Study Abroad: Italian Odyssey


Graduate students at the Ara Pacis in Rome. Courtesy of Susan Ogilvie.

We always hear of a “once in a lifetime trip,” and I am now amongst the fortunate to have traveled in May and June of 2015 with Academy of Art University instructors David Riffert, Steven Williams and Kevin Forman and 19 other Academy students to beautiful Italy. 

I had considered such a journey beyond my reach in so many ways, considering what I imagined to be a very expensive trip; too much time away and personally exhausting. But with encouragement, I decided to go and loved every moment.

From our arrival in Milan, seeing the beautiful Duomo of Milan to our magical time in Venice and on to the capital of art history—Florence—I thought I had fallen into Alice’s wonderland of art. We even crossed paths in Orvieto with another Academy group of study abroad painters, which was delightful.

We created friendships as we studied the greatest works of art and architecture each day. Highlights included Leonardo’s “Codex” and the magnificent Duomo of Florence, where students climbed the 500 steps to the top of the famous dome. We saw the magnificent “David” of Michelangelo and the Uffizi Museum. Siena showed us the beauty of the Tuscan countryside and the pride of the Italian people in their culture and warm hospitality.

The culmination of our journey was a magnificent week in Rome, where our instructors taught us the depth of history in the Roman culture and majesty of the architecture of the 2,000-year-old Pantheon and Coliseum and of course, the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. The Sistine Chapel will forever be an unforgettable sight.


Academy students and instructors in Rome during the Summer 2015 Study Abroad trip. Courtesy of Susan Ogilvie.

In looking back on this life-changing trip I would encourage fellow students to consider studying abroad before finishing their college career. I’m beginning my thesis this fall semester, and I asked myself at the end of my trip how I could ever thank my instructors enough for their continual guidance and teaching along the way, and the answer is to thank them by sharing my knowledge and thirst for learning with others. 

Pencil [studying abroad] into your plans, see what happens and if you are able to go, I wish you the best journey! Bon Voyage!