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2008 Postcards from Rome

Greetings From Rome!

Studying abroad has been a great experience for me both in expanding my global perspective, as well as helping me develop as an engineer.  One of the first things I noticed in Rome is the rich history and proud culture of the Italians.  It has been an adventure learning about one of history’s strongest empires in various textbooks, and then visiting the actual sites in person such as the Roman Forum, Palatine Hills, and the Coliseum.  The amazing Italian food has also been one of the highlights of the trip.  Experiencing fresh pasta, and some of the best pizza in the world has been a real treat.
   inside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

While studying and observing the Italian culture, I came across many amazing, historic sights every day.  Being an engineer, I was constantly impressed by the amazing architectural feats, from centuries ago.  For example, the Pantheon and its perfectly spherical brick dome, or the Coliseum, with its many trap doors and elevators in the arena.  One of the most rewarding experiences has been visiting galleries filled with paintings and sculptures made by the masters:  Michelangelo, Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, the list goes on and on.  Contemplating the genius of Michelangelo carving his statue of David from a single block of marble is not only an amazing artistic feat, but a major engineering accomplishment as well.

Through this study abroad program, I have learned a lot about European culture, and also learned quite a bit about myself along the way.  I am very glad I had the opportunity to study overseas, and I look forward to returning to Rome in the future.

Eric Nakasako


Studying abroad in Rome has surpassed all my preliminary expectations.  At first I was a bit nervous studying abroad because it was the first time I would be in a foreign country and I would be separated from my family for 7 weeks.  As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I felt that even though I was halfway around the world, Rome didn’t seem as foreign as I thought it was going to be.  Of course there are huge differences between Rome and Los Angeles, but I have come to cherish Rome as my 2nd home away from home.  I have learned to appreciate a lot of the things I have taken for granted living in Los Angeles, such as air conditioning, gallon-sized milk and the variety of brands at the supermarket.  Our supermarkets in America must overwhelm the Italians when they visit our country.
Left to right: Penny Ishizuka, Stephanie Fong, Sapna Shah waiting to board the hydrofoil to Capri.

The Italian lifestyle has fascinated me immensely.  I love the energy efficiency of the whole country with their Smart cars, motor scooters, public transportation, dual-flush toilets, and motion censored lighting.  Despite the crazy Italian drivers making a 2-lane street into 5-lanes, it has been a real eye opener to see how another country functions on a day-to-day basis.
I truly enjoyed my time here in Rome.  I will miss it greatly and will cherish all the new experiences I’ve gained.

—Stephanie Fong

Ciao a tutti!

…Or “Hello to all of you!” in English, was the first useful phrase that I learned here in Roma—the Eternal City. 

It’s hard to believe that seven weeks ago, I stepped foot on foreign soil for the first time in my life.  What’s even more striking is that seven weeks ago, I could not have imagined seeing the Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican, and the Forum in person.  It is funny how things change, right? 

I feel like this trip, along with new friendships and great pictures, has given me so much more of the intangible benefits of travelling abroad.  Just through observation, I’ve gained the global perspective needed in order to develop into a professional engineer.  Whether it is with rooftop gardens, wood-fired pizza ovens, or delicious gelato, Rome helped me to realize that there is more than one way to optimize technology. 
Ben Kastroll in Orvieto.

Most people would agree that when travelling abroad, it is inevitable to return without noticing your change in attitude.  I feel as though the Viterbi Overseas Program helped me take a step forward into being a more profound engineer and also a more profound person.  With culturing experiences like “Carmen” at Teatro del Opera or trips to the Basilica at St. Peter’s, I feel more like a well-rounded individual.  I can safely say that these past seven weeks have brought forth a change in me, both personally and professionally, that I will remember for the rest of my life.    

—Ben Kastroll

Rest and Relaxation

While spending seven weeks here in Rome, Italy I have attended classes four times a week and went on excursions around different regions of Italy every weekend.  Now, at the end of the trip, I finally have a free moment to reflect upon and share some of my most eye-opening experiences.

