Edinburgh Global

Go Abroad – Rose in Italy

Read about the winner of the Go Abroad competition essay category, which asked participants to reflect on their time abroad. Rose Whitty spent her time on an excavation site in Italy.

To read Rose Whitty’s description of her time on an excavation near Vacone, a small village in central Italy, is to make you long to book a holiday there in the hopes of having a Roman Holiday more perfect than Audrey Hepburn’s.

The roads are narrow and wind their way up and down the slopes, passing rows of pale olive trees, dark hardwoods, and then suddenly emerging into bright sunlight with the view stretched out below. Yellow villas peep out from among the orchards, walled towns top the hills like crowns, and the brilliant sun beats down, tinting the scene a shade of sepia.

An excerpt from 'The Swing of a Pickaxe'

On an excavation trip facilitated by the University of Edinburgh’s Archaeology Department, Rose stayed in an agriturismo, a country hotel, and spent time in the surrounding archaeological field cracking the earth to discover the stories it has kept secret for so many years.

Rose’s description of her time there, in an essay titled 'The Swing of a Pickaxe', won the Best Writing for the University of Edinburgh Go Abroad competition.

She chose to write so she could shape her memory of the experience with emotional context, and not solely rely on objective recall. Writing is how she managed to curate her memories of weekends spent around the ancient ruins of Rome and Orvieto.

When you read through something you’ve written years later, often it can call the memory of it really effectively – not just what it looked like but how it felt.

Rose Whitty

Like others who have gone abroad can relate, Rose admits that her best experiences in Italy can’t be captured or described – they can only be lived.

She recalls walking through the town one evening with her fellow archaeologists and bumping into a group of Italians dancing and playing in the street. They ended up joining in a game of piggy-in-the-middle with the group of Italian-speaking children there, forming a warm connection that’s unique to communicating when there’s a language barrier.

Though this was hard to put into words, it was part of an experience that pushed Rose out of her comfort zone that summer. In managing to successfully organise her own transport and accommodation, there seemed fewer barriers to going abroad: “the realisation that I could not only cope with that responsibility but also have an amazing time has really encouraged me to try new things.”

As a third year Ancient and Medieval History student, she prized the stucco she dug out that “predated the fall of the Rome” and “was buried by the time of Charlemagne.”  The bits of pottery or an ancient wall have “waited in the ground throughout innumerable wars and festivals, reigns of monarchs and passing of seasons,” and Rose went to Italy to “[lift it] out into the sunlight again.”

Spend your summer abroad!

You could go on a short term international experience, or find out what it's like to live and work in another country.

You could go on a short term international experience, or find out what it's like to live and work in another country. Find out about funded opportunities.

Find out more