#11 Our Final Blog

Ciao Tutti Voi!

Stunning architecture, mysterious passageways, and of course, the canals; Venice is one of the most alluring cities in the world—It is one of my favorite because it is the type of place where, as a visitor, you’ll welcome getting lost (as you inevitably will). As a painter, for me light of the city is dreamy with the humid air that hangs early in the morning and evening. I love to take a break in a water front café and stop to say hello to folks I know on my street. I take moonlit walks (it is completely safe), or stroll along the Zattere at sunset. It’s a place that rewards the simple wander.  No matter where I go, I find history and beauty in a romantic city that has stood bravely against time, tide, and the capricious floods that perpetually threaten and taunt its shores. Venice, since her early commercial success and her subsequent fame has always been connected to her relationship with water.  On the other side of all of the soul filling charms the city brings to my heart there are some harsh realities.  In one round-table discussion we had with Matteo Savini, Director of the Istituto, he painted a grim picture of the realities and struggles of Venice today. Various factories on the mainland near Venice, Magera and Maestre, fill the air with pollution; a section of the Lido was opened for barges to go to these factories- which has made the water current move faster in the lagoon and especially in the canals.  This current coupled with the agitation of motor propellers of water buses and Taxis that churn floor of the lagoon is gravely affecting the delicate balance of sea life and increasing erosion of the marble foundations on the palaces and other architectural structures. Buying homes is prohibitive for local families young and old so they move out of Venice and commute or just move away.  Tourism is at an all-time high of 28 million per year. You can imagine how this puts wear and tear on the city itself.  It is incredibly expensive to have a shop on main streets. Some shop keepers pay up to 6-8 thousand euro per month.  Up to six Navi Grande, cruise ships, can come into Venice in a day.  This is a constant rabble of folks who mostly only stay six hours and neither eat or sleep in the city.  This doesn’t help the economy.

As our students moved in the city of Venice as temporary citizens, they have come, in a very short time, to REALLY care about her.  I have been coming to Venice since 1997.  This very sobering and heart-rending discussion touched all of us deeply. It was an epiphany of a better understanding of the modern truth about Venice and the threat to sustaining and protecting the future of a new beloved adopted home.  Now you know as well…

As we finished our final preparations, we shared a beautiful evening gondola ride and a farewell dinner at one of my favorite family owned pizzerias.  These beautiful young people that I have had the honor of leading since last September, have proved themselves to be travelers rather than tourists.  They have been curious adventure learners who rolled up their sleeves and got to work, embraced every moment; and even when exhaustion was present, rarely missed an opportunity to engage in the spirit of local activities and more traveling. They were responsible, worked hard and played hard. Their semester together afforded them the opportunity to take care of one another and to share in the experiences of personal discovery that travel together can uniquely deliver. I could not be more proud of each one!

Learning how to be in a new and strange place is transformative-physically, emotionally, spiritually, and behaviorally- and most importantly, in my opinion, is the surest way to become the best version of oneself. Though growing pains can bring fear and uncertainty; this program is a source of graceful enrichment to the process that moves our students along on life’s journey. The global classroom challenges everything we think we know and makes us honestly face all of our unfounded and arbitrary assumptions.  “Challenge assumption,” has become my motto!  In an era when we grow tone deaf to the importance of globalism at our own peril, it’s more important than ever that we consider how people on the other side of the world see things from their perspective; how they think, feel, and how they live.  Our students, at their young age, have become champions in our Venice program, and have embraced a spirit that realizes their importance as citizens of the world.  They have lived it! I have great love and respect for all of them and for me this has been a distinct privilege and great joy for me to help show them the way.  My heart is grateful for each one of them and what they contributed of themselves! We learned a lot from each other.  This is certainly not the end…it is only the beginning…and my advice to them? DON’T STOP NOW!

My deepest gratitude to President Jane Karas for her vision in abetting this unique program at a Community College; to Gerda Reeb, my friend and colleague who is Director of FVCC Foreign Programs; to the staff in the Foundation Office; my Art Department colleagues; Chris Clouse in Educational Services; MIS Office; Business Office; Media Center; and the campus bookstore;  Matteo and Anna at the Istituto Venezia; Stephania; to my husband, Bruce, for his support and who helps me in so many ways;  to the parents, families, and guardians who entrusted their loved ones to our care;  and lastly but certainly not least, to all of you donors who have helped propel this dream for our young people who are our greatest asset.  Our students are changed forever because of your generosity and care of giving them a way to make it all happen. Thank you for all of you who followed us on this blog whenever you were able.  We felt your presence with us!

