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SGPS Global Studies Group Journal

Linda Romanowski '75 - August 1, 2019

 

Photo of a group of students standing in front of a tall brick wall that has a sign on it that says "Sant Anna Institute". They of mixed gender and ethnicity with white, black, and asians included.

SGPS student Linda Romanowski '75 pens a series of online journal entries about the Summer 2019 Global Studies Program


Footnotes & Footsteps

Entry No. 11: 8/19/19

Listed here are some of the thoughts collected from three of the students who participated in the program:

THE FOOTNOTES

Brittany Blythe: “When we arrived in Italy, I was excited. I could not wait to explore and learn about the history, culture, and the healthcare system. I was overwhelmed with pride that I was exploring a new territory and pushing myself to new levels. I was excited to be able to learn more about a culture that I do not have much knowledge on. I felt focused and empowered to be able to try and learn about a healthcare system that was much different than the United States [system].”

“I think that the study did a great job of providing a unique experience for students who were interested in understanding healthcare on a deeper level. This experience helped me have a better appreciation for the progress that the United States healthcare [system] has made to help patients have better access to healthcare.”

“Overall, I think that this study was an amazing experience that truly impacted my life. I was able to have hands-on experience with residents in Italy and compare their thoughts to those in America. I was able to understand different perspectives from other students, healthcare workers, and staff.”

Bhaskari Lakshmi Budhavarapu: “It was such a wonderful experience touring Sorrento, Italy, and learning about both the United States healthcare system and the Italian healthcare system. My favorite part of this trip was getting immersed in their culture and meeting the [local] people. I have made some wonderful memories that I will cherish forever, with such wonderful people. The people I have met on this trip have impacted my life.”

Eschell Jackson: “This global study with Rosemont was educational. I met so many people who were open-minded, smart, and social. We all explored Sorrento, Rome, and Naples together. We had the best instructors, and I’m sure I speak for all when I say we all left inspired to travel more and to learn about other cultures. This was a well-organized trip!”

 

Listed here is an account of the daily and total averages of our “footsteps” during the trip, as calculated by a phone app:


THE FOOTSTEPS
Daily average miles walked: 5.73 
Daily average footsteps taken: 13,099.67 
Daily average stair flight climbing: 11.67

Total miles walked by the group: 1,513.6
Total footsteps taken by the group: 3.46 million 
Total stair flight climbing by the group: 3,080. 

The sum of the total experience of the Global Studies Program: Priceless!!!

Farewell To Sorrento

Entry No. 10: 8/15/19

Craig Loundas, PhD, MS, a member of the Rosemont College faculty, suggested the most efficient approach was to load the somewhat compact elevator with suitcases, with several of us waiting on the first floor to remove them. This was brilliant as well as efficient. We retrieved our possessions expeditiously and prepared ourselves for the walk to our pickup location at the Hotel Bellevue Syrene.

The downhill haul we made when we pulled our luggage into Sant’Anna came to mind, except now, the walk was uphill and without the presence of motorcycles or cars. Staggering uphill presented other challenges. The pre-dawn hour was an unexpected blessing without dodging any vehicles. Our clacking luggage wheels over the volcanic tuff stone streets shattered the silent, mysterious, semi-dark hour.

The best description that comes to mind to describe the sound of our final walk is to that of elephants tap dancing. Hardly elegant. Yet, as we waited for our transport bus, it was enchanting to experience this interlude, when only nature breathed quietly for a few more hours, when the awakening aroma of the foliage filled the air, when Vesuvius was barely visible, soon to show its grandeur.

Just as the group did not arrive together, we did not depart together. Three of us were flying to Newark, NJ, and their discovery that their already-delayed flight would be delayed further caused consternation. It was a disconcerting, helpless feeling. We kept tabs among ourselves through WhatsApp, a consistent lifeline throughout our trip.

Those of us who arrived at Philadelphia International Airport faced a seemingly endless theater rope line. It moved fairly quickly, all things considered. At first glance, it looked as if there were 1,000 people in line. We were stunned to see the news the following evening: We were not caught in the customs computer shutdown that stranded the Friday evening passengers for several hours. To say we were fortunate would be understatement.

