Wonder, The Most Human Emotion: History Major Alice Costantino

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Alice Costantino, from Benevento, Italy, is a History major with a passion for Classical Studies. As president of the Queer Alliance Club at JCU, Alice found the JCU community to be receptive and open-minded toward LGBTQ+ issues. Although she has enjoyed her time in Rome, after graduation Alice plans on moving away in search of bigger and better things.  

What brought you to JCU?
Chance, to be honest.  All I knew for sure was that I wanted to be a historian. I had been accepted to some universities in the UK and I really liked the idea but tuition was daunting. I had looked at some Italian schools, including here in Rome, but for every course I liked in the program there were three that sounded horribly boring. Then my mom told me that she had emailed the Admissions office of an American university in Trastevere that would let me pick my own courses. So I applied and was accepted. The rest is history.

Alice Costantino

Alice Costantino

You are a History major and Classical Studies minor. Why do you think these subjects are relevant today?  Everyone has heard some version of the phrase “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” so I won’t indulge in that kind of pop philosophy here. To be honest that’s never been what drove me towards studying the past. To put it simply, I am fascinated by humans. I love to contemplate the way in which people have organized themselves into societies and spread their cultural values and ideas. Every classicist will tell you that before writing, there was orality. The Iliad, for instance, came from an oral tradition, and it had been transmitted by word of mouth centuries before it was ever written down. Its purpose was not just to entertain, but also to educate the audience by using the heroes as examples. Humans still behave pretty much the same way: we have writing now, but we still have  Hollywood movies to provide common cultural tropes to avoid or follow. Studying societies across time fills me with wonder and fascination.

Can you briefly describe your experience in the Queer Alliance Club at JCU?
It’s absolutely wonderful. I am so proud to be the club’s president and to be able to engage with our LGBT+ community and the JCU community in such a direct way. I’ve always struggled with social anxiety so I wasn’t really the type of person who joined student groups back in high school. Plus, my hometown, Benevento, Italy, is not exactly a big or accepting place. I tried joining the only “Gay rights’ group” that existed, but it wasn’t very welcoming towards bisexual teenage girls. All in all, I’m so happy to be in the QA here at JCU, where everyone that I’ve met has been accepting and open-minded.

What are your plans for the future?
I want to apply to graduate schools in Europe for Cultural History, or Cultural Studies, or something along those lines. I do want to get a Ph.D. at some point but as I’m graduating this May soon after turning 21, I don’t want to rush into it. I’ll probably do a one year Master’s and then find a job in a place that’s big and cool and exciting. I love Rome and I don’t regret choosing to stay here for three years, but I’m ready for bigger and better things.

You have studied abroad in Copenhagen. How was your experience?
It was unbelievably stimulating and exciting. I was in a program at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Textile Research and my colleagues were people from different academic backgrounds. There were other undergrads like me, but also grad students, people working on their Ph.D., and even professors. The sheer variety of fields that my program (on the history of textile production and fashion) touched on was staggering: fashion studies, ethnology, classics, art history, archaeology, and many more. We even had workshops on how to spin wool, dye fabric, and weave tapestries. It was such an incredible amount (and variety) of information packed into just 14 days that my head spun at the end, but I wouldn’t mind doing something like it again.

What is your advice to other students who are considering JCU?
Well, I’m already the unofficial JCU spokesperson for everyone who asks me about it, from my brothers’ classmates to my cousins to friends-of-friends who are considering transferring from other universities. The best advice I could give is to contact someone who attends JCU. The entire community, faculty, staff and students alike, is super friendly and, in my own experience, has always gone above and beyond to make sure that all my questions were answered and that I felt comfortable and welcome. If you reach out to someone, I’m sure they’ll be excited to tell you everything you need to know.