Ciao dall’Italia! (Hello from Italy!)
Students from Holy Spirit College, Bellambi and St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Albion Park have enjoyed a trip together to Italy - touring the country, learning in an Italian school and even living with local Italian families - in a unique learning opportunity offered by the two Catholic schools.
The 18-day study tour saw 26 students from Years 8-11, accompanied by four teachers and two parents, fly over to the European country in the recent April school holidays. They travelled around northern Italy and down to Rome with a focus on developing their intercultural understanding as global citizens.
The study tour covered learnings in all academic Key Learning Areas, enhancing students’ knowledge in Religious Education, English, Maths, Science, Engineering, History, Geography, the Arts, Hospitality and Languages, as well as developing their non-verbal travel skills and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.
They attended Mass in Italian, performed in the Sacred Heart Basilica in Rome and visited the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and the four main Papal Basilicas in Rome, where they also climbed the Holy Staircase across from the Basilica of John the Lateran. They delighted in gondola rides in Venice, savoured in visits to the Ferrari museum, medieval castles, romanesque churches, art galleries and museums, and completed a 'Tu Chef' lesson in authentic pizza-making.
“Students were provided with opportunities to understand the reciprocal relationship between language, culture and identity, and how this relationship reflects the values and beliefs of our shared community,” organising Holy Spirit teacher, Vera Cleary said.
“They were encouraged to regularly reflect on their own culture and recognise similarities and differences, and create connections with those they met and those they shared time with, thereby cultivating mutual respect.”
Particularly appropriate in this 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage, the group visited many sites in Italy with the aim of widening their horizons through direct contact with the many different environmental, social and cultural dimensions Italy has to offer.
They spent time in historical cities including Florence, the centre of Renaissance art, and visited the Church of the Holy Family in Schio where the remains of Saint Josephine Bakhita - canonised in just 2000, the patron saint of Sudan and human trafficking victims - are kept. Also on the itinerary was seeing the relics of St Lucy, the catacombs and Basilica of Saint Christina at Bolsena, and more of the attractions in Rome including the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and St Peter’s Basilica.
Click the image below to explore students' 360° photo of the Cathedral of St Peter in Bologna:
Holy Spirit student, Emily Natoli, said making new friends and soaking up the unfamiliar aspects of the country were highlights of her Italian adventure: “This trip was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I really enjoyed seeing all the different sights and cities, meeting relatives for the first time and experiencing their culture.”
Fellow Holy Spirit traveller, Jade Bissett agreed: “What I enjoyed the most was seeing how different Italy and Australia are. Looking at things like the churches, food, culture, and even how they drive! That was the real eye opener for me and what made my trip really interesting.”
The tour participants thoroughly appreciated the ‘exchange’ element of the trip, being billeted by Italian families with teenage peers and attending the TRON Senior Science and Sport High School in Schio, in the province of Vicenza - a small taste of ‘real life’ in another country.
“It was definitely an experience of a lifetime. My favourite part of the trip was having the opportunity to live with a family in the small town of Schio. I was met with challenges, particularly the language barrier [but] I felt instantly comfortable living within [their] family and their home,” Ashlee Smith (Holy Spirit) said.
"Overall, the study tour of Italy opened my mind up to many opportunities waiting to be explored and experienced, and the different ways in which cultures around the world live.”
St Joseph’s student, Niamh McNamara, felt the same: “My favourite experience was the kindness of my homestay family and how welcome they made me feel. Anywhere that was a smaller town like Schio and Bolsena, I felt very safe and welcomed by new people...the overall acceptance of the Italian people was amazing to me.
“All the memories I have made will stay with me forever and that is something that I am grateful for and thank Italy and the Italian people for,” she said.
Daniel Turek (Holy Spirit) mused that out of all the places they went to, he thought Venice was his favourite: “I see myself going back there in the future. There was a certain charm about Venice that I can’t describe.”
He, along with many of the students, expressed immense gratitude to the four teachers present for arranging this study tour and making it such a memorable experience: “The trip was amazing and organised to a tee. I can’t thank the teachers enough for such an amazing opportunity,” he said.
Both schools hope to offer this experience again next year. Interested students and parents should contact Vera Cleary (Holy Spirit) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cameron Dribbus (St Joseph’s) at email@example.com.