Italy – Book Arts in Venice
The Book Arts in Venice study abroad program was an amazing experience. Prior to
leaving for the trip, I was of course nervous about the language barrier and the idea of living in a
foreign country for three weeks. However, upon arriving in Italy, and meeting up with the other
students in my group, I began to feel at ease.
Our instructor, Jeff Abshear, was fantastic at giving us insights into Italian culture,
having spent a large amount of time living in Italy and fluently speaking the language himself.
One such insight, which seems trivial, is the cultural difference when it comes to simple things
such as water. Most Italians prefer carbonated water, such as when you go to a restaurant. After
several students accidentally indulged in what they thought was the regular, non-carbonated
beverage, we became aware of how the world differs from the U.S. not just in large ways, but
subtle, fun, interesting, small ways as well. The jury is still out as to whether we enjoyed this
particular cultural milieu!
The food in Italy was fantastic. Every meal we had as a group was truly superb. The pasta
dishes were spectacular and make you regret ever eating “American” Italian food, the bread was
amazing, and the Italians we encountered were, for the most part, very friendly. One of the best
parts of studying abroad was getting to experience the new food and realizing that there are many
cultural differences when it comes to cuisine. One such difference involved coffee. Italians
prefer to drink a very concentrated, small amount coffee rather than the larger, more watered
down (and sugared up) version of the drink many Americans indulge in. I was skeptical at first,
but Italian espresso is incredible, though I still enjoy American coffee as well.
This program was fantastic in terms of the locations of study. Our group was able to
study at the Scuola Internaziole di Grafica in Venice, the Florence School of Fine Arts in
Florence, and Tipoteca Italiana in Cornuda. I learned how to create prints, using a variety of
printing presses. I was able to create a large poster in addition to a group book project and a
drypoint etching. The instructors at the three institutions were incredibly knowledgeable, kind,
and funny. Despite the language barrier in some cases, we all got along great. It was fun teaching
certain English words and phrases and learning some Italian ones in return.
The program did not consist only of the program content. Our group was able to have
some free time to explore cities such as Venice and, my favorite Italian city, Florence. We
explored together as a large group and also got some free time in small groups of two and three
together as well. One side trip was to to Padova, where we were able to explore the Italian
farmer’s market and “flea market.” We also took a tour of Palazzo del Bo, which was historically
one of the oldest universities in Europe where Galileo studied and taught.
Overall this trip gave me the confidence to feel that I could travel abroad again. More
than anything, this trip gave me the “travel bug,” as now I want to travel to so many places I
hadn’t considered before. I feel more like a “citizen of the world” now that I have completed this
study abroad program. Travelling to Italy, even for a short time, changed my perspective on the
world in terms of recognizing the expansive cultural differences that exist throughout the world
and how, no matter where you go, people are people. This program was incredible and I would
recommend it to anyone who is interested in Italian culture, the arts, or even just someone
interested in history or books in general!