Gretchen Wright

Gretchen Wright

Class of 2020, English, Classical Civilizations
Latin
ICCS Rome

  • Me on top of Monte Solaro, Capri.
Me on top of Monte Solaro, Capri.

Gretchen Elise Wright is an English and Classical Civilizations double major with a Latin minor. She studied abroad for a semester at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (ICCS) program administered by Duke. She graduates in May 2020.

 

On why she decided to do this program...

“I chose this program because I wanted to study somewhere I’d be fully immersed in the history and culture of the place. ICCS certainly followed through.  Three of my five classes rarely—if ever—met in a classroom. Instead, they took place throughout the city of Rome.  Rather than sit at plastic desks in a stuffy classroom, we heard lectures about the Pantheon while standing under its oculus. In the ancient city of Pompeii we strolled the same route as the people who’d been caught in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. We walked around Raphaels, Michelangelos, and Caravaggios instead of studying grainy images in textbooks or slideshows.  When I initially read the description of this program, I could see how intensely immersive and experiential it would be. And as you can tell, I wasn’t wrong.”

Me (spot the Duke hat!) in the Valle dei Templi, Agrigento, Sicily.
Me (spot the Duke hat!) in the Valle dei Templi, Agrigento, Sicily.

On what surprised her or turned out differently...

“I didn’t expect to make many friends during this program.  I already had a great community at Duke, and wondered how I could possibly find anyone to replicate that group while abroad.  I was so excited to live in Rome that leaving my community at Duke didn’t deter me—I told myself that four months would fly by.  To my surprise and delight, I made beautiful, genuine, lasting friendships with some of the best people I’ve ever met. These new friends were as eager to explore this new city as I was. They put up with my occasional moodiness when I was still adjusting to the Italian time zone, culture, and schedule. And best of all, they shared my love for classical studies.  Classics departments are usually small, and while Duke’s department is exceptional, I’d never met other undergraduate students who were as interested as me in ancient art, history, literature, and culture.  I know that these ICCS friends will be invaluable sources of support and connection as I move throughout my professional career. I’m so thankful that my initial expectations proved false!”

Me and friends from the program at Morgantina, Sicily.
Me and friends from the program at Morgantina, Sicily.

On her greatest takeaway from the program...

“My greatest takeaway from this program is the importance of public avenues for conversation, art, and study.  Rome is a wonderful example of just how crucial public spaces are for scholarly and humanitarian pursuits—one can have debates in the Ancient Roman Forum or visit the many museums which are open to the community. During my semester abroad, I wandered through more piazzas, museums, and libraries than I can count. These cultural spaces are essential for supporting an educated, informed populace that is empathetic to worldviews different from its own. My semester exploring the museums and libraries of Rome confirmed my dream to one day work in a place like them.”

Me and friends from the program with the Prima Porta Augustus in the Vatican Museums, Rome.
Me and friends from the program with the Prima Porta Augustus in the Vatican Museums, Rome.

On how this program will play into the rest of her undergraduate career...

“This program taught me to radiate confidence when I speak in class, on a topic that I’m knowledgeable about.  Before my semester abroad, I often let other students answer questions that I knew the answers to, because I wasn’t absolutely positive that I was correct.  Now, after studying such a particular area for a whole semester, I feel confident enough to speak up, using my experiences and knowledge for support.  The information I learned while studying in Rome has been applicable in not just my Latin and Classical Studies electives, but also in a variety of classes from Shakespeare, to Zora Neale Hurston, to the movement of tectonic plates. Thanks to ICCS, for the first time I feel qualified and confident enough to regularly contribute to class discussions.”

Me in front of Mt. Vesuvius in the forum of Pompeii.
Me in front of Mt. Vesuvius in the forum of Pompeii.

On advice she has for other students considering the program...

“The only thing I have to say is go for it!  Jump wholeheartedly into this program, this city, and this adventure.  I can affirm that all the doubts you may be having, I already had. I know—it’s so far from home!  There are so many questions on the application!  The visa process looks complicated!  Classes will be hard!  I might not meet anyone to be friends with!  I’ll miss Countdown to Craziness and the start of the basketball season! But trust me, after just a few days in Rome all of these concerns will fade, thanks to the roar of Vespas on cobblestone streets and the smell of pasta carbonara.  You’ll learn a ton, see beautiful ancient sites, and meet kind, dedicated classmates.  This program will change your life, your understanding of your world, and your plans for the future.  Don’t hold back: go for it!”


Programs Featured:

ICCS Rome

 

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A Spanish Excursion: Brandon Dalla Rosa

"I now realize the importance of mixing and understanding different cultures, and will definitely attempt to integrate that into any future job that I find. To any future students studying abroad, all I can say is to let your mind remain open to any possibilities that may occur, no matter how strange."
 

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Gaining Fluency in a Second Foreign Language

"Aix-en-Provence is the ideal locale for six weeks of immersing yourself in French culture and living with a host family. French is my second foreign language (I’m an English and Spanish double major) and this intensive course has been exactly what I need—the highlight of my experience has been gaining confidence in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing French!"
 

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Breakfast on the Farm

"I spent my Christmas break working on a farm to pay for my stay in the south of France. The first thing we did on the farm each morning was to throw stale baguettes into the pastures. Alpacas, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks—they all went crazy for those baguettes."

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Smashing Watermelons, Smashing Politics on Duke in the Arab World

"Every meal has been accompanied by some of the most intriguing political conversations I’ve ever had. Sure, the language barriers have kept the conversation from getting very conceptual or abstract, but this actually seems to be a positive thing. It is much more tangible."
 

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Duke in Silicon Valley 2016: Week 2 Recap

Week 2 Woohooo! We had the privilege of starting class with Dr. J (Dr. Jeremy Petranka) this week. I say privilege because several of us have already started calling Dr. J the best professor we have ever had.

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Spring in Berlin: On classes, host family, and friends

"I am a Chinese national, and I went to high school in Singapore. I knew coming into Duke that I wanted to study abroad somewhere and I wanted to learn a new language. Duke in Berlin allowed beginners and, compared to other programs, that was unique."
 

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