Immerse yourself in the language and culture of this magical city for eight weeks.
In March, a group of Flathead Valley Community College students will pack their bags for Venice, Italy, where they will participate in an eight-week cultural and language immersion program that has been compared to those offered by prestigious universities.
Susan Guthrie, an associate professor of art at FVCC, became the director of the Study Abroad in Venice program in 2016. Drawing from her 20-plus years of experience living and working in Venice, Guthrie has developed a network of personal and professional relationships with native Venetians that allows her students to experience life in the ancient city as a resident rather than a tourist.
The program was started in 2008, the brainchild of longtime FVCC art professor John Rawlings. The program has evolved over the years to include new classes, tours and instructors, but the rigor of the program remains unchanged.
Operating from the campus of the Istituto Venzia in the heart of the university district of Dorsoduro, FVCC’s Study Abroad in Venice program offers students the opportunity to earn 10 college credits. All credits are transferable to other colleges and universities. Language classes are taught exclusively in Italian by native speakers, while all other classes are taught in English.
Guthrie teaches two classes as part of the program. Her lectures are more likely to take place in the streets or museums than in a classroom.
“Everything that you see there means something. The names of the streets, the canals… everything has a story,” she said. “What a joy and privilege it is for me to be able to take young people and not-so-young people to these places, knowing how to get them there and then helping them to see and understand at a deep level what they are looking at and why it is so important and special.”
Guthrie pursued extensive graduate studies in art, eventually earning two master’s degrees. Her graduate programs required her to spend time living and studying in Italy and Germany.
“I had some of the best teachers in Florence,” she said. “We combed over every detail of a subject or artifact…we looked at the minutiae. Tourism is such a big thing in Italy, and people often just walk by something and don’t know what they are seeing.”
There is no danger of this happening with Guthrie’s students. She works hard to ensure they fully understand what they are observing. “All education is exuberant, because I’m excited about what I teach. But in Venice, I’m not showing slides… we are standing in front of the real thing.”
“I have been fortunate to see, for example, Michelangelo’s ‘David’ again and again, and I am just as excited the 10th time, because I get to watch students seeing it for the first time. My heart is elevated, and there is always something more to discover.”
Soon after arriving in Venice, the students learn to use the vaporetti… the city’s public “water bus” transportation system. Because Venice is comprised of several little islands connected by canals, learning to use the vaporetti is key to navigating and enjoying the city’s various neighborhoods.
The students reside in apartments scattered around Venice. They shop for food, cook and clean for themselves, getting to know their local merchants and neighbors in the process of day-to-day living. The education they receive far exceeds the formal curriculum of the program.
“They are learning how to live in a foreign country, how to be global students who are culturally fluent,” said Guthrie. “Learning how to be in a new and strange place is transformative… physically, emotionally, spiritually and behaviorally… and most importantly, in my opinion, it is the surest way to become the best version of oneself.”
Applications are now available for FVCC’s 2020 Study Abroad in Venice program. To be eligible to participate, students must be admitted to FVCC, be at least 18 years old and demonstrate a 2.5 or higher grade point average. The program is open to students of all disciplines, and no prior experience communicating in Italian is necessary.
The cost of the program is $5,200, which covers housing, public transportation, museum and gallery entrance fees, travel visas and an 11-day tour of Florence, Assisi, Popolonia, Island of Elba, Rome and Pompeii. The $5,200 does not include airfare to and from Venice, meals or tuition/fees for 10 college credits.
An initial $500 deposit is due by October 15, 2019. A second deposit of $500 is due by November 27, 2019. The remaining balance of $4,200 is due January 31, 2020 and is non-refundable after that date.
Scholarships are available from the Foundation at FVCC. Scholarships are made possible by generous donors who have supported the Study Abroad in Venice program at the college’s Big Night fundraising event. Since the establishment of La Serenissima Scholarship Fund, nearly $100,000 has been awarded to 30 students to help cover costs of participating in the program.