By Taylor Starkey, Chattanooga, Tenn. —

For a little over two weeks, 49 students and five faculty members got the opportunity to call Florence, Italy home.

The 18-day trip, which last from May 15 until June 2,  was the first of its kind and Dr. Scott Seagle, the Senior Instructional Developer at the Walker Center for Teacher and Learning, believes it was an unforgettable experience for the group.

“My favorite thing about the trip was the amount of collaborative and experiential learning that took place over the course of just 18 days,” Seagle said,” the unique interdisciplinary design of the trip afforded students the freedom to select a course that complimented their major as well as the ability to experience cross disciplinary excursions and activities.”

The group was comprised of students who were enrolled in five special topics courses for the spring: History of Italian Architecture, Machiavelli, Arts Integration, Sociology of Sports and World Civilizations III in the interior design, political science, human health and performance, history, and education departments. The trip, which acted as a supplement to those classes, cost students $3000.

While abroad, students got the opportunity to see numerous Italian landmarks. Such excursions included climbing Brunelleschi’s Dome, the largest masonry dome ever built; touring Uffizi Gallery, home to works by countless world-renowned artists like Michelangelo and Raffaello; and a tour of the Boboli Gardens.

One of the most notable expeditions was a four-day trip to Rome where the students were able to visit historical sites like the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and many more located within the Italian capital. In addition to the endless amount of landmarks they saw, several students even received a blessing from Pope Francis.

Zach Hall, a junior political science major from Ooltewah, Tennessee, said there was plenty to love about Italy.

“The food was delicious, the history and architecture were astounding, and the differences between Italian and American cultures were fascinating to navigate,” Hall said.

However, Hall said his incredible experience is owed largely to the students he shared the experience with.

“I’ve come away from it with new friendships, and old ones now cemented in the cobblestone of Italy,” Hall said, “truly, getting to learn and experience all these new, and old, things was made great by the people around me.”

Several students also planned time for independent travel during their stay; traveling to places such as Paris, London and Milan.

Sheree Dennis, a senior education major from Memphis, said even the smallest things, like gelato, made it hard to come home and back to reality.

“I feel like I gained so much knowledge from this trip with everything we did- walking tours, visiting museums together- and I found out so much about myself,” said Dennis.

Seagle hopes that similar trips abroad will be available for students in the following year.

“It is our hope that this type of trip could be offered every year,” said Seagle, “this high impact practice is beneficial for deepening students’ learning and increasing their engagement and fits perfectly into UTC’s Mission to ‘embrace diversity and inclusion as a path to excellence and societal change’ by providing ‘increased opportunities for UTC students, faculty and staff to have international experiences.’”