Liberal Studies Abroad -- Discover the Renaissance 2019

Dates for the Italy portion of the program: May 15th to June 15th, 2019.

San Lorenzo CloisterThe Italy Program provides a stimulating interdisciplinary exploration of one of the most dynamic and significant periods in the history of European culture. The setting - the city of Florence - is perfect because of its immense contribution to the Renaissance, the 14th-16th century reawakening of humanistic learning and artistic endeavour.

The Program may be taken for credit or on an audit basis. It covers art, architecture, literature, science and philosophy, through the works of such figures as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Donatello, Filippo Brunelleschi, Artemisia Gentileschi, Galileo, Clare of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Dante, Boccaccio, and Machiavelli. Participants attend lectures, concerts and visits to museums, galleries and other artistic sites, in Florence and elsewhere, and meet in small seminars to discuss the writings of the period.

No previous experience is necessary for full participation. Students may bring companions who will be registered as audit students, and who may fully attend tours and classes but without the obligation to do so. For most participants, activities will begin in Nanaimo or Toronto during late April/early May. Please see this page for some videos of the experience of the Program through a student's eyes.

Through a unique partnership, Ryerson University students can enroll in VIU's Liberal Studies Abroad program and transfer the completed course credits back to their home program. Click here for a video on the Ryerson/VIU partnership from the students' perspective. (Ryerson students should consult Dr. John Caruana at to receive instructions and a form that they need to fill out, one that is in addition to the application form below).

Important Warning: A level of physical and medical fitness is required to participate in the program. Many of the sites visited are accessible only on foot (and are not wheelchair-accessible), and the visits require lengthy periods of walking and standing. Accommodation may be several floors up, with no elevator,and luggage may have to be carried considerable distances and up and down stairs. If you have any limitations or concerns in this area, please consult program personnel before applying.

Program dates for our time in Florence: May 15th to June 15th, 2019.


 Dr. Mark Blackell teaches in the Liberal Studies and Political Studies departments at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo and has taught the Abroad course to Italy numerous times. He is the Coordinator of the 2019 Program. While a political theorist by training, one with a great interest in the renaissance republican tradition, he is also very interested in the art, literature, and theological concerns of the Italian Renaissance.


 Dr. John Caruana teaches in the Philosophy Department and in the Arts and Contemporary Culture Program at Ryerson University in Toronto. He has taught in the Liberal Studies Abroad program numerous times and brings a deep knowledge of religious and philosophical topics to the program as well as a love of all aspects of the Italian Renaissance.


Dr Monica Shenouda

 Dr. Monica Shenouda is an art historian/historian of architecture who lives and works in Florence, Italy. Fluent in several languages, she brings deep art-historical knowledge and insight, as well as local understanding, to the program. She teaches for several American Universities in Florence and loves the contemporary flourishing of the arts in her adopted city of Florence. She has been teaching with the Liberal Studies Abroad Program for several years.

Overview of Courses

Michelangelo, Dawn

The content of the three-course package (which may be taken at either the second- or third-year level) ranges over the art, architecture, literature, science and philosophy of the Italian Renaissance. Instruction is primarily seminar-based, with lectures and presentations included. In Florence, classes take up about three or four hours per day, five days per week. Many of them take place on-site at a church or museum, and there are a number of additional visits to museums, galleries and other artistic and cultural sites. There are also tours to Assisi, Siena, and Padua/Venice. The Venice tour is a multi-day trip; all in-Italy Program trips, tours, and hotels are included in the Program fee (see below). Students must take all three courses, but may choose homany to take for credit and how many on an audit basis: see "How Does Liberal Studies Abroad Work?" for details of different classes of participation. Companion audit students are encouraged (but not required) to attend tours, lectures, and seminars.

Inclusive Packages

Program costs include all program travel within Italy, accommodation, tourist guides, books and other educational materials, as well as classroom space, and admissions to all cultural sites and events. Participants must arrange their own air travel to Florence. Emergency medical insurance must be purchased through a mandated carrier prior to departure. Food is not included, but accommodation is in apartments which have kitchens, so that food costs are minimal.

Program Cost [for Credit or Audit Students]:

  • Tuition costs (summer 2019): $1434.16 (Cdn -- approx)
  • Program cost: $2700 (Cdn)
  • Mandatory health insurance with Guardme: approximately $70 ($2/day minimal coverage)
  • [Ryerson students, or anyone who is not yet a VIU student, must pay a $40.10 application fee to VIU].
  • Basic Accommodation in multiple occupancy apartments (3-6 people), with living room, kitchen and bathroom(s); share a bedroom with one other person: included in program cost.
    • Single Room in Shared Apartment: add $500 supplement.
    • Private One-Bedroom Apartment (for one person or two): add $1000 supplement.

Financial Assistance: The length of the program and its number of credits mean that students may be eligible for student loans while taking it. In addition, they may apply for the International Education Stipend and a number of different scholarships, from VIU and elsewhere. See VIU Education Abroad Finances.

The 2019 program is currently full, but if you wish to be put on a wait list, please e-mail

Please complete this form and e-mail it, with an electronic copy of your up-to-date unofficial transcript, to by October 31. 

Ryerson students should also contact Dr. John Caruana at for instruction on a form specific to them.

Students on the Duomo

Further Information

To discuss your interest in the Italy 2019 program, or to request application materials, please contact Mark Blackell, the Liberal Studies Abroad Co-ordinator,, or, 250-753-3245 Ext. 2173; toll-Free: 1-888-920-2221 Ext. 2173.

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