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John Carroll University student Ken Farona ’15 had some expectations when he embarked upon a month-long archaeological excavation in central Italy this summer.

Farona knew he would be devoting eight-hour days to unearthing artifacts at the site of the Roman city of Peltuinum, alongside students and faculty from La Sapienza University. He also was looking forward to immersing himself in the Italian language and culture, and to meeting new friends.

But the Richmond Heights, Ohio, resident didn’t expect that he would uncover a new talent—drawing—during the trip. In addition to his excavation work, Farona spent time in the laboratory examining pieces of pottery and architecture collected from the site. The researchers focused on artifacts primarily from a Roman theatre, along with a medieval fortress that was built atop of it.

Farona not only explored the origin and uses of the objects, but also put pencil to paper to create images of them. “I discovered that with measurements, a keen eye, and patience I am able to draw fairly well,” says the double major in sociology and a self-designed Italian studies program. “I enjoyed excelling at something I had never seriously tried before.” Farona’s illustrations will become part of the archaeological catalog of the Peltuinum site.

Farona’s experiences in Italy—both the expected and unexpected—resulted from the efforts of Santa Casciani, Ph.D., an associate professor of Italian and director of the Bishop Anthony M. Pilla Program in Italian American Studies at JCU. Casciani arranged for Farona to participate in the excavation project, which is located near the professor’s hometown of Castelnuovo in the province of L’Aquila.

The Bishop Anthony M. Pilla Program provided funding for Farona’s trip, which concluded in early August. “I was welcomed into the community of the Peltuinum crew,” he recalls. “By the time the excavation came to an end, I didn’t want to leave because of all the connections I had made.”

Farona will stay in Italy for the fall semester through the JCU at Vatican City study abroad program, which is directed by Casciani. He will take courses at the Pontifical Urban University and live in central Rome. He’s eager to reconnect with friends he met during the summer who also will be studying in the Italian capital.

“My experience at Peltuinum was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Farona, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology. “I improved my Italian speaking and comprehension tremendously, and I learned quite a bit about Roman archeology. I gained a lot of confidence about being away from home and being independent, especially in a foreign country.”