I came across this photo a few days ago, and I thought this would be such a fun experience to share. I spent my fourth year of college at the Universita degli studi di Bologna, where I finished my undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature. This was not the kind of program where all the Americans tak classes together- I actually eschanged a place at the University with an ITalian Student. Although I was still considered a “studente straniere” or “foriegn” student, I took classes and exams right alongside the Italian students. When we completed the program, a few of us were concurrently concluding our bachelor degrees. This photo shows me with two of my favorite colleagues Pedro and Brenna, all three of us wearing our laurel crowns.
The tradition of the crown of laurel leaves dates back to Greek and Roman mythology, as the god Apollo is often described and pictured with the crown of leaves. This multi-faceted diety of truth, light, music and poetry, became a symbol for the student and the pursuit of academia. Dante is also often depicted with his crown of laurels.
I remember when this photo was snapped. I was attending one of the last social mixers from my exchange program- somebody read a list of our names denoting us as actual “graduates” and then placed these wreaths on our heads. We were inside a fantastic bar in Bologna called the “La Scuderia“- literally the “horse stables”- as the place had one housed the Bentivoglio family’s horses during their reign over the city in the mid 1400s.
There’s a part of me that really revels in the disconnect of this moment. A bunch of foreigners, jovially toasting the end of their school program, casually wearing these ancient, revered head-pieces. Then there’s the fact that the opulent, impressive building we are standing in at one point housed livestock for a very rich family. An added to that- the “Scuderia” itself, along with the rest of the properties and riches, were all taken back from the Bentivoglio family by the people of Bologna after the family was exiled by Pope Julius II.
There’s something funny, post-modern, and perhaps even ironic about all of it.