I have had a wonderful, surreal summer at the Living Latin in Rome program, and I am grateful to the Paideia Institute, the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, and all of my donors for making it possible.
I thought that I loved Latin before this trip, but now my soul is thrumming with the words of the ancients and indelibly marked by the places they inhabited. I feel so lucky that I was able to recite Horace at his villa, salute Cicero at his grave in Formia, rave with the Sibyl in her cave in Cumae, and act with Plautus in an ancient theatre in Ostia. The ancients are alive for me as never before.
My skills of Latin sight reading have improved as well. I’ve translated a fair bit of Latin in my day, but before this summer I never felt like I could read it. Now I can read Latin, or I am well on my way to that point. Every day of this program I was handed a page of Latin and asked to sight read aloud, in front of people, alongside supportive teachers and colleagues who were struggling right along with me. It felt so much more organic than a regular university class with a handily glossed page of a textbook that everyone in the classroom has pored over the night before and looked up an English translation of online.
Latin has also become more organic for me through the spoken Latin component of this program. Many people have asked me why on earth I chose to spend my summer speaking Latin, and now I have so many answers. Discussing texts in Latin allows you to maintain ambiguities and nuances that can’t be preserved in translation. Speaking in Latin, just like speaking in any other language, helps you develop better reading fluency. Also, it’s just fun, and it furnishes a handy fact about oneself to use in icebreaker games.
Though of course I have grown exponentially as a classicist, I have grown more as a human being. My world has expanded so much. I usually live in a dorm and am able to circumnavigate my globe, my Notre Dame bubble, in an hour. Now I have lived with and come to love three classicist roommates with wildly different backgrounds and ideologies, shuttled myself throughout a city whose language is no longer the one I speak, and figured out how to work an Italian washing machine. I feel so much more capable and grown-up.
My immersion experience has been one of beautiful words, passionate people, and intense learning, and I will never forget it.