Reflections on Rome …


“Rome Roaming” / Mallory Roa


Talented student artists Mallory Roa and David Dugonecevic spent last semester in Rome studying art, architecture and literature with Professors Ed Giardina (Fine Arts) and Kathryn Sonne (Language Arts). They reflected on their distinctive experiences and shared nostalgia in a brief interview…


M: The first time I ever lived on my own was in a different country. I’ve been sleeping under the same ceiling my entire life. What better ceilings to sleep under for the first time [away] than Roman ceilings?

Q: What struck you art-wise?

D: They have these bulletin boards everywhere filled with wheat-pasted advertisements and old posters…a lot of it is accumulated graffiti from artists over the years. One of my favorite parts was seeing the billboard that’s been there for a decade, layer upon layer of art … it’s a historical record of the city; stories that no one really thinks about… I ripped a lot of it down and brought it home to make my own collages. It was a souvenir that I didn’t have to buy.

M: You should see the art that he’s created (view in the Gallery).

D: Artistically I evolved. I felt like I never really had a voice in my art until Ed Giardina’s class [in Italy]… Before, I would do representative drawings of landscapes and things like that. I had a style, but not necessarily a vision or voice. Without those there’s only so much you can do. Now I can really express myself in my art. There’s definitely something there that I didn’t have before…

M: The architecture really got me. Going into it I knew that the buildings were an important part of Rome, but I couldn’t have imagined the extent to which they’d impact my life. I thought I’d be photographing events… little moments in the city, but I came home with 6,000+ images… a huge chunk of them were architecture. Living in Rome was an incredibly tactile experience for me. Every building has a hand-made quality to it. I wanted to touch each one. I’d walk along the streets and run my hand across the walls of these buildings that are hundreds, thousands of years old. I would make it home at the end of the day and my hand would be black. It was the first time that I ever connected with architecture. I hadn’t given it much thought before that.

D: Also, part of Rome’s charm is in its layout. I loved the non-grid pattern of streets… how you could zig-zag from place to place. It makes no sense, but it came to make perfect sense. I spent many early mornings – 2/3 a.m. – getting lost, finding my way… just wandering.

Q: So what’s your favorite memory?

M: My favorite memory? That’s hard… I mean, I have lots of stories. But honestly, the big moments aren’t often the most momentous …. Instead, my favorite memory is sitting on a bench at one in the morning gazing at the Vatican. It was spring, just getting warmer and there were hundreds of birds hovering around the dome; a constant swirl of silhouettes. They looked like fireflies in the moonlight. To my right there was a big grate in the ground with some kind of jazz or swing music coming out of it. Literally, there was a music hall underneath my feet. Now that was magical, I just took it all in –… the monumentality of what was around me, above me, beneath me… I haven’t shared that with anyone, but that small space of time was impactful.

D: I couldn’t even begin to pinpoint it. It was the first time that I didn’t have to work 40-hours and go to school. The amount of free time was liberating. I really got to make art, to create, and just experience life with other people. I was up for anything. We all were. We would hangout; check out little bars and venues, walk-around at 2 and 3 in the morning. Having 30-some friends there, knowing that everyone was free, that there was no excuse for not getting together and just having fun– that was really great. We all agreed to go out all the time, that we would figure out the rest [classwork] later. At the end we rushed to put together our travel portfolio; to create 30 pieces of art in a week. But the end stress was well worth all the small moments of experiencing life in another place.

Q: Technical question – how were the classes arranged / what was the living set-up?

BOTH: The group was made up of Cypress and Fullerton College students, divided into two cohorts. Some had AM classes; the rest had classes in the afternoon. Everyone lived around a 10-minute radius of the Vatican, most on the north side of the city. It was perfect. Most everyone chose to live in shared apartments with 2-4-or 6 people from the group; two did home-stays.

For coursework, we had to produce an architectural travel log with 30 pieces of art. We were all scrambling at the end. Throughout the trip we were like, ‘We should be doing the travel log…. But we’re not…. Okay, out to live – let’s have an experience! It was liberating. No regrets.’

Q: Did you do any other travels?

D: Over spring break I went to Paris (France) and Lisbon (Portugal). Lisbon is amazing. It’s both very Latin and very European; it’s a special mix. Graffiti is legal there, everyone is doing it at night – I really liked that. I wandered around winding streets, up hundred-step staircases to incredible vistas, rode in the little trams… I also spent an extra three weeks at the end traveling. I went to Croatia, Berlin and Budapest (my favorite).

M: I went to Munich, Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic

Q: So what’s your takeaway? Would you recommend others to study abroad?

BOTH: Absolutely.

D: The opportunity to not just see, but experience a different part of the world is tremendous… to learn about political issues, different systems of government, alternative ways of living… and to reflect on what seems to work well, and what doesn’t. That’s pretty mind opening. When you come home, you find yourself paying a little more attention to things.

M: Also, it’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of cultures. There’s a real contrast between Rome and Munich, for example. It’s meaningful to see different cultures, other people in their native element.

D: It changed my life, my art and my outlook. I would definitely recommend everyone to take advantage of a study-abroad.

(Go to the source of Mallory and David’s reflections on Rome via their photography / posted Gallery).

(Photo Credit: Mallory Roa)

20150503_Rome_Roaming_6438(Photo Credit: Mallory Roa)


Pictured: David… & Mallory.

11060267_914913801886713_4041547856467808214_n (1)Photo Credit: David Dugonecevic



Cypress and Fullerton College – Rome, Spring 2015.



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