A Semester in Italy – Siena and San Gimignao – by Donovan Chock. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Semester in Italy – Siena and San Gimignao – by Donovan Chock. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports


Ciao, This semester I am also studying in Italy with Sara Desrocher. The nature of my reports are to give readers an alternate perspective of the same program. I’m currently a senior at St. Scholastica studying computer science. I believe computers could play a significant role in environmental sustainability in the future. Many farmers in Minnesota are already using many forms of hardware and software for production like geographical information systems, global positioning systems, big data technology, etc. However, 16 credits is not the only reason why I came to Italy. On the weekends we are completely free and encouraged to travel so that’s what we do.
One day we took a trip to Sienna and San Gimignano, two very significant medieval cities. In Siena you’ll find The University of Siena for foreigners. It is also the university in which we’re enrolled (even though we’ve only been on campus once) and where one of our professors works. Our professor was giving us a tour of the city when we came across another student from the school repeatedly giving a public service announcement: “Chicchirichì!” which translates to “Cock a doodle doo.” Apparently fraternity hazing is perfectly acceptable here and an hour of that was his initiation. Another hour later, we became brothers.

Apart from its medieval architecture and cultural integrity, Siena is known for its horse racing. They hold two horse races a year around the edge of the Piazza. They say it gets intense and people die every year. The piazza/race track is roughly the size of 1.5 soccer fields so you can imagine how tight it gets in there. The name of the tower is “Torre del Mangia” and stand in the Piazza del Campo. The tower was once one of the tallest secular towers in Italy and built to be exactly the same height as the Siena Cathedral as a way of saying that the church and state were equal.


Inside of the tower is also a famous monument of Romulus and Remus – an interesting myth about Rome’s founders. The twin boys’ father, Numitor, was king of Alba Longa until his brother, Amulius, killed him, seized power and abandoned the twin boys to die. The twins were later found by a female wolf that suckled them and kept them alive. When the twins grew up, they killed Amulius and restored Numitor’s name to the throne. After they gained power, they got in a dispute about where to build Rome. Romulus killed his brother Remus and then build Rome on Palatine Hill.


Later that day we went to San Gimignano which was like the Manhattan of Italy in Medieval times due to all of the tall towers. Rich families gathered there and built towers. The taller your tower was, the higher status your name was. They also have Gelateria Dondali which is globally ranked as one of the best gelato shops. I can’t quite remember the flavors but I think they were saffron, chocolate, and another original of the shop. As an ice cream fan, I think I would have to agree; it was some of the best gelato in the world. Aloha!

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


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12 responses to “A Semester in Italy – Siena and San Gimignao – by Donovan Chock. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. McKenna Holman

    What an incredible experience to study in Italy. You mention that there are farmers in Minnesota using different software and hardware, how do you expect these to grow in the new few years? Are they expensive to obtain? Also, you mention that the University you are studying through you have only been on its campus once, so where is class held? Is it not like a traditional classroom?

  2. sofia pineda

    One of the characteristics that attracts me the most about Europe is the availability and ease of travel. It is somewhat inexpensive to travel from city to city and even from nation to nation. If I were studying abroad in that continent, I would take advantage of it just like you are. You mention in your article that in Siena they have horse races that can become very dangerous. I wonder why they still carry out this tradition if it can end lives. What does this tradition mean to their identity?

  3. A very interesting article, indeed! It is amazing how much history exists where you have traveled/are traveling. I have a similar question to McKenna, where are your classes held if not on campus? And is there a reason that it is done that way instead of traditionally? I also wonder, what is the education format like? Do you receive much homework, or large examinations? I also love gelato…probably a bit too much…what flavor did you get, an interesting or different one? Thank you for sharing this!

  4. Cassie Mahlberg

    I found this article to be fascinating because it offers a different perspective on the same trip. The previous articles, written by Sara, were more about the educational standpoint of the trip, but this one really lightens things up to show the wonder of traveling. I find it intriguing that you took the time to study abroad in Italy and find application to your major studies, even though they seem unrelated. Are you planning on applying what you’ve learned in Italy when you return to the states? Is there a way for you to teach them something about using computers for sustainability in the way that you’re learning to do it through other methods?
    It is awesome that you had the experience of seeing the statue of Romulus and Remus. I remember reading the myth when I was younger, but it would be even cooler to see a monument recognizing it, to gain some understanding of the impact these myths have on the people’s lives.

  5. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing your experience Donovan! I think that it is always interesting to be able to learn about a program from two different perspectives. The history in Europe is so massive that I feel like anyone who visits learns something new everywhere they go. When do they hold these Horse races? Will your class be able to witness at least one out of the two? Gelato in Italy must be ten times better than Gelato in the US. Great Article!

  6. Megan Gonrowski

    You kept mentioning medieval architecture. This is something that is strange to Americans, but normal for older countries. I often wish that America had a longer history especially when it comes to art. The story of Romulus and Remus is interesting and I remember learning about it one other time. Europe has a lot of rich history and I would imagine that travelling around is like taking a trip through the past. I love that many places have kept their historical stories, cultures, and architecture. I hope hundreds of years from now America will be old enough to have an equally rich history. Not to say that we don’t still have an interesting past. I simply feel that with age comes beauty.

  7. Wow! I found the correlation between computer and environmental science quite new and interesting. I have never thought about how the two could create great advancements in the world. I would love to learn more about how computers are used to help the environment around the world, as well as in Italy and the United States. Also, I love how the city has embraced the creation myth and made it a part of their culture. Actually attending a school in Italy and witnessing culture such as the Fraternities must be a wonderful experience! I hope to go to Italy one day myself. Thank you for sharing part of your trip!

  8. Mary Tran

    It’s super interesting how you mentioned you’re enrolled at the University of Siena, but have only been to the campus once. Why is that? I found it pretty fascinating to read about the horse races that take place in Siena. Do you know on average how many people participate in the races? How many people travel to go see them? I can imagine how intense these races could be, how long has this tradition been active in Siena? It’s very interesting to read about the story of Romulus and Remus. Thank you for sharing your experience, Donovan!

  9. Avnish Miyangar

    What an eye opener into different areas of Italy. One place I still have not had the pleasure of visiting. I really like the detail you have mentioned about the history of the buildings. I love the history and art you have shown. These are also not the typical places people go to in Italy. Horse racing and pizza sounds like a lot of fun to! Very lucky to have visited such a wonderful place.

  10. Andrew Bailey

    Hello Donovan,
    What a cool opportunity to be able to travel on your weekends! I really enjoyed hearing about your travels in Italy and I found it interesting to read that initiation/hazing is an international phenomenon. Something that your article reminds me is that no matter where you are in the world, things are similar and things are different. You are able to eat ice cream/gelato, the local people partake in sporting events such as horse racing, and there are large buildings and towers that reach toward the sky, a true display of architectural mastery.

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