Ca’ Foscari & Columbia: Didi and Federico talk about their summer school

Didi and Federico, participants in the 2022 Ca' Foscari Columbia Summer Programme

In summer 2022, the Ca’ Foscari Columbia Summer Programme — an international summer school in Venice organised by Ca' Foscari's School For International Education (SIE) and Columbia University for students of both universities — has taken place after a two-year break due to the pandemic. 

40 students from Columbia and 14 students from Ca’ Foscari have participated together in lessons and field trips hosted by Ca’ Foscari from 20 June to 29 July 2022. During six weeks, this university partnership provides students with the opportunity to discover the art, literature, and culture of Venice and the Veneto region. Participants can choose to enrol in an Italian language course, too. The course's international approach allows students from both sides of the Atlantic to meet and exchange their perspectives.

So what is this summer school all about? We’ve asked our students to share their experience with us. Our interviewees from Columbia are two rising seniors, Olivia Flaherty-Lovy — who is majoring in English — and Didi Kim — an art history major. Our interviewees from Ca’ Foscari are Riccardo Brighenti — who is enrolled in the Master's Degree in Philosophical Sciences — and Federico Magni — a senior in Ca’ Foscari’s Master's Degree in History of Arts and Conservation of Artistic Heritage. 

Here’s what Didi and Federico had to say. Check out Olivia and Riccardo’s opinion, too!

DIDI KIM, rising senior majoring in Art History at Columbia University

1) Enriching your understanding of the past, present and future

When applying to Columbia, one of my most significant endeavors was to join the study abroad program. Through my studies as an Art History major and life lessons in the art field, I was well aware that the art world transcends New York, and it is crucial to understand diverse cultural epicenters. Italy, embodying cultural history in its entirety, stands as one of the provenances of Western art. And as an Art History student, coming to study in Venice (especially at this time) was an unquestionable opportunity. While experiencing the historical Venetian sites and renaissance masterpieces in the flesh as well as witnessing the future of contemporary art at the long-awaited Biennale, I was able to broaden my view of not only the past and the future, but also the conversation they evoke as they coexist in the present. 

2) Experiencing life in Venice beyond tourism

One of the most awakening conversations I had in Venice was with a local curator about how Venice is filled with many tourists who are unable to see the locals and their efforts during their (typically) 7-hour-long stay at the lagoon. Thanks to the Venetians who have preserved and respected the city for centuries, visitors from all over the world are now able to enjoy such rare opportunities of walking and seeing the profound history and culture that is embedded in every single part of the alleys and bridges. I was humbled by the words because I, too, sometimes viewed my travel destinations as well-displayed “Disneyland” and failed to fully respect or acknowledge the effort that went into maintaining such beautiful cities. However, reflecting upon the conversation and by deliberately recycling my trash and taking them out in the morning, making efforts to learn and speak Italian phrases, and being mindful of the flexible Venetian rhythm, I felt that I was finally getting a grasp of what it means to live in Venezia and to be a part of managing such delicate, fascinating community.

3) Becoming increasingly multicultural 

Coming to the program, I hoped to study in Venice with perseverance to extend my learning beyond class materials, fully immersing myself not as a tourist but as a local student. So far, both the campus and city have been my classroom, and I believe I’ve grown a little more towards being a global citizen. I have been and will aspire to become a part of the community by actively engaging with Venetian locals and the fellow Ca’ Foscari students who have been the best teachers outside of my classrooms.  

While New York teaches me modern art and the western culture but does not entirely fulfill the stories of its origin, this summer in Venice offered me a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear stories of the origins while living and breathing the new direction of contemporary art through the Biennale. Beyond art, being immersed in a culture that was vastly different from my past experience and education in the United States and Asia, I realized the utter importance of being multicultural in today’s society.

4) Finding inspiration for new projects

After recognizing the significance of understanding and learning the diverse views through participating in the program, I began to dream of a further enrichment of my studies. I decided to challenge myself by preparing for a future opportunity to return to Europe to enroll in a master’s degree in Arts Administration and Management program in order to become an individual who can weave diverse conversations by integrating my knowledge in international dialogues. The program not only allowed me to broaden my horizons but also encouraged me to go beyond who I imagined myself to be 6 weeks ago.

This experience is for any student who is willing to delve into something that is completely different from the American college experience. By fully engaging with the unique setting and culture of Venice, one will exit the program with a wider perspective, openness to communicate, and a better taste in vino e gelato. 




FEDERICO MAGNI, Master's Degree in History of Arts and Conservation of Artistic Heritage. 

1) A different perspective on Venice

When I was studying for my BA I was able to take some courses with the Columbia Summer Programme and I was impressed with the quality of the teaching and the many opportunities to exchange ideas with other students. This is why I decided to apply again.

Every course this programme offers is closely linked to the city of Venice — be it about art and architecture, or about cinema and filmmaking in Venice. I’m taking the course Venice & Modernity, which examines films and literature from the 20th century. This has been an opportunity for me to learn something new about the city I’ve been living in for the last 5 years, with a fresh perspective on events that are recent enough to still be part of our everyday lives.

2) On-site learning 

The programme offers plenty of opportunities to discover Venice in many different ways. In addition to going to class, we learn “on site”, looking at works of art or walking around the very buildings we are learning about. We’ve been on various trips to cities in the Veneto region, we’ve visited Venice’s main museums, and we’ve been able to socialise with our fellow students. 

I really enjoyed visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Even though I had already been to the museum, going back with other people and listening to their perspective helped me develop a different awareness. New York students seem to be more familiar with abstract expressionist art, while Italian students seem to respond more readily to modern works of art.

3) Intercultural exchanges

Taking a course with international students is very interesting, because it allows you to learn beyond the academic level. The opportunity to listen to different perspectives during our lessons has allowed me to compare and contrast my way of thinking and my academic background with those of my classmates.

As someone who has lived in Venice for 5 years, it’s interesting to see the reactions of New Yorker-based students to this city. Because they have come here not as tourists, but as students willing to engage with its history and art, they participate in discussions on the vulnerability of this city, and they witness the daily struggles of the locals — so their appreciation surpasses the merely aesthetic appreciation of the best-known sites.

4) A different university approach: interactive lessons 

Even though I appreciate the positive aspects of the Italian university system, I felt that the open, participatory lessons that characteriSe this course were very useful. Each lesson is structured to merge the professor’s lecture with student participation. At the start of the course we were given a syllabus with a bibliography to prepare for each lesson. This means that you go to class after having studied the content of the lesson, so you can contribute your ideas and the opinions you developed while studying. This approach also helps you keep up with the programme, since you need to prepare for each lesson in advance.

The course I am taking now — Venice and Modernity, taught by Professor Leake — focuses on films about Venice and inspired by literature, such as Senso and Morte a Venezia by Lucino Visconti, which are indebted to Camillo Boito and Thomas Mann respectively. Our lessons are structured on two different levels: first, they focus on the film itself, which we view in its entirety in class; then, they examine the literary texts that inspired it. The great quality of teaching is also related to the limited number of students that take part in each course. This allows everyone to participate actively and establish direct contact with professors who come from a world-class university.

Joangela Ceccon