Tanti Abbracci e Baci!

Yours Most Sincerely,


FVCC Venice Semester Abroad Program, Director


  • Amber

Our last week in Venice was spent “wrapping up loose ends”. We returned from tour Monday and I went straight home to collapse on my bed in my very familiar room that I realized I wouldn’t be in much longer. It’s funny how quickly a place can become home. We spent the first few days back preparing to pack up the house (because we all know we waited till last minute to ACTUALLY pack), we returned our art easels and other schooling equipment, said our goodbyes to our favorite baristas and pizza guys, and did some last-minute shopping for souvenirs. We had a last class with the Director of the Istituto, Matteo, who talked to us about Venice as a city in these times.   He answered any questions we had about the citizens there, the waterways, environment, etc. I think the discussion meant a lot to most of us, as Venice has kind of become a part of us these last few months and its “health” (so to say) as a city, means something so much more to us after being citizens there for even just 3 months.

No one seems to like goodbyes, but I don’t really see them as goodbyes, more like “see you later’s. ‘Goodbye’ is so final, it implies something is over which then implies it is no more. I don’t like it, because all the friendships we’ve made, the people we’ve met, the stories we’ve heard, and the places we’ve seen…those aren’t over. The friendships will last and the stories will continue and the places will be revisited. On top of that, all I can think of is how blessed I am to have met so many people worth saying “I’ll see you later” to. People come in and out of our lives to teach us things about life and ourselves and touch our hearts in ways we didn’t think they could be touched. People, just as much as places, change us. So, it isn’t goodbye, but to all my new Italian friends, my favorite barista, my wonderful teachers, the beaches and islands and mountains and of course the wonderful people I got to know on this trip from FVCC, I’ll see you all later!

  • Adara

 Ciao! and Arrivederci!

This was our final week all together, can you believe that! Now we have parted our separate ways, with knowledge learned about ourselves and new friendships that will last a life time. As everyone traverses their new obstacles and explores new places we will still always have this time to remember that no one will ever be able to truly relate to what we have experienced together. I am amazed at how fast the time flies, in some ways it doesn’t seem like a whole 2 and a half months have gone by, but in others, like not having seen family or my dog, it seems like so much longer. However, I can honestly say that I love Italy, with all of her quirks and interesting kinks.

The fact that this program exists is so cool, I mean, who would think that a community college in Kalispell Montana would have a program that allowed me to live in a foreign country, be immersed in the culture, learn the language (to the best of my abilities) and see so much history, would exist. It is an amazing experience I would wish for anyone to have.

This last week together was spent with a lot of hanging out, visiting, and general camaraderie. Saying farewell was kind of skipped because as it turns out, the majority of our group would rather say “see you soon” than something so final as goodbye. I see it as a good outlook that we will all still exist in each other’s lives, and run around making silly inside jokes to the befuddlement of others, but who knows? Where will we be going to be in 10 years, 5 months, a few weeks, heck I’m not even sure what country I will be in within the next 5 days! But this place and these experiences will always hold a special place inside my soul, and all the people I had the opportunity to meet and get to know exist in a special place in my heart. Marta and Deborah with unending patience from our repetitive questions, and e a special way of being that allowed us to learn from them, and become friends. Anna and Stephania who have such passion for what they taught us that it made all the classes so much more intuitive and interesting. Susan, well, Susan is just herself! An amazing teacher with so much love for the places we visited that I couldn’t help but fall a little in love with those places too. Maurizio, our bus driver on tour, was one of the best people I have ever met, hard-working and joyful in all that he did with us :).

Then there is the group of us…. Abby, a joyful human being, who will always try to have a conversation with strangers, and learn their life stories in the process, all in Italian. Leroy, who treats all of us so well, with those little gallant things that men often don’t do today, and the Rooster in a house full of hens. Anica, who will always tell you what she thinks, and do it with true style and an amazing confidence! Sarah, an explorer who never stops running around seeing new things. Fernanda, who has the kindest heart, always looking out for others but still taking care of herself. And Amber, an adventurer, photographer, and pretty great cook, who has really long legs, that take her places.