***

What can be said about a Global Studies Program? Total immersion in another culture is life-changing.  Immersion is the active learning process that allows all the senses to perceive knowledge.  “Book learning” alone has its limitations. A moment of one profound travel experience is worth a library of words.  Our big world is a small place.

Speaking with the students brought me back to my younger education days. The book of their lives hardly opened, as mine once was, their pages await their years ahead. No matter how old we might be, the rest of our life is always before us. Some of us will have more to share if we are granted that privilege. Some of us will have more to share, including this experience. I saw students undergo a change as we spent our days together. I await Rosemont’s graduation day next year; I will be there to applaud these students’ accomplishments.

What can be said about travel? I recall Mark Twain’s words once more, that travel is fatal to prejudice.  Travel allows a country’s residents an opportunity to shine and to share their light upon its visitors. I come away from this program so impressed by the friendly, hard-working people of Sorrento. Theirs is a simpler, slower-paced environment. They wear the love, the pride of their town, and their trade on their sleeves.

The special tours to the Piazza Tasso, Limoncello, and Michelangelo Mozzarella factory were lessons in chemistry, in physics, and in the respect given to nature to take its course. The modest pride of these business owners leaves a lasting impression: hard, honest labor that was an honor to witness.

The walking tour of Sorrento and the day trip to Naples were walks lively in their individual history. The powerful, sobering visit to Pompeii was a somber reminder of a civilization caught and resurrected. Words dare not approach its gravitas.

The beautiful scenery, the subtle fragrance of flowers, the ebb and flow of the Bay of Naples softly heard each morning and evening, sleeping with a screenless open window, agave cactus the size of a Smart car, speaking with waiters and shopkeepers, the surroundings of ruins and priceless works of art, the exquisite cameos and inlaid wooden items, the fabulous food, the lemons that turn taste buds heavenward, the architecture of man and nature: this total sensory experience of travel will stay with us always.  If the word “beautiful” disappeared from the English language, the word “Sorrento” would seamlessly replace it.

And Mt. Vesuvius, the crowning glory of the area, the overseer, is an eruption of wonder and mystery. The morning that cumulus clouds gathered around its base, giving the perception that the volcano was floating, was stunning, a lesson that the forces of nature can be deceptive. A cell phone photo barely captures its magnificence. Once you see Mt. Vesuvius, no smart phone click or postcard will approximate its presence.

I am so grateful for this opportunity, for the daily breakfasts with the Global Studies Group, for the pleasure of their company, for the laughter, and for the serious discussions. For sharing one bottle of laundry detergent that brings to mind the “loaves and the fishes” experience denoted in the Bible.

The humor of seeing our bottles of shampoo, mouthwash, et al, that we left on the supply cart (there was no sense in packing them), a small CVS remembrance from us for the students who will follow. Continuing the gratefulness for the glorious gelati, for the veranda/patio outside the dorm kitchen, for the spectacular food and food tour tastings. There was no rain, but there was plenty of sweat to share; there was never a weather experience quite like this one.

And Renny The Raven (aka Flat Renny) wishes to report that his first excursion abroad was wonderful. He enjoyed everyone’s companionship.

I am grateful to the faculty of Rosemont College for your dedication to the students. You have instilled in them the experience of a lifetime. Dedication, devotion, and genuine interest cannot be fabricated. Their growth, plainly visible, is the result of your efforts.

Finally, I am so grateful for everyone from the Sant’Anna Institute, for Elena the tour guide, and the Sorrento Hospital staff. All of you are a credit to this place of learning. The citizens of Sorrento responded with positive recognition whenever we informed them of our connection to the area. I hope you feel our smiles in these writings. We left Sorrento.  Sorrento has not left us.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, a fatality I’ve gladly “endured’ on this trip. I wish for many more “fatalities” for all of us.

Gratefully,
Linda M. Romanowski, Class of ‘75
MFA Graduate Student


Presentation Day, Farewell Luncheon, and Pre-Departure

Entry No. 9: 8/14/19

Not surprisingly, the students’ presentations did not disappoint. As I walked along the dormitory hallway the night before, opened doors leaked out snippets of focused discussion and practice speaking. I glimpsed PowerPoint slides being reviewed, refined, polished.

