Temple Adult Study Abroad sparks adventure in the heart of Rome

The university’s Adult Study Abroad program attracts a range of non-student participants, from seasoned travelers to first-time adventurers.

Participants cooking together during the Fall 2023 Adult Study Abroad Program. | COURTESY / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

After missing out on study abroad as an undergraduate, Caley Pantalone, a 2017 advertising account management alumna, spent six weeks with Adult Study Abroad at Temple Rome in Fall 2022 to fully immerse herself in Italian culture, living with Roman citizens and traveling outside of the city in her free time. 

By the program’s end, she decided she didn’t want to return to the United States with the rest of her cohort and took a leap of faith to continue her life abroad. Now, she works as a language assistant in Madrid, Spain, while pursuing a Master’s degree in bilingual and multicultural education at Universidad de Alcalá.

“That experience in the ASA program helped me understand that taking a leap like this is possible for me,” Pantalone said. “As scary as it is to just hop on a plane and go to a foreign country without knowing a lot of people, and just putting down roots where you land is possible.”

Since 1966, Temple Rome, nestled across the Tiber River from the Roman Prati neighborhood, has served as a temporary home to thousands of Temple students looking to indulge in the Cacio e Pepe, Aperol Spritzes’ and Renaissance art life abroad offers.

Now, ASA at Temple Rome, a six-week, non-credit program, opens the doors for adults who aren’t currently Temple students to experience Roman study abroad adventures, too. This past year, the program has run three successful cohorts, more than they’ve done in the past. 

AJ Fitzgerald, an English professor and coordinator for Academic Success and Career Opportunity at ASA, had been thinking of creating the program since he started working at the university in 2018. ASA allows anyone to apply but provides discounts to Temple alumni and parents of students.

“We’ve received very positive feedback,” Fitzgerald said. “Overall, I think the biggest compliment we received is the fact that this group of alumni liked it so much, they wanted to come back for a second time.”

In 2019, the university ran a successful pilot program with one adult study participant alongside undergraduates. The program was meant to fully launch in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the debut until Fall 2021, when around 10 participants traveled to Rome.

ASA then expanded from 31 total participants for two cohorts in Spring and Fall 2022 to nearly 45 for three cohorts in Spring, Summer and Fall 2023, with many previous participants returning for the 2023 sessions. 

A participant’s schedule can be as elaborate as desired, with activities like weekend and daily excursions, cooking classes and wine tasting as an optional expense. 

While on their trip, some participants even work their full-time jobs remotely. 

Steve DeCusatis, a 2002 graphic and interactive design alumnus and graphic designer, traveled abroad for seven weeks with his wife through the program in Fall 2022 while working remotely. The flexible program schedule allowed him to visit family in the Cilento region of Campania, Italy. 

“It was super special to have enough time to feel comfortable in your environment where you could just enjoy life as a local, you know, passing the gelateria after dinner and getting some gelato or not, or just walk and see the things that are super special,” DeCusatis said.

During the Fall 2023 semester, participants were mandatorily enrolled in Italian Language and Culture and Highlights of Rome courses.

All cohorts experience on-site activities, like touring Roman museums and learning about the art and ruins they visit. Italian Language and Culture brought students to marketplaces and Roman high schools for participants to practice their language skills.

Norma Mori, a 1977 counseling and psychology alumna, retired school counselor and member of the Fall 2023 cohort, was attracted to ASA’s language-learning component to improve her Italian. 

“We were taken to a market and a gelato place and we were given some handouts and instructions about what kind of words we would find useful in those situations as we practiced speaking the language,” Mori said.  

During an optional Bay of Naples trip, the Fall 2023 cohort visited places like Sorrento and Pompeii and some stayed at a monastery converted into a hotel, which overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. Participants also had the option to travel to towns, like Tivoli and Sabina, while abroad.

During both in-class and optional expeditions, members of the ASA cohort developed close friendships. 

“We spent a lot of time together because we did these trips, trips, classes and all the rest of it, and it was really a nice experience,” Mori said. “We all found a way to get along with each other and have fun together.”

The Fall 2023 participants even have an upcoming holiday lunch gathering and reunion planned.

Since the introduction of the program, many alumni have called for other Temple campuses, like Temple Japan, to replicate the program, and other universities have even met with Temple Rome’s staff to inquire about how they can create abroad experiences for adults within their respective programs, Fitzgerald said. 

“I think ASA, if it became a bigger sort of industry, it would just continue to benefit Temple because we have an established program, so I don’t really see it as competition,” Fitzgerald said. “I think of it as growing the pie, there’s so many destinations out there that other schools have more entrenched presences in than Temple does.”

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