Ca’ Foscari & Columbia: Olivia and Riccardo talk about their summer school

Olivia e Riccardo raccontano Ca' Foscari Columbia Summer Programme 2022

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 Olivia and Riccardo had to say. 

OLIVIA FLAHERTY-LOVY, rising senior majoring in English at Columbia University 

1)  Exploring new fields of study “on site”

This summer I’m taking Intermediate Italian and Contemporary Art at the Biennale, and both classes have been really incredible. There’s something very exciting about studying art and language as it’s happening around you, and my professors have allowed us to really experience what we’re studying by teaching both in and outside of the classroom. I feel very lucky because these classes have exposed me to fields I might have never engaged with otherwise, and I think will continue to open doors to different areas of interest in the future. I’m an English literature major at Columbia and would love to study Italian literature in the future. One of the reasons I have been so excited to learn Italian at Ca’ Foscari this summer is because I know that reading works in the language they were originally written in often unlocks a whole new world of details that are sometimes lost in translation. There are so many Italian authors whose work I want to explore more, and I am hoping to become good enough at Italian to one day be able to read their work in Italian and see how the meanings change.

2) Discovering ecology in Venice

One of the most interesting parts of the programme has been learning about the environmental issues concerning Venice through the TBA-21 Academy and Ocean Space, which have been hosting workshops and events for our program to participate in. This organization uses contemporary art as a lens for exploring the ecologies of the lagoon, combining art and science in a way that has made everything both very accessible and engaging. Through these workshops I’ve had the chance to travel to areas of Venice I might never have otherwise, and to learn from members of the local community about the environmental issues they’re concerned about and the work being done to combat them

3) Making international friendships

I’ve met some really amazing people this summer and have been having a lot of fun exploring Venice and other cities in Italy with them. Everyone has been really open to trying new things together, which I think has helped create a real sense of community within the program. It’s also been really amazing to get to know some of the students from Ca’ Foscari. Last week some Italian students volunteered to come into my Italian class so we could interview them for an activity, and several others have been coming to our weekly programme aperitivos to give us the chance to practise our Italian with native speakers. It’s been really cool not only to speak Italian with these students, but also to get to know them better and spend time with them outside of the classroom.

4) Getting out of your comfort zone

Living in Venice has forced me to step out of my comfort zone at times, especially when speaking Italian to locals, but it’s also shown me how rewarding it can be to immerse yourself in a new culture and new community. I think participating in this programme has helped me to become more open about the things I’m passionate about. I’ve been able to meet other people who are interested in similar fields as I am, and getting to know them and talking to them about language and art has been one of my favorite parts of the summer. I’m super grateful to have had the chance to study here in Venice this summer and am really excited to bring what I’ve learned back to New York City this fall.

RICCARDO BRIGHENTI, Master's Degree in Philosophical Sciences at Ca’ Foscari

1) Studying “abroad” in Venice

I really wanted to participate in the Ca’ Foscari Columbia Summer Programme before I completed my degree, and fortunately the programme was reactivated after a two-year break due to the pandemic. This opportunity that Ca’ Foscari and Columbia University offer is absolutely fantastic — actually, unique. In fact, it allows us to “study abroad” while staying in Venice and it merges the experience of studying at an Ivy League university with that of living here. The courses have the same academic value as the ones held in New York (students earn points or credits) but they are delivered exclusively in Venice, where we are surrounded by the history and art that is reflected in the courses. So I think this is much more than a summer school

2) Multilingual conversations 

In addition to the courses there are many fantastic activities such as field trips and opportunities to socialise in Venice and in the surrounding territory. I’ve really enjoyed our language exchange “aperitivi” which are organised by Columbia University PhD students. Almost all of the US students are taking Italian language courses here, so during our aperitivi they practice speaking Italian with Ca’ Foscari students. Vice versa, all of the summer programme activities are opportunities for Italian students like me not only to learn and interact with our peers and professors, but also to practise our English skills.

3) An interdisciplinary and intercultural experience 

Even though the majority of the participants are made up of Columbia University students, there are also some students from Yale University and Barnard College. Only some of the students in my course, Art in Venice, are in the humanities. Many others come from STEM courses, from the School of General Studies, and from various academic and personal backgrounds. This variety makes the learning experience engaging and educational even for students who, like me, are not majoring in art history. Our US peers seem not only to enjoy going to class, but also the “Italian way of life” — they are willing to get to know us and the local population. This programme is a fantastic opportunity to exchange ideas and appreciate just how unique living and studying in Venice is.

4) An immersive approach 

It is difficult to get used to Venice’s charm, even when you’ve lived and studied here for five years — it’s just never enough. I chose the course Art in Venice to renew my interest in this city and to deepen my admiration for its beauty and history. The course is immersive and on-site in treating art history, so every day we have lessons in churches, palaces, and Venetian buildings. It also involves trips around the Venetian lagoon and the mainland. The programme is intense and stimulating, with a rich bibliography. Part of the final evaluation will be based on the drawings, surveys and notes we take during the course, as well as on a written test and an essay. This approach seems to strike a balance between the spirit of a Grand Tour and contemporary expectations regarding the study of Venice, of its art, and of its history.


This was part one of our interviews with some of this year’s participants in the Ca’ Foscari Columbia Summer Programme. Stay tuned for part two

Joangela Ceccon