Making the World Your Classroom

Mosaic from Rome.

Mosaic from Rome.

Picture Rome. Most people will likely picture a sunny day at the Coliseum or marveling at the architecture and artistry of the Pantheon. But have you ever considered that Rome’s history is riddled with murder, mystery, and madness? This history is precisely what students explore when studying abroad with Dr. Rebecca Morse in her study abroad class to Rome, Italy.


Mason’s campuses offer a wide range of academic experiences, whether through the diverse student body and learning opportunities, or via connections to the greater Washington region. However, sometimes the most influential learning happens not only outside the classroom, but also outside the nation. As an experiential learning component of the psychology degree, students are able to supplement their education by taking study abroad courses directly related to their field of interest.


This past January, Dr. Rebecca Morse, a Mason graduate and adjunct professor, brought her PSYC 405 course, Murder, Mystery, and Madness, to Rome. Students were able to delve deep into the history of Rome to explore the psychological principles of ancient people at play, while walking in the footsteps of yesteryear. The class applied cross-cultural, developmental, and behavioral psychology principles to the world around them, and returned realizing they learned more than psychological theory.


Students often found themselves wrapped up in the content and lore of the city and surrounding region. During the trip, they visited Pompeii and observed a cross-sectional glimpse through time. Pompeii represents a rare example of a civilization captured in time, unchanged and waiting to be understood. At another point in the trip, students explored the psychology of cults and terrorists and how their influence changed the fate of Rome.


Working in a small class size with full access to their instructor, the students were able to build strong relationships and work collaboratively. Collectively, the group developed a mentor-mentee relationship that flowed between learning course material and developing cultural awareness. Dr. Morse worked closely with local tour guides to provide students an opportunity to live like true locals. She showed them the local markets and cultural centers where the Romans spend their down time. With this experience, many students are able to build relationships with community members that have lasted years beyond the two-week course.


Students at all levels are welcome to join Dr. Morse on future trips, as well as non-Mason students, such as alumni and friends of Mason.

Psychology study abroad students pose in the Coliseum in Rome with Dr. Rebecca Morse.

Psychology study abroad students pose in the Coliseum in Rome with Dr. Rebecca Morse.

This summer, Vias Nicolaides, a Mason doctoral candidate in the Industrial/Organizational PhD program, will be leading a study-abroad program to his hometown of Limassol, Cyprus. In this month-long trip, Professor Nicolaides hopes to leverage his connections with family and friends in Cyprus to give students the opportunity to live like a true Cypriot. While visiting, students will be able to learn cross-cultural psychology theory and apply it directly to their experience. Students will study at the University of Cyprus in Limassol with Professor Nicolaides and explore the greater island nation throughout their stay. A unique draw to Cyprus is that students have the opportunity to traverse from white-sandy, touristy beaches to more secluded, rustic mountain villages throughout the trip. This will enable them to understand more of the culture and see how it may vary, even at the sub-regional level. Undergraduate students and non-Mason students are welcome to join this experience.

        Mason students with Professor Nicholaides (back row) in Cyprus.                             Mason students enjoy the Cyprus sun.

Mason students with Professor Nicholaides (back row) in Cyprus.            Mason students enjoy the Cyprus sun.