Cultural Experiences Enhance Summer Abroad in Venice
Web Editor - Published: July 20, 2011
“My primary goal,” says Harrisburg Vice Dean Robyn Meadows of the 2011 Summer Abroad program in Venice, Italy, “is to have students break free of our very Ameri-centric way of thinking to consider how other cultures and legal traditions approach and solve different problems. This broader way of thinking will make the students better lawyers and citizens.”

“Because the classes are smaller and we are all living in a foreign country, we spend more time with the students and have the opportunity to get to know them better than we would in just a few weeks in the U.S,” she says, adding, “The students from the two campuses and other law schools also develop friendships among themselves, spending time together in Venice and even traveling on the weekends with people they didn't even know just a few weeks ago.”

The opportunities for traveling and new cultural experiences afforded by the program serve an important function in helping participants place their comparative studies in context. Those opportunities are a draw for the faculty as well, and Vice Dean Meadows has taken full advantage during her time in Venice this summer.

From July 16th through 17th, Venice hosted the annual Redentore Festival, a celebration that gives thanks for the end of the 1576 plague responsible for killing more than 50,000 people in Venice. As part of the festival, a temporary bridge is built across the Giudecca canal for 24 hours.

“Normally this canal is filled with boats and ships, so this was a unique experience,” says Meadows.

She again visited the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari as she did on her previous trip to Venice in 2009, remarking that it “is not as crowded as Basilica San Marco, so you can actually enjoy its amazing interior in peace. The artwork by Titian, particularly the Assumption of the Virgin on the altar, is breathtaking.” She adds of the Frari, “I consider this a gem of Venice that is overlooked by many tourists who do not wander far away from the tourist havens of San Marco and Rialto.”

Vice Dean Meadows has also taken the opportunity to do some traveling around Europe, including to the village of Luqa in southeastern Malta during a local festival. “We bought food and drink from the local clubs, wandered the town that was beautifully decorated with banners and statutes of the patron saint and enjoyed ‘ground’ fireworks at the end of the evening. Ground fireworks are best described as fireworks on 15-20 foot high pinwheels. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience.”

She also traveled to Amsterdam, which she praised as a “great city” with “friendly people, unique architecture, and beautiful canals.” While in Amsterdam, she made sure to take in the art, seeing works such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series at the Van Gogh Museum; Rembrandt’s Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum; and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Hague.

With the 2011 Venice Study Abroad program ending this weekend, there might still be some time for the participants to slip in a few more exciting trips before they depart.