am to have witnessed Rome’s architectural marvels in person, I
am even more grateful for that brief encounter. It reminded me that engineering
needs more than just technical prowess; it also needs a dose, if not more, of
basic human communication.
Senior, Civil Engineering
LEANING TOWARD PERFECTION
This past weekend a few of my classmates and I took a day trip to the small town
of Pisa. From the moment I arrived at Pisa’s main train station, I was excited
to explore the many attractions Pisa had to offer. Our voyage began with an excursion
through the main street of Pisa were an abundance of gelato shops, pizzerias,
and clothing stores catered to the public.
L-R: Guillermo Garcia, Tricia Gibo, Jeff Keiser and May Chan in front of the
leaning tower of Pisa.
As we reached the end of the long and narrow road, I was welcomed by the overwhelming
sight of Pisa’s famous leaning tower. This marble giant soars high into the skyline
and captivates everyone’s attention. At first glance, I was astonished with its
aesthetic beauty. As I began to get closer to the tower, I couldn’t help but
enjoy the engineering behind this building. The original plans for the tower
never intended it to lean. During the first five years of construction, engineers
realized that the ground beneath the tower could not support its weight. For
the past 832 years, engineers have been developing different methods to prevent
the tower from toppling over.
As I stood at the base of the tower, I could not wait to “hold” the tower in
place. As my friend fumbled with the camera to get the perfect angle, I was hypnotised
by the beauty of the basilica to the right. Its marble walls and immense stature
displayed a sense of power that is magnified in person. After struggling to coordinate
between the passing crowds, we were victorious in “holding” up the tower.
As an engineering student, it is such a great opportunity to actually view the
designs created by the engineers of the past. Seeing their accomplishments in
person really captivates the perfection of their work. Whether it be the leaning
tower of Pisa or the Colosseum of Rome, Italy is home to some of the most breathtaking
wonders in engineering history. Until next time!!!
TODAY'S PARADISE, PUT UP A MOPED LOT
I cannot even begin to express how much I love the city of Rome. Every aspect
of this city is full of intrigue and excitement. Rome is such an expansive city,
and there is still so much I have yet to explore. I’ve stood at the base of the
immense Coliseum, beneath the towering dome of the Pantheon as the light spills
through the oculus, and amid the ancient ruins of the vast Roman Forum. But there
are still many monuments, churches, museums, and (of course) the Sistine Chapel
that await my visit. Rome is so much larger than I had ever imagined, and I only
hope I have enough time to fully explore the city.
On the other hand, after looking at Rome on a smaller scale, I found a
aspects of the city to be quite small (at least compared to American
standards). Starting from the living quarters, many aspects of
the apartments here are a lot
smaller than what we Americans are accustomed to. It takes both
acrobatic skills in order for three people to cook in the kitchen at
forget about taking a bath – the showering facilities here are standing
room only. But this experience of living in a European-size
apartment is all part of the
fun of studying abroad in Italy, and I’ve actually gotten quite used to
Once you step foot outside the apartments, you are hit with the beauty and excitement
of the busy and bustling atmosphere of this historic city. Other than Rome’s
major streets, many of its roads are actually narrow side streets, bedecked with
old cobblestone and lined with the rising buildings. The narrow streets are in
turn complimented with the tiny Smart cars (whose size reminds me of the Playskool
car I had as a kid) and the vast numbers of mopeds. And crossing the streets
amid all of the traffic during the busy hours of the day can be considered an
In the midst of all of these various culture differences, the first thing that
took me by surprise was the large percentage of the Italian population that uses
mopeds as their primary means of transportation. It’s actually quite amusing
to see business men and women riding their mopeds to work, and young children
sporting their oversized helmets while seated in front of their parents. In the
United States, I am so used to seeing humongous SUVs and mid-size cars (which
would be considered large here in Italy) barreling down the roads, with the occasional
motorcycle. But with the way the city and its streets are constructed, it is
often more convenient to drive a moped in Rome. It seems much easier to maneuver
such a small vehicle in the narrow streets and alleys. In addition, the streets
are often so congested, and it is the moped-riders who are able to take advantage
of any available open space, weaving in and out of traffic. And seeing how Rome
can get so hot during the summer, those riding mopeds use this to their advantage
to get to their destinations as quickly as possible.
Mopeds also consume less gas and emit less pollutants, which can help to save
the riders money, while being more environmentally friendly. While mopeds may
not be able to reach as high speeds as those of cars found in America, the streets
and traffic often do not seem to allow for such speeds anyway.
Although mopeds may not be the most practical mode of transportation in the United
States, and I’m sure few Americans would be willing to part with their beloved
automobiles, it is interesting to see how mopeds conveniently fit the Italian
way of life. But who knows, I may just have to trade in my car for a little moped
and have some fun zooming around the streets of California.
That’s it for now…Arrivederci!
IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE LIMONCELLA!