It made me smile that their diligence shone — their newly acquired knowledge like sunlight to the mind. Hours of class, hours of interviews, and hours of study assimilated for a 20-minute summation. Working hard and playing hard brought forth comprehensive analysis.

The presentations began. There was an air of excitement and anticipation.  It amazed me how each group, while exposed to the same information, presented four different viewpoints. Their unique observations were the result of each student’s self-scrutiny, their placing an up-close lens on a highly complex topic. The morning passed quickly; each presentation well-timed.

The students incorporated Cathie’s gracious lecture on presenting in a very effective manner. Questions and comments were addressed with confidence and assurance. Their relieved laughter at the conclusion of the class signaled undoubtably that they were ready for our Farewell Lunch. Undoubtably, this group of students and everyone else involved distinguished themselves.

The luncheon, held in the dormitory kitchen, was a clear indication that our time in Sorrento was ending. Maria Anna was very pleased with the Rosemont College T-shirt we gave her. She thanked us for participating in this inaugural program, stating she will keep us in her heart.

Our preparation for departure included a room inspection at 9 p.m., and an early rising to catch the 7 a.m. flight from Naples to Frankfort, Germany. The afternoon was a flurry of last-minute shopping, sightseeing, photo-taking, and packing. There was some deliberating about remaining awake, since we needed to leave the Institute by 4 a.m. for a 5 a.m. airport arrival. My regrets during this trip were few, but I will say I wish we could have gathered on the patio that final evening, as it was a lovely, breezy night.


Lecture By Dr. Concetta Spano, Trip to Limoncello, and Mozzarella Factories 

Entry No. 8: 8/13/19

Prior to a lecture from Dr. Spano, the class discussed exchanges that they experienced with the local residents regarding their country’s healthcare system. Craig and Anouk then asked the class if there were any questions or concerns about their upcoming presentations. The class also discussed questions they wished to ask Dr. Spano. 

Dr. Spano was outgoing, enthusiastic, and open to questions during this session; she created a comfortable atmosphere. Olga assisted her in translating some of the conversation. It was very obvious that Dr. Spano is a dedicated practitioner who is devoted to patient care.   

Among to the topics discussed was the opioid crisis in Italy.  The students learned that this is a shared and serious epidemic between our two countries. They also learned that we share the same major health problems: cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes.  

Dr. Spano’s warmth and sense of humor truly enhanced the students’ exposure to the Italian health system. She received well-earned applause at the conclusion of her presentation.  

We then walked to the I Giardini di Cataldo limoncello factory near the heart of town, where we were joined by Maria Anna. After a delightful walk through the lemon grove, we sampled various lemon and licorice products, including limoncello.  All their products were made without pesticides or chemicals. We were also surprised to learn that this area is also known for its walnut production and export. There were no samples of walnuts available, as they were not in season.  

We then boarded a bus to the Michelangelo Mozzarella factory, another delightful experience. Another family-run business, we watched “the uncle” work the mozzarella from cow’s milk, water, and salt.  Once again, there were no preservatives or pesticides used in the product. Three students volunteered to braid the mozzarella.  Afterwards, we sampled various cheeses and butter produced at this factory.  It was simply heavenly! 

The touring concluded at this point and the students were able to continue their preparation for Wednesday’s presentations.


Trip To Naples  

Entry No. 7: 8/12/19

Group of multi-ethnic adult students standing in front of an archeological scene in Italy.

We travel by bus along the winding streets by thbay to visit the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and see the prime artifacts that were recovered from the Pompeii excavations. We are very fortunate that Elena, our guide at the Pompeii sitewas also with us for this part of the tour.   

The recovered mosaics were exquisite. Some pieces are smaller than a fingernail. Topics included wildlife, nature, deities, and historic events. Fortunately, these objects survived the eruption and serve as a testament to an advanced civilization.   

After leaving the museum, we were taken by bus to the center of Naples. We had some free time to eat lunch, enjoy the scenery, and shop. To date, this was the hottest day of the trip. 

The bus made an extra stop at the Port of Naples so that we could take photos of castles, ships, and the skyline. Much of this area is under construction as a new Metro stop is being completed. 

The remainder of the day was available to the students to prepare their final presentations.


