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Study Abroad takes pilgrimage to Assisi

Students in Assisi


“I definitely think the spirit of Assisi has been carried back,” said Gwen Schroeder, reflecting on the study abroad trip she went on recently.  


Schroeder is a student taking Religious Studies 261, a pilgrimage immersion experience to the heart of Franciscan Theology. Students explored their faith in Rome and Assisi, as well as several other Franciscan sites, and many say that it has shaped their view of many aspects of their life, not just Franciscan studies.  


The trip was in March, but preparations began last year. Sister Laura Nettles and Dr. Sean Martin were selected as faculty leaders for the trip, and they were looking for students to participate. Aidan Greene said, “[Sean] was giving the hard sell on it.” At the end of registration, 16 students selected the course and were set to go to Italy.  


But the students had to remember it was a class as well, and they were going to be pilgrims, not tourists. Schroeder notes, “The difference is in the self-reflection that is available on a pilgrimage.” The class learned the background of St. Francis and St. Clare, as well as many of their companions. They wrote journal responses and were tasked to continue doing so during the pilgrimage. Nettles and Martin also recommended not bringing any other work on the trip to be fully immersed in it.  


The group left from Minneapolis, flew to Newark, and then to Rome, landing seven time zones ahead. Then began what Sister Laura lovingly called the “Death March,” to the many tourist spots in Rome. The Death March kept the students awake so they could adjust to Roman time, which most successfully did. The following several days were spent in Rome and the Vatican City. They saw the Pope at a papal address and were able to explore the Vatican Museum which ends at the Sistine Chapel. 


After Rome, they spent a day trip in Florence and were off to Assisi the following day. There was a stop at Greccio, and then the group arrived in Assisi. They spent almost a week in the medieval city, taking several excursions to significant landmarks but given freedom to explore the city for themselves on many of the afternoons. One student, Lily Robinson, said, “Assisi was the best. There’s just more air to breathe.” Greene spoke highly of the food there, saying, “I saw the face of God in a truffle risotto.” 



Another student, Jaime Kelly, spoke of the importance of the trip taking place in the environment it did. She said, “I feel like you learn so much more when you learn through a community as you’re just sort of learning through the comments and making the memories.” Greene said, “This was great. It was very fun. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done before. I would not replace most classes with it, but I think this was a unique and valuable experience to have had.” Robinson said, “I feel like I found myself, like I’ve found a place when I feel like I didn’t have that before going on the trip.” 


Schroeder emphasized the contemplative aspect of the trip and the emotional burden that taking it was, saying, “In Assisi you have to be able to actually willingly take the time to sit with the feelings and emotions and sit in your contemplation.” She continued, “I would recommend this to others but be prepared… be willing to enter into that self-reflection.”  


Kelly said, “A lot of my core values overlap what Francis did, and I feel like my eyes are a little bit more open.” Robinson added, “It’s about seeing the good in the world… other people… [and] yourself. How can we live that out on our campus?”  


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About the Contributor
Noah Nelson
Noah Nelson, Editor
I’m the Editor for the Lumen. My major is Sports Management and Leadership with an English Writing minor, and I also compete for the Men’s Golf team.
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