Last summer I participated in AU’s first graduate summer semester in Rome. Over five weeks from the end of May to the end of June, Professor David Keplinger and nine MFA’s lived and studied, drank cheap wine and ate excellent food, wrote poetry and fiction, toured ancient art and ruins, studied literature and oh-by-the-way, earned three credits per class—the same as doing each class over a regular semester. Hard to call that anything but a win-win.
Three classes were offered: “How to Read Like a Writer” (Lit class), a poetry workshop, and a fiction workshop. So, basically, if you like to read and write, you’re good. True, the work load in the classes was much more immediate than in our usual once-a-week schedule. Instead of having a week to work on something, we had a day or two but surprisingly, the schedule forced a certain freedom. Without time to massage and work our words to death, we simply wrote. For five weeks, nearly every day, I wrote something. When’s the last time that happened?
Also, did I mention—Rome. In the springtime! It was soft evenings drinking wine (I keep mentioning that, hmm?) and talking about words. AU MFA students walked ancient cobbled stone streets, veered around street musicians, passing 400 year-old churches on every corner.
The professors in the program were impressively chill—they too, were on a compressed schedule but we all shared a love for words and writing. They were in Rome, too. The usual gulf between student and teacher evaporated. Any distance between the MFA students also mostly turned to mist. We learned about villanelles, sestina’s, flash fiction, word choice, audience, structure and each other. Who else were we going to get a weekend train with? Or flight to Amsterdam? Or a bus to a beach or vineyard? We relied on one other and we relied on Rome. None of us left disappointed.
The bottom line is this: over five weeks you can accumulate three credits per class (the same credits as you do over a four-month semester), have Friday’s off, and pay less than you do for credits at AU. And, oh yeah, it’s Rome. Do the math.
Kelly White is a contributing writer for Café Américain and a third-year candidate in the American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.