It’s a bit ironic that I haven’t had a free moment to sit down and think about my experiences especially because the Italians, as I have observed, have a strong emphasis on relaxation.  Not only do they have siesta everyday between 2 and 4 PM, but many restaurants did not rush to give me the bill once I was done eating.  It was peaceful to be able to sit with friends and relax at every restaurant.  
View of Vernazza, one of the towns of the Cinque Terre, during the hike on Via dell’Amore.

One of the best experiences I had while here in Italy was on our first free weekend from Friday to Sunday.  Eight other people and I went to the Cinque Terre.  Upon arrival, we settled in a hostel with a balcony overlooking the endless body of water.  Immediately we headed down to a small beach.  A midday nap while basking in the hot sun felt like paradise.  The next day we decided to hike on Via dell’Amore—the trail between all five towns.  The beginning of the trail was gorgeous because it was on a hill right above the sea.  Once we arrived at the second and third towns, there were rocky stairs and narrow paths.  I hiked at my own pace which was necessary to enjoy the trees around me with the beautiful ocean to my left.  Upon reaching Monterosso, the fifth town, we immediately went to another beach.  Unlike the crashing waves and rip tides of Southern California beaches, the water in Cinque Terre was calm and refreshing.  I found that it was most calming to float in sea water to keep cool with the sun rays beaming all around.  

When we weren’t at the beach, we were probably at a restaurant.  We sat on the patio of a restaurant right on the shore of Cinque Terre.  We started off with appetizers during their aperitivo and stayed for scrumptious pesto gnocchi and affogato—a cup of heavenly deliciousness (read: gelato and espresso).  It was there that we sat for four hours enjoying the company of each other by the serene coastline.  This experience allowed me to get away from the bustling city full of tourists and enjoy the people and environment around me in peace and quiet.  

I also began to think about how this experience has caused me to develop as an engineering student.  While on weekend excursions around other parts of Italy, I was exposed to a vast number of churches and cathedrals.  Each time I was amazed by architects, artists, and engineers’ ability to have a vision of and to create such gigantic buildings, frescoes, and statues without the technology we have today.  Perhaps it was a natural talent these people had, or perhaps it was the cultural emphasis on relaxation allowing them the time to ponder ideas and find inspiration for their artwork.  In any case, I have learned to value the time I have to relax, and to temporarily get away from all my obligations.  Maybe one day I’ll come up with something half as inspiring as the sculptures, buildings, and artwork I have seen here in Italy.  


Amy Joe
Biomedical (Biochemical) Engineering
Liana Ching Cropped
David Reese and Liana Chang standing atop the Monumento Vittorio Emanuele II, overlooking the heart of Rome.


It's been almost seven weeks now and as we approach the end of our time here in Rome, I've begun reflecting on what I'll miss from here.  There is, of course, a list of places and people and definitely foods that I'll reminisce over from time to time, but I think I'll miss the atmosphere of small town Italy the most.  I have fond memories of towns like Orvieto and Assisi where we enjoyed delicious wine and pizza while looking over these fortress walls down onto the endless fields of Umbrian vineyards and farms scattered across the majority of central Italy.

As we traveled across the northern and coastal parts of Italy, I realized that this was a truly unique feeling that was definitely elusive in south central LA.  I'll treasure the emotions incited by the Orvieto atmosphere until I get a chance to visit again, but in the meantime, it's back to the fast-paced city of Los Angeles for me.  Whether or not I return is still uncertain but one thing I know for sure is that the person flying into LA isn't the same as the one who walked out seven weeks ago. 

I'll return with more friends, more experience, and more confidence from knowing that I was able to overcome language barriers, recover from directional mishaps, navigate through pickpockets, and even cook my own Italian dinners (aka pasta).  And I know, even as my semesters become more and more hectic, that if I can climb five hundred steps in oppressive summer heat to the top of St. Peter's Basilica, I'll survive.  Still, if I ever feel too overwhelmed, I'll know it'll only take a bottle of wine, a home-made pizza, and my memories on the roof of my apartment to bring me back to the beautiful hills of Italy.
Ciao a tutti!

