Rome campus Professor Piero Vereni’s course “Urban and Global Rome” is being offered online this semester and is cross-listed with urban studies. Vereni has been teaching the course at Trinity’s Rome campus since 2009. Prior to teaching the class, he had never taught English native speakers before and took the opportunity as a welcome challenge. Though he has now become a veteran at teaching students in English, this year brought a new challenge to teaching American students about Rome.
“When we were asked to teach online I thought ‘wow, that is a great, great challenge.’ We were used to sharing the city itself with the students,” and it would be difficult to transfer that experience online, says Vereni. When students take the class in Rome Vereni and teaching assistant Simone Cerulli take the class around the city. Students studying at Trinity’s Rome campus stay in the city center and don’t usually venture out, but through this class, Vereni and Cerulli take students, “to the periphery of the city, to see marginalized people, foreigners, and people living in squatter settlements.”
Vereni and Cerulli came up with a way to bring students around Rome virtually. On Thursdays, Cerulli rides his motorbike around the city and makes stops to show the students a live view of different sites. Cerulli rode to the cobbler shop of Signor Antonio during a recent class zoom session. The shop is a typical stop on Vereni and Cerulli’s trips around the city with Trinity students. Signor Antonio was in the shop when Cerulli stopped by, and he was able to speak with Signor Antonio with the class listening in.
Though virtually teaching students is a great opportunity, Vereni says, “I really miss the opportunities for real cultural exchange.” Cerulli agrees, adding that when students came to study in Rome, “I had the opportunity to see my own city with different eyes, and to see how the students perceive Romans, the city, and themselves. I miss the opportunity to see myself from outside through the students.”
Stephen Marth, Director of Trinity’s Rome Campus, echoes the opportunities created by virtual teaching, writing, “This strange period, which in theory has been characterized by greater distancing, has given us the opportunity to collaborate more closely with the home campus in new ways. The faculty and staff of the Rome Campus have been able to offer global experiences to students in Hartford and connect in meaningful ways with our colleagues across a number of different departments and centers on campus, like the Center for Urban and Global Studies.”
CUGS and Urban Studies are grateful to Vereni, Cerulli, and Marth for bringing the study of global cities more alive for our students during this time of virtual teaching and learning.