This past weekend we travelled to Sorrento/ Capri/ Pompeii. I was taken away
by beauty of Sorrento. As I looked over to the Mediterranean Sea as we wound up
the road on our huge bus, I realized I had embarked on a place of absolute beauty.
I was eager to go exploring when I looked out of our room and saw the gorgeous
view of the city. After a cappuccino and pastry, we set out to observe the magnificence
in this beach town. While walking we noticed the numerous lemon products, from
lemon pasta to the famed limoncella. Well, what is the deal with these lemons?
I thought to myself. After discovering that these lemons are of such high quality,
that they are protected by the European Union, my interest was piqued.
After finding a lemon garden, we went to the back to find a very friendly woman
who was selling homemade limoncella products. Because I had heard so much about
these products, especially limoncella, I figured it was a good time to buy some
souvenirs. After buying some bottles, the vendor gave us some home grown lemons
used to make the limoncella. Eager to try, I immediately cut one open and tasted.
The verdict…happiness inside my mouth, these truly were the best lemons I had
ever had. So I began wondering, what makes them so delicious? After some research
and discovery I found there is a true process behind the cultivation of these
The lemon tree used to grow these egg shaped lemons originated in India and are
cultivated by a unique process to the area. They are ripened under a pagliarelle,
a straw mat attached to wooden poles. This structure helps to protect the foliage
from the atmospheric substances, such as the salty air and drops in temperature,
and allows the lemons to ripen over a longer period of time. Because they are
protected by the pagliarelle, they do not over-ripen and because of the slow ripening
time become much sweeter. The fruit is then hand picked so they do not hit the
ground and bruise. Although the process is simple for the cultivation of these
lemons it is quite interesting and I definitely enjoyed their wonderful taste.
Senior, Civil Engineering
RUINS OF POMPEII: A CITY FROZEN IN TIME
From sun bathing on the beach in Capri, to rushing to class on the bus in downtown
Rome through pouring rain and thunderstorms, being in Italy has been a life-changing
trip for me. This trip is a great opportunity for me and the other engineering
students to not only study, but to do so in a different environment, while exploring
a new country and learning about its culture and history. It has been difficult
juggling sight-seeing and studying, but having this chance to take classes in
a different country is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Being able to immerse myself
in Italian culture, whether it’s eating pizza or pasta for lunch to having gelato
whenever the time is right, or trying to communicate with the locals at the open
air market, is the best way to learn about and relate to it.
Adam, Donavan and Chris assume Olympian poses in the ruins of Pompeii.
Another way to learn about the Italian culture is to visit the
in Italy. For example, this past weekend, we visited the ancient
city of Pompeii. When Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79 A.D., Pompeii
was engulfed in cinders and volcanic
ash. Thousands of people who did not flee the city when Vesuvius
started to erupt
died and were entombed in volcanic ash. The city remained in this
until 1750, when remains of the city were discovered.
Archeologists have discovered many homes, temples, and household objects. Even
human bodies were found in the ruins, keeping the person frozen in time, moments
before their untimely death. While the story of Pompeii may be a tragic event,
the preservation of the city due to the volcanic eruption has allowed us to learn
of how the ancients lived and constructed their homes. We may not know as much
about ancient Italian life without having uncovered these ruins.
Walking through the ruins of the city, it was interesting to see the construction
of the people homes and learning of how they lived their lives. We walked through
various parts of the city, walking through homes and theaters which showed little
damage despite their age. The end of our tour led us to the forum, which included
a great view of Mount Vesuvius, and temples which retained their structural integrity
through many centuries. Even though these ruins were discovered about 250 years
ago, and we were able to explore a lot of the city, I am still amazed that a large
amount of Pompeii has yet to be uncovered by archeologists.
Being in a different country allows me to learn about a new culture first-hand
and to learn of the different opinions Italians have from Americans. As an engineer,
we may not only be making decisions in the interest of the United States, our
choices may affect those across the world. Programs like the Viterbi Overseas
Program allows us to become aware of different feelings other countries have on
ethic problems that do not only affect the United States. We also can learn about
the different engineering techniques that other countries practice, from the Roman
architecture to the way cars are made to adapt to traffic in Italy. This trip
allows us as undergraduate engineers a unique way to experience different cultures
while remaining in an educational setting.
The Island of Capri
Home of Short Pants and Long Memories
USC Viterbi students found time to visit the Isle of Capri.
past weekend, a few dozen students awoke, excited and eager for a
weekend. However, this was no ordinary weekend, and these were no
ordinary students. These
were 33 undergraduate engineering students on the USC Viterbi overseas
The weekend was going to be filled with the vibrant color and culture,
and sounds, history and hot weather. Pack your sun block boys and
we are going to the beach city of Sorrento, the Isle of Capri and the
city of Pompeii
The weekend began early Friday morning with a three-plus hour bus ride from Rome
to Sorrento. The bus was filled with the sounds of MP3 player music, card games,
laughter and the occasional thermodynamic homework question. The city of Sorrento,
is city on a cliff, overlooking a beautiful turquoise Mediterranean sea. The
streets are paved with cobblestones, winding through the town, dotted with quaint
little shops where you can sip a cappuccino and smell the ocean air. The following
morning, we boarded a boat for Capri. A very wealthy and fashionable island,
Capri has been visited by many influential world leaders, including Grokey, and
Lenin. Many plans for the Bolshevik revolution were hammered out here.