 Of Patients and Pompeii

Entry No. 6: 8/11/19

We are granted the extraordinary opportunity of visiting Sorrento Hospital under the guidance of Olga Stinga, the Director of the Sant’Anna Institute. Olga, who also serves as the Institute’s Study Abroad Program Coordinator and Head of the Italian Department, explained their system of admitting and treating patients, as well as handling emergency situations.

The goal of the latter is to diagnose, stabilize, and consider options for further care of the admitted. We met several doctors and other staff members who were gracious in answering the students’ questions, with Olga translating. We noted that this hospital only has one surgery suite. 

Back in the classroom, Anouk Lindley and Craig Loundas lectured on the impact of culture and healthcare in the United States and Italy. It appears that in Italy, “one size almost fits many.” This phrase was used as the basis for a case study of a 59-year-old arthritic man named Phil who is in need of bilateral knee replacement.

The class was divided into groups of four students each, and all discussed the process by which the patient moved through the system, from diagnosis to his operation, to post-operative treatment. One of the students commented that the procedure would not be permanent, and that the patient could expect about a 15-year reprieve until further surgery would be necessary. The process was viewed from the lens of both systems. 

Phil shared a personal experience involving treatment of an issue with his hand. His doctor referred him to a specialist, who recommended surgery. Sometime later (post-op), Phil was speaking to a family member who told him that surgery was unnecessary, and that physical therapy could have produced the same results.

After lunch, we met as a group at the Piazza Tasso by the flags, then walked to the Circumvesuviana train for our excursion to Pompeii. We were met by Elena, a native of Pompeii, who guided us as we listened to her voice via headsets. Our immediate reaction was the striking enormity of the city, brought to its knees one August morning in A.D. 79 (although a recent discovery places the occurrence a few months later).

This prosperous area of 69 acres was felled by the simultaneous action of earthquake, volcanic eruption, and tsunamic activity.  This was a two-day event, a trifecta of destruction. Unlike neighboring Herculaneum, which was destroyed by slow-moving lava, Pompeii experienced the atomic-bomb combination of ash and gas.

The inhabitants suffocated in their act of daily life. The enormous blast halved the size of Mount Vesuvius, which is amazing given its current 4,203-foot height.  I can’t help but digress in the thought that perhaps a family member was elsewhere that day and returned to hell. Even within the context of its destruction and resurrection through excavation, Pompeii remains a site to behold. May its inhabitants rest in eternal peace.


Political Influence, the Impact of Healthcare Systems, and Weekend Free Time

Entry No. 5: 8/9/19

Craig asked the class what we encountered during our “person on the street interviews.” Some class members were able to interview pharmacists as well. In some cases, there was natural reluctance to respond. It appeared that women were more approachable.   

When the interviewees learned that the interviewers were students at Sant’Anna Institute, there was an immediate, positive reaction, which gave the students credibility. It is apparent that the Institute is a source of pride for the community.   

The class was divided into four groups, each discussing a separate country. Included were China, Israel, Italy, and the United States. Detailed handouts were provided with background on each country covering: 

  • A health insurance summary of each country’s system.
  • Who is covered and how is insurance financed?
  • What is covered?
  • How is the delivery system organizedand financed? 

A student from each group then shared what they gleaned from their handouts.  

Maria Anna then reminded everyone that the Institute was closed for the weekend and discussed arrangements from students who planned to remain in Sorrento.  Free time began at approximately 11:30. Class would resume on Monday, Aug. 12. 

Sorrento’s central location allowed for excursions to Capri, Rome, Positano, and the Amalfi Coast. Several of us took advantage of this opportunity. Renny The Raven, our cutout travel companion for RoCo Digital Magazine – you may come to know him as “Flat Renny” - went to Rome.


Of Presentations and Pizza

Entry No. 4: 8/8/19 

Today’s class focused on each group’s presentation of their healthcare system to date.  A rebuttal and commentary followed each presentation.  Anouk and Craig monitored the session.  Each segment was strictly timed. Cathie then delivered a lecture on the dimensions of global culture.  The impact of culture cannot be denied or discounted.