 —Lynn Jane Ho,
Biomedical Engineering

Ciao a Roma Everyone!

As my summer abroad winds down, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my experiences here have inspired me and allowed me to grow as a person.  While every day here has presented unique, fun, sometimes challenging, yet always fascinating events, I feel like simply having the opportunity to walk around, explore, and simply be in Rome has had the greatest impact for me. 

There was something that really clicked inside me when I witnessed a crowd gathering to read, laugh, and clap as a man glued his political satire to the statue of Pasquino, or the jubilant songs and parades of the Istrice neighborhood after winning Siena’s Palio…  And it saddens me a little to know that I’ll be leaving events like these behind when I travel back to the States. 

But while there may not be “talking statues,” or town-square horseraces where I come from, I can bring back what these inspired in me. I will come home with a renewed faith in the idea of community, the feeling of camaraderie that inspires applause in the middle of the street, a song amongst neighbors, or a “ciao bella” from a young man to an elderly woman as he finishes helping her carry groceries.  And it is this deeper feeling that I can find back home, now that I know to look for it.

See You Soon!
—Brennan Barker
Director of Communications, USC Rugby Football Club; Corresponding Secretary, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society;
B.S. Candidate, USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Postcard from Rome

At first it seemed almost like Disneyland. I would walk down a beautiful, crooked cobblestone road, turn the corner, and the Pantheon would suddenly appear. Turn down another street lined with picturesque building facades, and I found myself looking around in Piazza Navona. St. Peter's Basilica was even on my daily walk to class. Everything was almost too beautiful, too perfect, too overwhelming.
The view from the Forum to the Colosseum - Fight On!

But then I stepped into a packed laundromat, overstuffed bag of clothes in hand, and was faced with a seemingly endless stream of Italian words from someone who did not look especially pleased that I did not know what the procedure was. I was definitely in a foreign country. I was again overwhelmed, but this time by a serious language barrier. Suddenly I had a problem -- which is, of course, no problem for an engineer. I relaxed, took a deep breath, and pushed forward with the little Italian I knew (most importantly, mi dispiace, which means "I'm sorry"). I took advantage of the Italian proclivity for expressive hand gestures and body language, and soon enough I was walking out with a bag of clean clothes. Communication is not always easy, but it is of the utmost importance, especially for engineers, and this trip has forced me out of my comfort zone and made me learn to communicate in new ways. This has been an invaluable experience for me, both as an engineer and a human being.

As a side note, the pizza was unlike anything I've ever tasted before. Or ever will

Andrew Bagwell
Industrial and Systems Engineering '10

Ciao tutti!

Rome has been exquisite! My experience in the eternal city has made me an infinitely more patient person. The language barrier made everyday thinkgs like grocery shopping and getting directions much more complicated than I previously thought possible. As an engineer, I’m sure my newfound patience for problem solving will be an excellent asset. The first few weeks here were very difficult but after learning some key words and hand gestures and asking people for help, it all became much simpler.
Left to right: Robin Hartman, Orvieto shop owner and Penny Ishizuka. Photo taken by Kari Wong.

I remember when we were in Orvieto, a small town about an hour outside of Rome, we found a local sandwich shop. The owner spoke three words of English and we spoke five words of Italian. The business interaction consisted mostly of pointing at meats and cheeses and saying “Como se dice?” or “How is it called?” Despite the fact that it took about 10 minutes to order each sandwich, everyone including the owner was laughing and smiling. I’ve realized that there is no hurry and that half the fun of being somewhere new like Italy is overcoming the communication barriers and loving every minute of it.

I’m sure I will never forget my experiences with impatient grocery clerks and angry bus rivers, but I will also remember how patient and friendly so many of the business owners and the general people were, much like the sandwich shop owner.