Adam Anderson and Chris Roth returning from Sorrento.
Despite the all encompassing and almost intoxicating beauty of this isle, my
academic character still persisted. I began to wonder how this island obtained
its resources, such as lumber, oil, and most importantly, water. The demand for
water has always been a problem for the residents of Capri for there are no natural
water reserves. As a result, conservation is an essential part of daily living.
One example of their methods to conserve was through their water heating. The
method that is used to heat residential water is more efficient, and more environmental
friendly than the way many of us do in the states. Each house has at least one
heating device that heats the water the instant it’s needed. Cold water is pumped
from the city to the home directly to a heating device. This device is usually
a box .5m x .5m x 1m. Inside the box are a series of copper pipes that are heated
with a natural gas flame. Because water is heated almost instantly, very little
water is wasted while the sink or faucet runs, waiting for warm water. In the
U.S., many homes, including mine, have hot water heaters. Any time I wanted to
use warm water, I would have to turn on the faucet and wait minutes for the cold
water to become hot.
I feel that absorbing and learning from other cultures, and collaborating ideas
is the best and most effective way to bring about a positive change. Similar
to the reason we work in groups for engineering projects, many different people
can bring many different ideas to the table. I would agree that it is important
to have a sense of independence, and not be forced to rely on others 100 percent
of the time. Yet being modest enough, humble enough, and open enough to accept
other ideas, as well as give your own input and assistance, is vitally important
On the boat from Capri, back to Sorrento, I overheard many conversations. Lots
of people were regaling their friends and families of all the things they did
that afternoon. Dialogues between overzealous students, trying to one-up each
other over who did the most with their ephemeral time on the island. Moms claiming
that they got the best deal on the “My mom went to Capri and all I got was this
stupid t-shirt” t-shirt. Dads boasting that they have the best picture on their
digital camera. I recall just watching, watching the island shrink farther and
farther into the distance, thinking back to my day on the peaceful island. The
small narrow streets with their brightly colored houses, the lush vegetation growing
from the nestling hill side, and the clear and refreshing Mediterranian. The
isle of Capri and the etire Italina experience has been filled with rich culture,
and unfailing beauty. This entiere experience will not soon be forgotten.
VITERBO: THE 'CITY OF POPES'
Dan Marsh, Joanne Zhang, May Chang and Donavan
Schaefer pose in front of the Viterbo sign.
Our adventures in Italy continued last weekend as all the students, faculty,
and friends with the engineering study abroad program loaded their tired bodies
onto a bus for our first excursion. Destination: “The City of Popes,” recognized
better as the origin of the School of Engineering’s namesake, Viterbo. Located
only an hour-and-a-half northeast of Rome, Viterbo is the largest city in the
province and is only second in size to Rome within the region of Lazio.
As we circled the outer walls of town, our expectations were
already disproven. Despite a population of 62,000, Viterbo exuded small town
charm; far from a scaled down version of its sister city Rome. We trekked through the dizzying maze or
narrow cobblestone streets and reticent alleys while our tour guide, Donatella,
gave us a uniquely tailored tour of this one time papal refuge. As we passed
beautiful piazzas, walked under medieval archways, gazed upon ancient churches,
Donatella carefully explained not only the historical significance, but the
design, purpose, and even the reasoning behind using specific materials to
Always the engineer, I couldn’t help notice the universal
thread in all of the city’s architecture; its purpose to protect. From the
great walls surrounding the borders, the moats and trenches surrounding each
palace, and the towers hovering over each manor, the entire city was built to
protect its inhabitants. While several exceptions could be seen such as the
intricately designed piazza fountains and the high arching ceilings of the
cathedral, the majority of the city seemed engineered to promote a defensive
stand. Our contemporary world and the early world of Viterbo seemed so distant,
yet in many ways so similar.
In my field of Aerospace Engineering
especially, the majority of development is geared towards some kind of
militaristic purpose. I began to contemplate the importance of adequate defense
and how far along our society has come in terms of ability to protect its
people. The Viterbian’s architectural innovation was monumental when it was
first developed, but as time went on, their defenses became outdated and the
city fell with the rest of the Roman Empire. I
realized that as engineers we must continue to develop and update our
technologies and ability to protect ourselves so that we do not share the same
As I watched Viterbo disappear
through the back window of the bus as we headed home, I couldn’t help feeling
an unfamiliar nostalgia for the quaint city. I shot one last glace at the Papal Palace,
a stately monument hovering above the Italian countryside. With its fortified
walls, religious significance, and unquestionable beauty, what better place to
symbolize the strength of character, ethical morality, and confident grace of
our student body. What a wonderful city.
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