Topics included:

  • The universality of human nature:
  • Humans are group animals;
  • The use of language and empathy;
  • The unwritten rules of culture;
  • Uncertainty avoidance;
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism: Which countries exhibit these traits?
  • Masculine vs. Feminine: Which countries exhibit these traits?

Anouk and Craig reinforced Cathie’s comments by indicating that culture is part of healthcare and healthcare is part of culture. There are times when advocacy is perceived as disruptive.

Cathie then lectured on the craft elements of presenting powerful presentations to guide the students in their final assignments.  She encouraged us to be creative and show ideas beyond basic PowerPoints.  Anouk and Craig supported Cathie’s suggestions to be prepared and confident.  The presentation is to be 30 minutes, allowing 10 minutes for questions. Quality over quantity is the aim. Less is more.

We then moved from PowerPoint to a pizza-making class at the Bougainvillea Corso Italia Restaurant.  We were met by Teresa Cioffi and her assistants.  We never thought that two dozen ingenues would attain professional pizza-making status.

The spotless training area suited our needs.  Teresa explained each step in the process.  The science and the art ... and voila, culinary success was ours!  If a picture is worth a thousand words, we could proudly say that our pictures were worth a thousand pizzas.

We have never tasted pizza that was so sublime, made by our own hands. All of us reformed consumers will never prepare pizza dough with a rolling pin again. 

We proudly accepted our diplomas, with Teresa’s recipe emblazed in its upper-right corner. Teresa generously permitted us to keep our “graduation aprons.”  She even included her email address on our certificates for any questions or comments.  That is graciousness, passion, and joy.

Our day ended with a visit to the Sorrento Cathedral. It was respectfully short because a prayer service was taking place.


Tuesday in Paradise

Entry No. 3: 8/6/19 

Our day begins with a café breakfast at Bar Syrenuse, at the Piazza Tasso. This will be our starting point for the remainder of our stay. A basic travel tenet is to expect the unexpected, and if today is any clue for the rest of our trip, I expect to be surprised every day.

Several physical attributes of Sorrento start to sink in: palm trees, cactuses (major, serious-sized cactuses!), and the scooters’ creed of their “having the right of way” become real.To some extent, Sorrento reminds me of Bermuda, with the similar building colorations and its tropical overtone. But there’s no mistaking Sorrento as a place unique, a retreat for God on weekends.

Once again, we were welcomed by Maria Anna , who provided an orientation of the Sant’Anna Institute and a walking tour of the city. She is a gracious, knowledgeable young lady whose love of her hometown is as real as the scenery surrounding us. It amazes me that this lovely place was a passage point of major struggles of invaders and the indigenous people of this land.

When Maria Anna pointed out one gathering point, explaining that Saracens once blazed through one of the very narrow streets before us, it took me aback. Saracens, a people I once thought of as so very distant — their footsteps are now covered by my own. To listen to her speak was a pleasure; I wonder if we alone were so fortunate to hear such history.

We separated for lunch. To our enormous relief, we found a restaurant that offers an entire gluten-free menu that accommodated my husband Ken’s dietary issue. This establishment, Ristorante Sorrento, does not disappoint.

Ken’s meal was excellent, so much so that we returned for dinner. The al fresco arrangement was such that the seating arrangement was set back from the main street. We could enjoy our meal as the pleasant crowds passed by, providing ambulatory elegance.

It brought me a chuckle to think we needed to venture to a nearby supermarket in preparation for our trip to Pompeii. Visiting this market was more the order of a medium-sized Mom and Pop Store. We were grateful for its existence.

Cathie Coleman-Dickson, the Director for Business, Leadership, and Healthcare Administration Degree Programs and Global Studies at Rosemont, Ken, and I participated in a group analysis and comparison of the differences between the healthcare delivery systems of Italy and the United States. It was an enlightening exercise.

Each group was presented with a similar scenario: a gentleman who needed double-knee-replacement surgery, subject to some variation among the groups. Each was responsible for considering all variables and points of pain as the patient progressed through the system. The exercise is a foundation for future presentations.


