Friday, October 11, 2013 - 12:15

Assumption Travel Seminar Offers Students Opportunity to Immerse in European History and Art

Fortin & Gonthier Foundations of Western Civilization Students Enjoy ‘Living Classroom’ in Historic Cities

The historian John Hope Franklin once said of travel: “We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore, and tell the world the glories of our journey.”

A group of 16 Assumption College students did just that. Through Assumption’s Fortin & Gonthier Foundations of Western Civilization program, they went out into the world – in this case, Belgium and Holland – and blogged about their rewarding, overseas educational experience.

  • Read more about the Belgium-Holland trip in the blog.

Traveling in May 2013 with professors Lance Lazar and Toby Norris, the students became immersed in Belgian and Dutch culture and learned about the “High Days of the Low Countries” in the “living classrooms” of Bruges, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. From the early 1400s to the late 1600s, the cities of the Low Countries (now Belgium and Holland) were the most exciting urban centers of northern Europe, laying the foundations of modern capitalism and producing some of the most dazzling art of any period. 

“As an art history major, it was important for me to see, in person, the works of art I have been studying for the past four years,” said Amanda Carchedi ’13 of Foxboro, Mass. “There is no reproduction in the world that can compare to seeing the actual work of art masters such as Jan van Eyck, Vermeer, and Rembrandt and in the country where these artists were inspired.”

The Foundations program integrates the study of politics, arts, literature, philosophy, theology, and history to help students reflect on the heritage of the western world and better understand how those subjects relate to one another. Since 2009, the spring semester course “Foundations Travel Seminar” offers a trip to Europe for 10 days, giving students an opportunity to experience various periods of Western Civilization. Past destinations have included Rome, Venice, London, and Oxford. Paris is planned for spring 2014. Due to the generosity of Donald and Michele D’Amour, an endowment subsidizes the cost of the travel component for students in the Foundations Program. 

“The Travel Seminars are an innovative and exciting opportunity for students to experience world cultures in an intensive fashion,” said Lazar. “Not only do the students invest more during the semester, with the knowledge and excitement that they will be able to witness the places and masterpieces they are studying, they also gain immeasurably during the travel program, with the advantage of having just spent a semester of concentrated study on the very area they are experiencing.”

The trips to Europe aren’t required, but they have been popular among students.

“The Travel Seminar through Assumption’s Foundations program was a life-changing travel and educational experience,” said Shannon Romanowski ’16, a political science major from Merrimack, Mass. 

Prior to the May trip, the students spent their spring semester on Assumption’s Worcester campus, learning about Belgium and Holland in the 15th through the 17th centuries.

“The course, combined with the travel experience in northern Europe, opened my eyes to a hidden gem of the world tucked away in the Netherlands,” Carchedi said. “From the breathtaking art museums and stunning landscapes, to the rich history of the land and the people, it was an experience I will always remember and cherish. I would recommend an academic experience like this to anyone.”

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews