Faculty Family Experience

Dr. Shawn and Jennifer Fisher, professors of history and speech-language pathology respectively, were visiting faculty at HUF this spring. Their daughters, Elizabeth and Rachel, also accompanied them for the entire program. Shawn and Jennifer were HUF students in the Spring of 1996 and Shawn’s observations follow:

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For my wife and me it has been 21 years since we have visited Italy, and it is still as beautiful and magical as our first visit. This time things are a little different, of course. Last time we were footloose students, backpacking across Europe with boundless energy and a Eurail pass. This time we are, perhaps, a little slower and not quite as adventurous, and of course we have with us not only 36 students to teach and look after, but also two kids of our own.

Jennifer and I were dating when we came to HUF in 1996, and it was really a serious commitment of our relationship to see if we could tolerate each other for the extent of the semester. It is safe to say that we did! We can honestly say we fell in love in Italy, and we wouldn’t be the first to make that claim. But after 21 years of marriage, it’s nice to be back here together and reflect on how much closer we have grown emotionally and spiritually. It’s not quite as romantic to visit Venice with our two kids in tow, of course, but it’s nice to watch them marvel at it, just as we did years ago.

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In some ways this has been an even better experience than the last, mostly because we get to experience Italy through the eyes of our children and our “HUF kids.” As we visit some of the exciting and interesting places in the world there is a palpable feel of joy and elation. It never gets old. For a history professor like myself, it’s also a chance to tick off a few items on the bucket list — give a lecture about the Colosseum, or at the landing site for the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, or teach about Paul while walking the streets of an ancient Roman city.

One of the best experiences of the trip has been the HUF students, and we’ve enjoyed watching our girls interact with their 36 big brothers and sisters. There’s been plenty of fun interactions, some laughs and friendly kidding, and a lot of kindness and patience as well. It also been a treat to reconnect with Robbie and Mona Shackleford, who were the directors here in 1996. They have both been so sweet to our family and still have the same level of energy and excitement today as they did in 1996. Grant Schol is a new face, and the ladies Paola and Leda, have replaced Anna and Renatta, but in many ways it’s truly been like going home. The Villa is the same, the smells and tastes are just as delightful as we remember.

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From an intellectual standpoint, the museums and tours are even more enriching the second time around, even for someone who has been teaching Western Civilization for several years. I have new stories and details to relate in class, of course, but also a broader understanding that comes from advanced study. I have often caught myself making connections in ways that I missed the first time.  You don’t have to pull questions out of students; the questions come naturally as we walk together, whether in the Greek temples in Agrigento, or the Roman Forum, or the Uffizi. Students learn as easily as breathing, and as educators, we have come to value that perhaps most of all.

Photos by Grant Schol

For more information on HUF visit our website: www.harding.edu/international

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