Robin Hartman

Postcard from Rome Study Abroad – Summer 2008

I have never been one to stray to far from home and family: college is only an hour car drive away and three of my relatives attend USC with me. This trip to Rome for the summer of 2008 has pushed me way out of my comfort zone to a place where I didn’t really know anyone, didn’t know where anything was, and didn’t even speak the language.

As I realized how much fun these new challenges could be I also realized how much inner strength I have. Adapting to Italian culture has been difficult at times but as a whole it has been a fun experience. After all, who wouldn’t want to eat pizza and gelato every day?

We also got to tour some of the oldest, most impressive buildings in the world, from the coliseum to the Vatican. Who knew that engineers hundreds of years ago could build such massive structures that would endure for centuries? All of the amazing buildings and monuments that exist in Rome have inspired me to put my mark into the world, and the lessons we have learned while attending classes will help me achieve this goal.

I cannot wait to get home and see my friends and family again but I am sad to say goodbye to Italy. This trip has shown me that I can overcome new situations and, through the process, become a more mature, cultured individual.

—Amanda Woodburn
Alpha Chi Omega, V.P. of Intellectual Development, Upsilon Pi Epsilon, Secretary

Amy Joe 2
Spires of a cathedral.  --Amy Joe photo
Greetings from Rome!

After spending 7 weeks here in Rome, the best experiences I have had have been on the planned and free weekends traveling throughout Italy.  All of these trips were not only fun but also very valuable learning experiences about different cultures.  We had the opportunity of traveling to the region of Umbria to the towns of Assisi and Orvieto, while also getting to experience Sorrento and the island of Capri as well as Florence and Venice.  In each one of these places, we were able to come into contact with new types of food, varying practices of art, and different types of people. 

Even though I had a very difficult language barrier to overcome, just interacting with the people here was a very neat experience.  Experiencing these different people groups and cultural practices has in me a love for different cultures and a desire to experience more of them all around the world.  The biggest effect of this has been on how I have developed as an engineer.  This has helped me to decide that I want to take my engineering knowledge abroad to experience and help other cultures. 

USC has given every student an amazing opportunity to experience different cultures and the Viterbi Overseas Rome 2008 trip was a prime example of helping a group of students to do this.

—Michael Thompson

Buon Giorno!

Listening to Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, I made my final walk through the Vatican on my way to class. It was definitely sad; I have finally finished my seven week study abroad program in Rome. As I turned to look at St. Peter’s Basilica one lat time, I began to reflect upon all that I have experienced – the initial culture shock, the slowly diminishing language barrier, the constant presence of historical monuments, and the food…oh the food! Italy, in all respects, has just been fabulous – truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, even despite my previous world travels.

I began to think about how my world had changed, how my perspective had changed, how I had changed. I remember the first moments of our trip, the novelty of being in a foreign country as a young adult. Every aspect of the first two weeks was new and exciting, and I couldn’t get enough. I’m embarrassed to say, though, that the middle four weeks were a blur – I got caught up in doing schoolwork that I forgot to stop, take a breath of Roman air, and observe what was happening around me. Jaded would probably be a good way to describe it…or maybe I had just become too comfortable in Italy. But now that we are finishing up our seventh week, I have started observing things again; I have found a new appreciation for all that I have experienced here.

Not surprisingly, spending seven weeks in the undisputed capital of ancient engineering prowess has changed me as an engineer as well. Although no accomplishments heralding chemical engineering stand within the city, I have gained a new perspective on the importance of our studies and my decision to be an engineer. Monuments such as the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and the Coliseum have not only stood for millennia, but remain standing, providing a daily reminder of the lasting power of engineers. There is no better testament to the significance of engineering than these historic monuments around which the modern city of Rome has been built. These daily reminders have given me a new respect for those who pursue engineering as a career.

The final movement of Lux Aeterna comes softly to a close, coinciding with the symbolic ending of our program in Rome. The experience here has been truly indescribable – not just about studying, not just about being abroad, but a fabulous combination of both. In seven weeks, I was able to learn about myself as an engineer through my courses; but more importantly, I was able to learn about myself as a world traveller, as a person in general.   