 

The Voyage Begins

Entry No. 2: 8/5/19

Years ago, my father would drive along JFK Boulevard in Philadelphia when taking us home from my grandparent’s house.  I remember Lufthansa had an impressive office, which seemed almost a full block long. The logo design was spacious and beautiful, as if at will it could depart from its own glass airplane hangar.  Each time we would drive by, I would read the name out loud. It was a beautiful word that could take me to beautiful places.  At each pass by, I would tell myself “someday.”  Dreaming like a 10-year old never gets old. 

From Sky-Thinking to Sky-Writing

Writing at night in the sky, surrounded by passengers, cocooned in blankets of sleep, makes me feel like a firefly. Willingly, my words glow out, brief flickers in the jar of the airplane. 

I can say I am writing with my head in the clouds.  Maybe I’ll have pie in the sky before the flight is over. 

On the surface, it would appear to be an uneventful flight, but to me, it’s miraculous to be seated 40,000+ feet from the earth. The Wright Brothers were on to something, yet I wonder if they really surmised the impact of their first few seconds of freedom from the ground would lead to such heights.

Our group was put through its travel paces from the time change, to the layover in Frankfurt, Germany, to the unexpected 10-minute bus ride to our plane, to our concluding flight to Naples, to corralling our luggage, to meeting the greeters from the Sant’Anna Institute, to the organizing of travel vans, to the crazy ride along the Bay of Naples to our destination, to our arrival and luggage transport challenge, to the Institute.  We were met by Maria Anna, our group coordinator, who guided us to our lodgings at the Institute.  We occupy the 3rd floor, and every room has a view of either the cliffs or the marina.

We walked to our welcome dinner down a steep cobblestone path. We enjoyed our Mediterranean culinary delight at the Trattoria da Emilia al fresco on the Bay with Mount Vesuvius in the distance.  Our meal concluded as twilight approached, and the beautiful sliver of the moon was dessert to the eye. 

Buona sera!


Orientation

Entry No. 1: 8/1/19

This novice blogger begins the travel journal of the current SGPS Global Studies Group with a nod to Mark Twain, my favorite authorTwain once wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

Fittingly, it isn’t lost on me that as I write this, the country is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I’m making my own tiny writing step and one giant leap (I hope) for our Global Studies Group as we prepare to leave our College’s footprint throughout our European travels Aug. 4-15 — with our goal being to acquire a more comprehensive view of the global healthcare system from a different cultural perspective.  

As I sit here in Lawrence Auditorium for orientation prior to our departure to Sorrento, Italy, Cathie Coleman-Dickson, Director of the SGPS Global Studies Program, asks the group of 14 students about their reasons for choosing this academic venture.

The responses are as diverse as the student body: “It’s a great educational, professional, and personal experience.” “I’ve never been outside the country. “The business of international healthcare and its effects on patient access will help my current studies. 

Our guest lecturer, Danielle Werner, Chief Operating Officer of Clinical Practices at the University of Pennsylvania, provided an engaging lecture on U.S. healthcare and the impact it has had on the closing of Hahnemann University Hospital, a situation that is truly a bellwether and will be a strain on the city of Philadelphia for some time. 

We also received commentary and guidance from Dr. Peter McLallen, Dean of SGPS, and staff members Anouk Lindley and Craig Loundas. Our syllabus calls for a range of interesting assignments, including a research paper comparing and contrasting the healthcare systems in the U.S. and Italy; an annotated bibliography based on students healthcare research before the trip; and four separate journal entries on a) expectations, concerns, fears about global study, b) impressions of the global study, c) healthcare interviews with local Italians about patient access, and d) the overall experience of the global study. 

Discussion of our overall itinerary also brought excitement to the group, as did learning that the water in the dorm we will be staying in at the Sant’Anna Institute is drinkable. Hurray! Our group will keep in contact with each other through the mobile WhatsApp app while we’re away from home under the direction of our Study Abroad Coordinator Serena Vacca. 

My head is spinning a bit with information overload, but the anticipation of this trip reminds me that all will be, ahem, well. My hope is to be blog-true to what we all absorb, to be honest in portraying everyone and everything around me, to be respectful, and, above all, to be grateful. 

A level of excitement fills my heart as our journey nears, much like the 16-year-old version of me who watched the moon landing. To leave you as we prepare to begin this “mission,” let me again offer the words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. ... Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

Here’s to our New Moon!