Education, Program

New Program

Orvieto, Italy Program Offers Fall Semester

May 7, 2018

By Jonathan Burkart ’18

As the semester draws to a close, Saint Anselm College’s other hilltop campus in Orvieto, Italy is also wrapping up its academic year. This semester, there are 26 students living and studying in the Umbrian town through the college’s Orvieto, Italy Program accompanied by Classics professors David George and Linda Rulman and fine arts professor Katherine Bentz.

Each student is enrolled in the core humanities course Chiavi: Keys to Our Cultural Heritage. The class features biweekly excursions throughout Italy tied to lecture material taught in the students’ Orvieto classroom. By dedicating class time to reading and discussing Italian history and culture, the students prepare more fully to appreciate the sites they visit. They encounter a broad variety of cultural experiences, as they travel both to famous locales like Rome, Florence, and Naples as well as to smaller cities and regions connected to the college and to the program.

For junior Erin Lally, a criminal justice major, the biggest highlight from her semester in Orvieto has been “The Grand Tour,” a three-day trip to Naples, Pompeii, Paestum, and Monte Cassino. Guided by their professors, Lally and her classmates saw ancient ruins, visited the Abbey at Monte Cassino, and stopped at a local buffalo farm to taste test their fresh mozzarella cheese.

“Some of my fondest memories from the entire trip have been spent simply enjoying the sunset with my peers at a beach nestled between mountains in Paestum,” said Lally. “It is hard to believe that this has become ‘the norm’ for us and that there was a time when I didn’t know my fellow Anselmians.”

According to Professor George, the program grew out of a belief in the “value of humanistic endeavors.” He explained, “It is in Italy that the western tradition took shape, and where one can best see all the layers of that tradition.”

George believes that the success of the program stems from students’ education about and immersion in that tradition. From visiting the foundation of western monasticism and the libraries of Subiaco to learning about the development of banking and accounting in Siena and Florence, students in Orvieto are continuously challenged to identify both the historical elements of their surroundings as well as the connections with modernity.

“No one who has come to Orvieto to study has not been touched,” said George.

Communication major Brenna Collins ’19, who studied in Orvieto this semester, agrees with Professor George. She credits the program with gifting her a “much deeper connection” to Saint Anselm, particularly through the trips to Subiaco and Monte Cassino.

“I’m so lucky to have visited the origins of Benedictine life: the first monastery Saint Benedict created and the place where he wrote The Rule,” said Collins.

Collins also credits the program with making her a “significantly more independent and confident person.” Learning to travel throughout Italy and to five other countries has helped her develop her self-confidence and communication skills. Exploring Italy through class trips, and Europe through independent excursions, has helped Collins and her peers in Orvieto to cultivate cultural awareness while immersing themselves in Europe’s powerful history.

“Each place that we have visited has opened my eyes to the rich culture and history here in Italy,” Collins said. “I know I will return from abroad with a new self-awareness, appreciation for other cultures, and independence.”

In the spring of 2016, the pilot year for the college’s program in Orvieto, 11 students enrolled. The number of participants nearly doubled the following year, with 21 taking advantage of this opportunity to study in Italy.

With the culmination of another successful year, professors George and Rulman, and President Steven DiSalvo have decided to further expand the program by launching a new semester in Orvieto.

“When we started the program in 2016, our goal was to provide students with an affordable option for spending a semester in Italy that retained the quality of a Saint Anselm College education and enhanced key foundations through immersion in the history and culture of Italy,” said Rulman. “With the encouragement and support of President DiSalvo, we are now launching a pilot program for fall semester 2018.”

Professor George notes that adding a new semester will create an opportunity for students whose schedules would otherwise prevent them from studying abroad. Additionally, there will be a variety of new experiences for students in the fall.

“It will be a different experience,” George said. “For example, in the fall it’s harvest time, which offers students a great opportunity to visit a vineyard in production or go to an olive harvest and watch the pressing of the oil. We think that this is the time for Saint Anselm College to have a full-time presence on the mesa of Orvieto.”

The Orvieto program is open to all sophomores, juniors, and seniors in good academic standing. For further information about the program or the process, please visit the Orvieto Program website. Applications for fall 2018 are still being accepted.