Senior Scholar Studies Abroad: Interview with Susan Cohen

Susan Cohen headshot

Every semester, Temple University’s Senior Scholars program invites Temple alumni and friends to audit select undergraduate classes offered on Main, Ambler, Center City, and Harrisburg Campuses. By auditing classes, Senior Scholars have the chance to come back to campus and continue to learn without the pressure they may have felt as students. With no required exams or tests, Senior Scholars relive the best parts of being a student and take advantage of the wide array of opportunities that Temple provides.


One of those opportunities is now the chance to study abroad for the first time, or revisit a place where you studied when you were an undergraduate. During the summer of 2019, Senior Scholars offered courses for audit at Temple University Rome for the first time.


In May 2019, Susan Cohen, Temple alumna class of ’76, who studied abroad in Rome as an undergraduate student 45 years ago, jumped at the chance to return to the lively, historically rich city that is Rome, Italy. Continue reading to learn about Susan’s experience in Rome.


What class or classes did you audit and what were they like?

I audited a history class and a photography class. The history teacher was amazing and very knowledgeable. They had extensive knowledge about classical cultures, history, architecture, and city planning. We would have one class in the classroom and a second class on site going through the history of Rome. We’d visit different sites each week and we’d walk around to help us imagine what happened.


How did you find auditing?

Auditing takes the pressure off. I took the exams, and I took the midterms and did all of the assignments, but I didn’t have to, so it made it easier for me. I think when the program expands and there are more people like me there and we can socialize it might make it easier. The kids all live together in a residence and they ask each other questions and study together and I was sort of out of the loop. They were great kids and I loved being in class with them, but we didn’t spend free time together.


What was the workload like?

Classes were tiring. I’m not used to it, so I didn’t need more than the two classes. Two was my limit despite it not sounding like a lot. Photography was 10 hours a week just in class time, and the history class was 6 hours a week, plus you have assignments on top of that. It was pretty busy.


What did you do in your free time?

I row here on the Schuylkill, but when I was in Rome, I found a rowing club directly across the river from the school. I introduced myself and they allowed me to row whenever I wanted. I made other contacts, people my age who row and share my ability level. I did that once a week.


Photography kept me busy too. I spent a lot of my free time working on photo assignments, which took me to different areas of the city that I wouldn’t normally go to.


Did you ever feel like you stopped being a tourist?

When I felt more comfortable with my Italian [language], someone asked me for directions, and I was able to tell them. I said to myself, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I did that!” A lot of my Italian came back to me from the year I took when I was in school, and I’ve been back over the years. If I did this program again, I would want to take an Italian class. I got to be okay in restaurants and stores and that helps you to feel better, more like you live there. And not being in the tourist areas. You look like other tourists and people just start to talk to you in English but in the neighborhood I was in, their first approach was to speak to me in Italian.


What would you suggest to improve the program?

The only improvement I would make is adding more people my age to socialize with. I was nervous to be in a class with 20-year-olds but they were sweet and wonderful. I had trouble with technology and some of the photography software, but the students were so helpful and jumped at the opportunity to help. Overall, I liked being in a group with younger people. I like being with young vibrant people who are different.


Interested in auditing classes at Temple University, and possibly studying abroad yourself? Contact the Senior Scholars program at to learn more about the opportunities available to you and be sure to come to our Senior Scholars reception on October 23, 2019.