Town and Gown: JSU Students Learn: When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

Town and Gown: JSU Students Learn: When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do


In late May, eight Jacksonville State University students accompanied by two professors participated in a study abroad program in Rome, Italy.

The group consisted of: Yaasameen Al-Hamdani, Brady Burns, Christain Jallah, Lauren Herring, Sayra Herring, Hilary Moore, Alex Trussell, Dr. Jeremiah Russell, and Dr. Donald Prudlo.

This was the first time that the political science department offered a study abroad program to Rome for JSU students.

Dr. Russell, a professor in the political science department, said, “Originally the program was run through the history department with Dr. Prudlo. It was offered every other year. When I arrived two years ago, Dr. Prudlo and I discussed offering it through the political science department on their off years.”

Dr. Russell explained a typical day for the group. “We would wake up and meet downstairs around 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and have a two to three hour morning tour. Then, we would break for lunch so students would have noon all the way to 4 p.m. to eat lunch and then have some downtime to read or do whatever they wanted to do. Then the class would meet from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then they were free from 5 p.m.  until 8 a.m. the next morning.”

Brady Burns, a senior majoring in political science, said what he enjoyed most was the various tours that the group took. “Each was informative and enjoyable. In particular though, I enjoyed our tour of Ostia Antic,” said Brady.

The Jacksonville group was able to tour many historic sites such as the Coliseum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Vatican City.

Lauren Herring, a graduate student working on her master’s degree in counseling, loved seeing all of the ancient buildings. “They have ancient buildings that are thousands of years old right next to a smart car. To see that comparison was really different because you don’t see that [in America] since our country is not that old.”

One thing that the entire JSU group enjoyed was the gelato, an Italian form of ice cream. Hilary Moore set a goal of having at least one gelato a day. Lauren Herring and Sayra Herring estimated consuming twenty or more gelatos.

The students also got a chance to experience Italian cooking. “We cooked a few times and made spaghetti, pizzas, salads, and pastas,” explained Sayra Herring, a graduate student working on her master’s degree in history.

They had the luxury of having a fresh market very close to them. The market included fresh seafood, cheeses, wine and other Italian foods. Dr. Russell ventured out and bought a fresh squid from the market. “I cut it up and made fresh calamari, and it was amazing,” said Dr. Russell.

Brady Burns said that the guys in his room did a lot of cooking. “I didn’t help cook much, but I did help eat,” he joked.

There were certain cultural differences that the JSU students had to adjust to, such as two to three hour lunches and designated nap times during the days. “It wasn’t inconvenient once you figured out what was going on,” Lauren explained. “As Dr. Prudlo said, ‘you have to do as the Romans do.’”

The topic of the trip was: “What is the Good Life? Ancient Roman and Early Christian Answers.” The students who were attending the trip for class credit had to write a paper on the idea of what makes a good life. The group mulled over the question and developed their own answers and opinions based on their international experiences.

Sayra Herring said, “I wrote in my paper, the good life is what you make it. If you don’t want to live life a certain way then you don’t have to. It’s what you make it. It’s your happiness.”

Her twin sister Lauren Herring said, “The fact that people are still asking this question thousands of years later shows that there is no answer. It depends on who you are and what you like.”

Dr. Russell offered his own answer to the question.

“Ultimately, the good life is happiness, or perhaps better put, tranquility. Anyone will realize that such peace cannot be found in search for wealth, honor, or pleasure. I believe it is found through faith and virtue,” he said.

The next available study abroad program to Rome will be held in 2015 through the history department.

For students considering the next trip, Lauren Herring offered a bit of advice.

“Take the opportunity to go while you’re young and able,” she said. “The world is huge and you are just a tiny part of it. Go while things are still there and you can see them.” 


To learn more about JSU’s political science department, please visit