Ciao (and नमस्ते) from Indore, India!
Many apologies for the tardiness of this final reflection. My last month in India has been jam-packed, so, between Hindi homework, updating my other blog (please check out www.adventuresofalingblisst.com if interested), and, most importantly, engaging with my host family, there has been little time for me to work on my other pursuits.
Reflecting on my three weeks spent in Orvieto this June, I emerge from every day feeling blessed to have participated in such a tremendous project. As Joonho mentioned in his summary, the experience was an extremely rewarding learning opportunity—not only, of course, about archaeology and Italy, but also about life itself. I’ll now attempt to summarize some of the memories which have been passing through my mind lately as I think back to my times in those magical Umbrian hills.
First of all, my experience in Orvieto cemented my longstanding passion for studies classical language and history. Although Classics is a discipline encompassing a wide variety of subfields as different as philology and military strategy, I had entered the project only having really studied the linguistic and literary approaches—thus, observing ancient construction and learning archaeological methods was awe-inspiring. By working in the same historic complex every day, I could truly visualize and imagine what an Etruscan or Ancient Roman landscape might have resembled, prompting further research into architectural styles. Deciphering and cataloging inscriptions required a certain artistic and creative eye which I had not previously harvested in many of my studies. Lastly, living and interacting with a team and community of many other highly accomplished and engaging students was a constant learning opportunity through seemingly never-ending discussion, lectures, and sharing of information. Most importantly, I emerged with newfound appreciation for archaeology and its importance in the process of recording history.
Being able to immerse myself in Italian culture for a few weeks also proved quite fruitful. As one who zealously attempts to attain fluency in both foreign language and society, I sought to take advantage of being abroad and made it my secondary goal to learn as much as possible. While much of this happened on the weekends during my various adventures with Joonho in Orvieto, Ostia, Pisa, and the Maremma, it was on those weekdays spent wandering through sleepy Monterubiaglio in search of a pizza lunch, wifi, or a television showing the Euro Cup soccer that I really felt truly plunged within Italian culture. I’m also much more confident in my Italian language ability now—as Joonho can profess, I was a sometimes incessant stickler for bilingual communication and perfect pronunciation, and thus tried to speak with Italians as much as possible in their native tongue. This was indeed great preparation both linguistically and culturally for my study abroad session in Rome this winter.
Lastly, the long hours working every day strengthened my resolve and taught me a few lessons about life itself. I’ll be quite frank when I say that digging for nearly eight hours per day was no simple task. Although I certainly did not expect it to be easy, I sincerely underestimated the toll of the Italian sun and heavy pickaxe on one’s body. Persevering through such conditions definitely was quite the challenge, but I am quite satisfied with the way everyone handled the long work day. I learned through trial and error that one should not count the hours until break or lament in their toil, but rather work with a smile on his face and an upbeat attitude—the day will fly by more quickly than one can even imagine! For a city boy like myself, spending so much time in the dirt was also a very positive step out of the comfort zone—I returned from work some days dirtier and sweatier than I had ever been before. This only confirmed, though, one of the guiding precepts of my life: that unfamiliar and slightly challenging hurdles only result in enormous personal growth. Moreover, I’ve even taken to upholding these mantras learned in the Tuscan sun here in my Indian exchange.
None of this could have been accomplished, however, without the help of so many people during the project. First of all, I am extremely appreciative Exeter for awarding and financing my participation in the Orvieto program—we students are so fortunate that the Exeter Classics Department provides so many opportunities for students to grow their classical pursuits off-campus. Much gratitude goes to the Dig Umbria benefactors who make such an experience possible—you’re helping both the American academic community by enabling scholars to conduct field work, as well as the Orvieto area by drawing attention to its colorful historic past and providing artifacts to its museums. Grazie mille to all of the Dig Umbria leaders for being so helpful and welcoming us high school students onto their team. Gratias maximas to Professor George in particular, who went out of his way not only to accommodate but also to encourage Joonho’s and my special interest in working with inscriptions. And a shout-out to all of the other team members, from the laboratory to the Cavità—archaeology is truly a “team” science, and each of you was truly a great comrade in the trenches! Of course, I cannot refrain from mentioning how happy and lucky I was to have such an intelligent, hard-working, and fun companion as Joonho; a constant source of motivation, he always managed to cheer me up no matter how arduous of a day just passed. Here’s to the first of many great adventures between us!
One final thank you to everyone who has been keeping up with our studies—it’s truly an honor to have been featured on the Exeter website and shared on Facebook so often! We’re amazed at how many people managed to view our site, and hope we’ve inspired a budding classicist somewhere among you all.