Following the Museum Tours at Museo Capitolare and Museo Archeologico Nazionale dell’Umbria last December, we interviewed Greta Koshenina, a fall ’19 Umbra student from the University of Mississippi. In this interview, she shares with us her insights on the courses she opted for, as well as her thoughts about the meaning of studying abroad.
Ciao Greta! What’s your major and how do your studies at Umbra relate to it?
I am majoring in Classics and minoring in Italian and math. Since I am a senior in the Honors College at the University of Mississippi, I am required to write a thesis that pertains to my major. The scholars program here at Umbra let me choose courses that interested me, and that have helped tremendously. Along with the research and writing methodology courses, I also took archaeology and Latin. The archaeology course was on the Etruscan civilization, so it helped with my research project about women in Etruria as well as my major. Learning Latin from a native Italian speaker was very interesting, and I can never thank my professor Giampiero Bevagna enough for his patience and all of his help.
Together with your fellow student Henry Kouwenhoven, you guided a group of students through the Cathedral Museum. Can you describe what the Museum Studies course meant to you?
The Museum Studies course was really interesting because I got to work with two very different and unique museums in Perugia. The course was small, so we were able to have a lot of one on one discussion about museums and Italian history. I am an intern at the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, so it was especially interesting to see the difference between American museums and Italian museums. Both of the museums (Casa Sorbello and Cathedral Museum) have a sort of house museum feel, although the Sorbello museum is the only one of the two that is an actual “house” museum. It felt really personal to be invited into the storage area and study the collection of books that were gifted to and collected by the Sorbello family over decades.
We heard that you particularly enjoyed a field trip to Siena… is that true?
Yes! I really enjoyed the field trip we took to Siena. Last summer, I was on an excavation near Siena during the first Palio of the season — I got to see the city before the race, and you could feel the excitement. People were running around, singing, and dancing. This semester, Professor Antonella Valoroso took us to one of the contrada museums. These museums are typically only open to members of the specific contrada (neighborhood), but we had special permission to see not only the museum but also the cathedral inside, where the horse is blessed before the palio. It was an incredible experience that isn’t available to most—I am so grateful that I was able to see all of these things in only four months.
We know that you are working on a research project called Women in Etruria. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
The scholars program at Umbra was the main reason I chose this particular university— I was given both a research advisor as well as a writing mentor for the research needed to write my thesis for the University of Mississippi Honors College. I not only learned about the Etruscan women but also writing methodology that will benefit me in all of my future writing endeavors. Giampiero, my research advisor, archaeology professor, and latin professor, was so helpful and found many resources on my research topic in both Italian and English. He helped me translate the Italian books and articles, and it made the experience far more rounded than it would have been if I had only done my research from America. My research is focusing on amber objects that have been found buried as grave goods in Etruscan female burials. Being in Italy was extremely helpful as I was able to visit many museums where I found artifacts I will be able to include in my thesis. I have learned more than I ever imagined was possible in such a short amount of time.
What are your impressions about studying Classics in Italy compared to the US?
In America, all of the information about ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean are taught to students using photos and lectures. Here, we were able to visit actual ancient sites and, in the case of Perugia, we are literally in a building that sits on top of ancient Etruscan and Roman monuments. In the US, it is easy to forget just how new everything around us is. Here, you are constantly surrounded by thousands of years of history, which becomes normal very quickly. At first, it was overwhelming walking under Etruscan arches to get to school. Now it just feels like any other day. I told myself that I wouldn’t get used to it, but that’s much easier said than done. During my time here, I met someone who mentioned that being in Perugia is almost like entering a time machine. One moment you are in the present, then the next, Medieval times. Then you take another step and are suddenly in ancient Etruria.
Finally, it would be great to hear from you what you learned from your study abroad experience.
This semester abroad has been the longest amount of time I’ve been away from my family. I chose to go to college near my parents, and even lived with my little brother for two years before this program. I have always dreamt of moving to Italy, but I was afraid of change. Now I know that I am capable of being independent and following my dreams, as cheesy as that sounds. Perugia and the Umbra Institute have brought me life long friends and memories that I will never forget. As a small town Mississippi girl, I never thought I’d figure out train schedules (or any public transportation for that matter). This semester has shown me that I can achieve my goals if I just try. It was so interesting meeting people in the various programs at Umbra and learning about their studies. One of my favorite experiences was going to the Orsini Agriturismo and helping harvest grapes. Even though I came here to research Etruscan women, I am leaving with knowledge in so many other fields. I cannot even begin to describe how much this semester has changed me as a person and scholar.
To learn more about Umbra’s Scholars Program click here.
To learn more about the Museum Studies: Cultural Marketing and Communications (Seminar and Practicum) click here.
To learn more Research Writing and Methodology course click here.