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PHCC offering students, residents opportunity to live, study in Italy
Study abroad program unveiled
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Patrick Henry Community College will offer a study abroad program to Todi, Italy (shown at left). The six-week course is open to the public and will allow participants to become immersed in the culture of Todi, which a flyer describes as “a small medieval city.” (Contributed photo)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Ever since Patrick Henry Community College Professor Gerry Bannan studied in Rome, he has hoped for an opportunity to share the experience with other students and aspiring artists.

Now, with the help of another art teacher with a local connection, he is getting that chance.

PHCC will offer its first study abroad program from June 4 through July 16 in Todi, Italy, for a class of about eight students, the school has announced. Bannan, a professor of fine arts at PHCC, will lead the group on the six-week course of study worth six transferable credits in the arts and humanities toward an associate or bachelor’s degree, according to a PHCC flyer for the program.

However, the program is not just for current students. Bannan said it is available to anyone in the community interested in traveling or learning about other cultures.

“We know the participation in study abroad programs really changes people’s lives,” he said.

Todi is referred to in the program’s flyer as “a small medieval city” located about two hours north of Rome and two hours south of Florence. Bannan said studies during the course would include painting, archaeology, pottery art restoration and history.

“A whole variety of things will be studied,” he said.

Students will travel to Rome, Florence and the Vatican, as well as several art galleries. The idea of the program is to be “intensive,” according to Bannan and his colleague, Allison Hall, who helped him plot a course for the program.

“This is about students moving to this town (Todi) and integrating themselves into the community,” said Hall, a Martinsville native and graduate of Fieldale-Collinsville High School. She is a visiting assistant professor at Hollins University in Roanoke, as well as the creator and program director of Hollins’ study abroad program in Todi.

Todi “is a really important area for landscape painters,” she said.

Hall went to Todi as an undergraduate landscape painter and “fell in love with the place,” she said. “When I landed there I knew I wanted to work on making the place a part of my life.”

Hall moved to Italy after graduate school at American University in Washington and spends about half of the year there. She spends the rest of the time in Roanoke.

Both Hall and Bannan referred to the program is “immersive.” Part of that involves learning from local artists, restorers and historians.

That is because Todi is a “very welcoming small city,” Bannan said. “It’s not like you’d be in a big city where you’re sort of anonymous.”

Even the study of the Italian language is part of the curriculum with 30 hours of language instruction included, Bannan said.

Due to the length of the study and the environment, both said the program allows for a deeper level of learning.

“It’s such a nice experience because you don’t feel like you’re in a foreign country,” Hall said. “You feel like you’re a part of the community.”

Bannan, who also lives in Roanoke, started discussing with Hall the possibility of creating a study abroad program in Todi last semester.

“We started talking about it nonchalantly, and (Bannan) mentioned that they should try to get kids from Martinsville there,” Hall said “Gerry and I just started putting our heads together on how to make it happen.”

Hall, who developed the Hollins program in 2005, will teach humanities and Bannan will teach painting during the course. Both Hollins and PHCC students will be in Todi at the same time, Hall said, which made it easier for she and Bannan to set up PHCC’s program.

By already being in Todi with Hollins students, Hall said, “I could help Gerry work out the logistics for his group.”

Hall now is an abstract painter. A collection of works based on her experiences in Italy soon will be displayed at The Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, she said.

Both Hall and Bannan stressed that an interest in painting is not a prerequisite for the program, only an interest in learning about other cultures. Bannan also cautioned prospective students against assuming such a trip would be out of reach for them.

“I think sometimes my student population feels it’s too remote for them to expect to be able to do (this),” Bannan said. “We want to make sure people have the opportunity.”

According to PHCC’s flyer for the program, the total cost for the six-week study is $4,740. However, that amount does not include airfare, Bannan said. Financial assistance also may be available, he added.

Bannan said he doesn’t want to “let cost discourage people from at least finding out about it. It can be a wonderful component to a traditional student’s academic career.”

An informative meeting about the program will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, at PHCC’s West Hall, Room 127. There is no obligation to attend, Bannan said.

Call 656-0336 for more information.


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