A fantastic group of people are these, as well as all the other staff at the Instituto, who helped us conquer the beginning stages of a new language and the beginnings of living in a foreign country. All around this was an experience that I will never forget, that opened new doors and filled a piece of my life that I didn’t know was missing.

Thank you for hanging in till the end! Arrivederci!

Adara V. Dugan

  • Sarah

 Welcome back,

I’m sad to say that this is my very last blog post.  I have been trying to soak up the last bits of Venice this week after we returned from tour.  Trying to sum up my favorite parts would be impossible because it’s all so special.  There are Italian verses that will come and go, and paintings I won’t remember the name of; but so much of this trip is already forever in my heart.   I will never forget the way the alleys smell as the cafes put out the first batch of chocolate croissants.  I will never forget the way the water sparkles on a sunny day through the canal.  I will never forget the taste of the salty, cloud-like pizza dough from my favorite restaurant, Rosso Pomodoro.  I will never forget the feeling of butterflies that enter my stomach every time I step into San Marco’s square.  I will never forget the peaceful mornings I got to enjoy a long yoga flow with a steaming hot cup of tea next to me.  I will never forget the best pear, cheese, and chocolate pastry you could ever imagine from the best bakery in the city.  But most of all, I won’t forget how much Venice has allowed me to change as a person.  For all good reasons.  I have learned so much not only academically but socially and culturally.  The way my perspective has widened in so many different directions just through living in this foreign place.  It’s been a magical experience and this beautiful city gave me so much to remember.  Coming here directly out of high school, having never lived on my own; I was able to learn how to trust myself and grow through the challenges.  I have gained confidence and maturity that is bound to serve me in years to come.  I want to thank everybody who made this opportunity a reality and supported me in through it.  I couldn’t have done it without my family, friends, teachers, and community.  It is such a blessing to come away with this lifetime book of knowledge and memories from my trip.  I am headed to Paris tomorrow, then followed by Amsterdam and London.  It is a bittersweet feeling to leave my adorable little apartment tomorrow morning.  I know I will come back to Venice someday, and it will feel like I had never left.  It will feel like home.

Thank you for listening and making this dream come to life!



  • Anica

My trip here in Venice has officially come to an end.  I can’t believe our classes are already over, it’s all gone so fast.  This has been an amazing experience and I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to come.  I think everyone should travel and do a semester abroad.  The world opens up and there are so many new things to try.  And, while I’ve been in Italy I heard the sad news that the Great Barrier Reef is largely dead, time to hurry up and travel before something else is destroyed.

The last week there was a lot of cleaning and tying up loose ends before the group dispersed.  Friday Susan had planned our last surprise and a dinner for us.  The big surprise was, a gondola ride!  Another check off my bucket list.  For dinner, we went to a very local place way out on the tail end of Venice, the food was very good and the staff treated us like family.  Later Amber, LeRoy, Chehala (Amber’s Friend), and I went to a silent dance party.  Last one for a while, sad face, they need to make their way stateside.

I’m sad to leave yet happy to go home.  Really, I’m tired of wearing the same clothes for the last three months and I’m ready to “expand” my closet.  Oh and I miss BURGERs!  There’s a lot of pork and cheese products here and I really miss steak.  I do NOT however miss traffic, ah how blissfully nice it’s been to walk around.  Really as much as I love it here, Montana is home and it’s time to change pace again.  Also, I’m really excited to fly again.  If the trip home goes as smooth as the trip here, it’s going to be very relaxing.  I love flying!

This trip has opened up the world for me and has given me the confidence I need.  I definitely plan on traveling more in the future! Thank you all who helped make it possible for me to make this journey.  I am grateful.

  • Abby

Dear donors, parents, families, and all supporters of travel and study abroad! Thank you! Every moment and memory I’ve made in Europe could not have been possible without your support, vision, and your trust in us young people! Thank you for this opportunity to grow as people, to make lifelong friends, to gain a whole new perspective, and to create treasured moments that I will never forget! I cannot repay what this trip has meant to me.

  • LeRoy

Buongiorno Tutti!

This is my final blog entry for the 2017 Semester in Venice Program. This has been an amazing experience thank you so, so much to FVCC and everyone that helped with making it happen. I would also like to thank the Istituto and our Venetian teachers: Marta, Deborah, Anna and Stefania for making the whole learning experience so enjoyable. Thank you, Susan, for leading us through this whole thing. Thank you, Abby, Adara, Amber, Fernanda, Anica and Sarah for being such great friends. I hope to see you all more in the future.

