Far From Home: Traveling Abroad with PC’s Education Department to Italy


Lauren Andrews

The Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, a Roman Catholic church that’s the site of frequent pilgrimages. The basilica contains numerous tombs, including the tomb of St. Anthony and other significant artwork.

Lauren Andrews, Editor

Last May, the Education Department at Presbyterian College had the opportunity to travel to Italy and explore both the Reggio Emilia and Montessori methods of teaching.

Through a Maymester program, the visit allowed students to take short trips abroad shortly after the end of the spring semester. The professors who advised the trip were Dr. Patricia Jones, the Director of the Education Department and the Elementary & Early Childhood Coordinator, and Dr. Julia Wilkins, a professor in the Education Department, both of whom are very familiar with traveling abroad in Europe. 

As one of 12 PC students who traveled from Clinton to Italy alongside the two professors, I have to say that I was lucky enough to be a part of the group!

The trip consisted of five flights total–two there and three coming back–which were definitely the most stressful part of the trip. The longest flight, from Philadelphia to Padua, Italy, was over eight hours long! This is not to mention the fact that we had to sleep on the flight and get moving immediately once the plane landed, as the local time in Padua was nine in the morning (six hours ahead of time than what we were all used to).

Outside of the airport, the beautiful and artful atmosphere of Padua made the adjustment much easier, with jet lag leaving the forefront of our minds. 

The first day was mostly just a free day to get acquainted with the city. This was a little difficult given how tired we all were, but it was a fun, adventurous introduction to our first stop on the trip!

For the following two days in Padua, we went on guided tours exploring the most beautiful Cathedrals and Basilicas I’d ever seen. We learned about the intriguing history of a country much older than our own, and the culture that has persisted since. 

One of these experiences was at the second oldest university in Italy, the University of Padua. At the school where Galileo Galilei taught, we got to see not only the anatomical theater, but the same podium that Galieli used with our own eyes!

Padua was a historical hotspot and very easy on the eyes (an understatement, really), but the tour was made so that each city was bigger than the last, and Bologna, our next destination, had much to offer as well.

A sculpture made by Tullio Lombardo that resides in the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua. (Lauren Andrews)

Bologna allowed us the opportunity to explore the educational sphere of Italy a little more intensely than in Padua. We visited schools and engaged in some of the activities that the students themselves did in order to fully understand the mindset of the children while they learned. 

We were lucky enough to have a tour of one facility that had an entire exhibit of the children’s lessons (which were sculptures made from household items) and given both a written and verbal explanation of each child’s thought process while making their projects.

The final stop of the trip was in Florence, undeniably the biggest and busiest city of the trip. The last few days were also the most quick-paced, with an unexpected visit to a vineyard squeezed into our last full day, along with a visit to a parmesan cheese factory and balsamic vinegar producer. 

The streets of Florence were always packed, especially with the most Americans that we’d encountered throughout our trip, and they were lined with the cutest shops and boutiques. We also managed to slip in an unplanned visit to the Accademia Gallery, the museum where Michelangelo’s David is housed along with many other famous works of art. 

Florence was my favorite city out of the trip, mostly due to the amount of activities we were able to do there, and that opinion was shared by many of the other students on the trip.

My favorite part of the trip was definitely the cooking class we did in Florence–we worked in pairs and groups and made our own pasta by hand, as well as our own tiramisu, and the chefs were all so kind and helpful. The atmosphere and food were both incredible. The food throughout the entirety of the trip was a huge bonus; coming back to the States was even harder after beginning to acquire a taste for “high end” cuisine. 

I was extremely hesitant and scared about going on this trip initially; my friend urged me to go with her and I was very firm on my “no,” but I am so grateful that I ultimately chose to go and had the opportunity to do so thanks to PC. 

I’m a very introverted person, but I would gladly go on another trip abroad through PC if I had the opportunity, and I would urge every student who is able to take advantage of traveling through the school to do so!