When Dan Weis told his prospective study abroad students how much they would be walking in Italy, they thought he was kidding. Sixteen cities, three countries, and nearly four hundred miles later, the truth of his words was clear. Participants returned from Italy with more independence, better problem-solving skills, a deeper appreciation of the concept of ‘Renaissance,’ and some well-worn soles.
Dan Weis led the UNO History in Italy program this past summer 2016 accompanied by eight students and two community members. The program is unique in its backpacking travel style, low student numbers that facilitate movement, and focus on affordable transportation and accommodation. For four weeks in late May and early June, participants traveled quite literally around Italy – west from Naples, then to the south, then to the east, and back up north – hitting locations like Rome, Pompeii, Florence, Bologna, Pisa, Venice, Verona, and Milan.
Students met periodically during the spring semester to meet and start planning their studies. Three weeks of daily class in the summer preceded the four weeks of travel. The focus of the course was Renaissance Italy, and students had the flexibility to choose what they would study under that umbrella, such as Dante’s Inferno, Machiavelli’s The Prince, or the literary works of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Visiting five major Italian Renaissance cities, students were asked to consider what it means for the cities to be 'Renaissance.' Their work was assessed by papers, book reports, and daily assignments, with the goal of adding historical depth to the locations visited by participants. Students learned about the history and culture of Italy, as well as about current events and tenets of travel safety.
Beyond the academic benefits, however, the program focused on creating more culturally relative, aware, and informed travelers. With less structure to this program than typical faculty-led programs, participants were expected to become more independent and improve their problem-solving skills as they navigated public transport, unfamiliar environments, and moved through both small towns and large cities.
Reflecting on the experience, Craig Olson writes that, with this program, he was able to “travel through a country whose cities once dominated Europe in wealth, strength, religious affairs, education, and art –with a new set of friends.”
Dan Weis typically runs this program every summer and it is tentatively planned for summer 2017. Additionally, there is a new history program running to Belgium this summer with Charles Klinetobe. Both programs can be found on the online application portal, Horizons.
Want to get started on your own path to study abroad? UNO Education Abroad wants to help! Study abroad is an attainable goal for all types of students and there are endless opportunities to find something that works for you. Get in touch today to speak with our awesome peer advisors and learn more about education abroad options and funding opportunities!
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