Global Engagement Internship: Mairead McAuliffe ’16

This summer I am thrilled to be interning in Amelia, Italy for ARCA, the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art, a non-profit organization devoted to the study and research of art crime and cultural heritage protection. I have studied Italian at Wellesley for two years and was adamant that I had to spend an extended period of time in Italy before I graduated.  As an Economics major and transfer student, studying in Italy for a semester proved to be complicated given the graduation requirements I have to complete. I therefore approached both the Italian department and the CWS to investigate summer opportunities in Italy. The Global Engagement Internship with ARCA was a perfect match. Almost untouched by tourists, Amelia, and my responsibilities with ARCA, are providing me with the perfect opportunity to practice and develop my knowledge of the Italian language. Further, ARCA’s mission to preserve and protect the artifacts of a country’s past is one that I have always been passionate about given my love for history, art and travel.

The beginning of my internship was busy and exciting as I assisted with the preparation for ARCA’s annual Art Crime Conference. The two-day event consisted of panels of international speakers discussing topics related to cultural heritage protection such as art insurance, national and international art policing and cultural heritage crimes in countries of conflict. In preparation for the event, I visited local businesses in order to engage flower arrangements and breakfast services. I also visited my newly made friends, Paola and Filippo, at the print shop on many occasions to print the conference program and other necessary materials. Paola and Filippo call me Maggie and are always helping me practice my Italian as we munch on caramelle, waiting for hundreds of pages to stack at the printer. During the conference, I was asked to tweet on ARCA’s Twitter account. I enjoyed the task since I was then able to listen and digest the panelists’ presentations. It was, however, difficult to keep my tweets within the 140-character limit! The conference was an absolute success after a lot of hard work and planning but it was also a lot of fun!

In addition to conference planning, I have enjoyed getting to know the current ARCA students. Each summer ARCA hosts an annual ten-week postgraduate certificate program for students interested in pursuing careers related to cultural heritage protection. This year’s students hail from six different countries, each coming with their own unique experiences and interests. Since knowledge of Italian is not required, it has been fun accompanying some students to the post office, bus stop and computer store to assist with the language barrier.

Linguistically connecting the students to the city of Amelia has provided me with many opportunities to interact and develop relationships with the people of this medieval village. My favorite event was the celebration of the Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi, held on June 7th. Cars were forbidden from entering the city walls as the people prepared the streets for their annual procession up to the Duomo that crowns the city’s peak. Bags of freshly cut and colored flower petals were delivered and passed from doorway to doorway as the people flooded the streets outlining designs with chalk and filling the voids with the vibrant petals. As a resident of a villa a few minutes outside of the city center, I roamed the streets with some of the students offering to help the residents. Our assistance was much appreciated by an elderly couple that owns an antique shop on Via Reppublica. The wife said that we could design whatever we wished, but the husband was, jokingly, a bit pickier! We stenciled the man’s designs of choice and showered them with the provided flowers. We then joined the couple in the procession and threaded our way through the city’s maze of streets, listening to the chanting of prayer and song. This experience is one that I will always remember since I was so warmly invited to join and participate in a tradition that has survived with a people for hundreds of years.

My internship with ARCA has been extremely valuable as I look forward to the career I wish to pursue. Despite my Economics major, I wish to attend law school and become an attorney, although I am not sure which type of law I wish to practice. I have met many lawyers and judges during my time with ARCA and all are supportive when discussing how much they enjoy the field and its work. They have warned of the difficulty of practicing art law in particular, but are hopeful that the field will gain more attention in the future.  Equally important, though, my time in Amelia has encouraged me to consider the type of lifestyle I wish to lead. At Wellesley, life can become fast paced and stress inducing with all of my assignments and meetings. Unfortunately, meals with friends and family or trips to Starbucks and the mall get canceled or shortened so that I can check more things off of my endless to-do lists. In Amelia, time is a relaxed concept, where more minutes are spent catching up with friends and meeting new ones than maintaining the efficiency of the supermarket line or the flow of traffic down a one-way street. The city shops close every afternoon at 1:00pm for lunch and a pausa before reopening again at 4:30pm and dinners are preceded by apperativo and it can be hours before the first pot of water is set on the stove to boil. This slow paced atmosphere (and spotty internet connection) has encouraged me to reconsider the amount of time and the many connections I lose while rushing back to the library or burying myself in my dorm room editing my paper, yet again.

The decorated streets and procession during the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi
The decorated streets and procession during the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi

While I still cannot yet gulp my espresso like the people of Amelia, I am learning to savor each moment I spend in this quaint little village – a lesson I hope I can store away and bring back to the States.

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