Che buono e la vita. How good life is.

Christina Brock

Greetings from Rome! 

Today is the last day of class and as I’m sitting here in the Accent Center, memories from the past seven weeks are rushing through my mind.  As I recollect my experiences, I realize as an aspiring engineer, just how fortunate I have been to have the opportunity to study abroad in a country with engineering so heavily embedded into the history of the country.  Looking back at the first week, it is no surprise that I have grown as an individual and been enriched academically, culturally, and artistically.

On a personal level, being away from Southern California for the first time has allowed me to become more independent and establish new friendships while studying abroad has forced me to become worldly in my mindset and find balance travelling and studying.   Additionally, I loved embracing the culture through the delicious food, entertainment, desserts, and customs as well as noting the differences between our American culture and their Italian culture.   Learning about the culture through the various weekend trips, opera, and cooking class helped me further familiarize myself with the Italian culture.   When I walk the streets of Rome now, the streets and landmarks are familiar and I no longer feel like a tourist as I did in the beginning, but more like a student in Rome.

Being immersed in the architectural and engineering achievements found here in Rome has greatly impacted my view on engineering and brought me a greater appreciation for the early engineers of Rome.  Prior to coming to Italy, I had only seen pictures of these amazing engineering feats like the Colosseum and Pantheon, however, looking at the actual historical monument brought about an incredibly surreal feeling.  I am still in awe that these structures were built in early Roman history with limited technology and it has spurred new excitement about engineering and its possibilities.

Furthermore, seeing the works of Leonardo DaVinci, Bernini, and of course Michelangelo was all inspirational.  I was particularly impacted by the works of Michelangelo – the artist, sculpture, engineer, and Renaissance legend.  To have so many talents and excel at all of them is incredible and his work has not only changed my image of art but has also broadened my appreciation for art as well.

Lastly, through this study abroad program, I have established friendships with other USC engineering students and staff that I probably would not have met otherwise.  I think it has been great working, rooming, and traveling with fellow Viterbi students.  This study abroad experience has been an amazing opportunity and I am very fortunate to have had the chance to participate in this program.  

—Kari Wong

A group of Viterbi engineers in Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter¹s Square). From left to right: Stephanie Fong, Tina Chou, Shanling Yang, Penny Ishizuka, Sarah Nothnagel, Doreen Liou, Robin Hartman, Sapna Shah, and Lynn Jane Ho.
A Journey to Remember

As I look back on the past seven weeks I spent studying abroad, I still find it difficult to believe how many miles I’ve traveled (both by foot and by train) and how much I’ve accomplished with fellow Trojan engineers. This unique opportunity has allowed me to experience the world outside North America for the first time, face new challenges, and fully immerse myself in a culture different than my own.

Although I missed the wide selection of cereals and the foot-long sandwiches at home, I welcomed the flavorful foods, lively atmosphere, and sweet charisma of Italians. It’s not just the delicious gelato, assorted pastas, and thin crust pizzas that give Italy its unique flavor, but also the fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish at open-air markets. I never knew eggplants and tomatoes came in so many different shapes and sizes!

The novelty of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Italy lingered in my senses for the first few weeks and eventually transformed my daily routine into a game of observations. As an engineer, I couldn’t help noticing how the miniature cars and modest supermarkets complemented the massive churches and towering statues in every corner of the city. These impressive monuments seemed to symbolize the Italians’ pride in their country, faith, and rich history.

During this eye-opening journey, I discovered my personal limitations while I crossed new boundaries each day. Whether I was biking on the bumpy Appian Way with scrapes and bruises, bargaining with Italian street vendors, or dodging motorists in the chaotic streets of Rome with my laptop and books, I was constantly being challenged, both mentally and physically. I thrived on these challenges and sought more ways to satisfy my thirst for adventure. As I leave behind this amazing city, I look forward to exploring other parts of the world and sharing my newfound knowledge with family and friends.

Tina Chou
Electrical Engineering ‘10