I believe this program to be a success. It has changed my life and the way I see myself, other people and the world. I have even developed a greater appreciation for art and history which I plan to continue learning. I can also say that the language classes have paid off. Italian words are starting to come up in everyday speech, especially in my Spanish. I want to continue this study in the future as well.

The trip home was an interesting one, at least in Paris it was. My family and I had an overnight layover and so we stayed in a hotel which, sadly, was on the outside of the city so we didn’t really get to see anything. We had met up with my cousin from Colombia who has been studying there for about a year for dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. She speaks French and Spanish but not English. So, for the dinner experience to take place, the waitress would talk to her in French and my cousin would translate into Spanish and then my Mom would translate into English for some of the none Spanish speaking people in our group. Ordering a meal was quite the ordeal to say the least.

Now I’m back in the states and it is very true what we were told before coming on this trip in January. There is a culture shock at the beginning when we arrive in Italy; and at the end when we come back. There are going to be many things I will miss about Venice and the rest of Italy but I am glad to come back and start yet another chapter of my life with some new and amazing people.

  • Fernanda

Hello everybody,

Writing this last blog post is bittersweet for me; I am happy for being reunited with my husband, but I am also sad for ending this journey and for leaving Venice. I can still remember my first days in Venice, and the wonder that I had at every new corner I discovered, the frustration I felt every time I would get lost, the trips to the market and all the different products it carried, and I also have my most recent memories which includes almost walking completely on auto-pilot because my body “knew” where to go, the scenery becoming my everyday background and going to the market knowing exactly what to pick and from which brand.

I am so happy for how I lived in this program abroad and I am so thankful for everybody who helped me to get there or help me through the journey.

As I said last week, I appreciate my Italian teachers and people I met in my Italian classes, Anna (theater teacher), Stefania (music teacher), Maurizio (tour bus driver), the other six students who were here with me (Amber, Abby, LeRoy, Adara, Anica, and Sarah), and Susan.

I also highly appreciate Gerda, my Italian teacher at FVCC, who told me about this Program abroad in the first place and prepared me so well for the Italian classes I attended in Venice; Fred Longhart and the support he showed for me to come and the scholarships that were granted to financially assist me; grandma Joan who always helps and supports me either emotionally or otherwise; for my parents, brother and sister, who are always on my side even from far away; and for my husband who is with me at every decision I make and supports me every day and helped me in every way he could to make this semester abroad to become a reality. Thank you all! All of you helped me to get here and experience this dream!


  • I would like to thank Amber Martin who generously shared many of her great photos for the blog each week!!!!
  • Because we had technical difficulty over our tour, I am adding some of those photos to share with you now.  Thanks for looking!
Arriving to Assisi
Etruscan tombs
The large yellow building was Napoleon’s Palace, Island of Elba
Gauking at the unfinished Medici Chapel
Glowing after our gondola ride with Mariano (one of our gondaliers…)
On top of the Duomo, Florence
Yes, this wisteria is in full bloom, Florence
A selfie with our gondolier, Giovanni
Hanging around at Furlo
Sunset at Cannareggio
Bella Anica
Taking in Botticelli’s La Primavera!
All for one and one for all atop the Duomo, Florence
Enjoying ourselves on top of the Duomo!
Irresistable  “Semi Freddo” goodies, Florence
Cafe break on the Ferrie to Island of Elba
Bella Fernanda! Florence
Bella Amber! Ancient Etruscan Tomb, Popolonia
Abby and Amber!! Florence
Via Garibaldi at sunset! Venice
Vista on Island of Elba
Silent Dance Party-What a hoot!!!
Evening gondola ride!
Maurizio, our driver and friend…Wreath made by Amber!
Is it safe to go into this ancient tomb?!…
Observing Donatello’s David, Florence
Our guides, Riccardo and Lucca, at the Fortress, Island of ELba
Bachelorette Party dinner for Fernanda, San Vicenzo
So long for now Dear Venice…
Group shot at Assisi
Sarah’s yoga pose, Island of Elba
Loading up on the Ferrie
Michelangelo’s David!
3-D Braile at Uffizi Gallery, Florence!
Sun rise on Via Garibaldi, Venice
We’re on a boat!!!
Gearing up for Easter, Assisi



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