Tara Fenner talks about her experience with the John Carroll University Vatican City Program and how it brought her a future in Italy.


“Mi sono trovata,” I read while enjoying a novel and granita (an icy Italian treat) down in Southern Sicily. I broke down the grammar. The writer was talking about the person’s state of being in the past tense; about herself specifically.  In this instant I knew that I had finally allowed the Italian language into my life. And for the first time, since my decision to leave everything stable and everyone I love for an uncertain future in Italy, I knew I was on the right path, and in that moment, just like the author, I found myself.

The bond I shared with my Italian grandfather was what originally brought me to study abroad in Italy; however, my innate curiosity was the motivation. It was during my experience in Rome with the John Carroll Vatican City Program (2007) that I realized I was following in the footsteps of many others: from travelling students and guiding professors to famous artists and accredited writers all in search of something.  As far as my future was concerned, humanistic studies were never a possibility as I anticipated following my proclivity involving a combination of business plans and budgets. Conversely, my time in Rome unknowingly lead me in a different direction as I was no longer studying but became a part of my studies in the intriguing way Italian Literature, Art, History, Religion and Language intertwines. I was inspired to learn and taught to reason in ways I hadn’t before through the richness of these courses. Continue reading


April Zaratsian talks about her experience with the Summer Institute at John Carroll University.


Throughout my young life, I had dreamed about escaping the boundaries of the United States to experience the food, landscapes, architecture, and people of another culture outside my own.  

I was finally granted this amazing opportunity through John Carroll’s Bishop Pilla Summer Institute Programi. I was forewarned that this experience would be life-changing and unforgettable, but never did I imagine how much I would learn, see, and experience in but a mere five-week program.  Coming into this experience, my thoughts on art were vague and bleak. However, after learning about some of the greatest artists from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and what they contributed not only to the Church, but to society, it has greatly improved my views on religion, art, and theological/societal ideas as well as broadened my outlook on the culture of a different country, the Catholic church, and the impact literature and art has made to the world.  I know that these characteristics do not appeal to most college students who are looking for a “Vacation” trip, but you’d be surprised at the things you once thought to be bland that you now find intriguing.  Continue reading

Jessica Brushaber shares her experience with the Bishop Pilla Summer Institute of 2013!

Jessie's PictureTravelling to Italy and Spain with the Bishop Pilla Summer Institute 2013 made for an absolutely phenomenal summer!

Within the five weeks we were there, we saw so many cities and so many remarkable sights! The time we spent in L’Aquila was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We would step outside our cottages to a postcard-ready view of beautiful snow-capped mountains. Not to mention the food! Every night in L’Aquila, we would have multiple course dinners of authentic Italian food!

We then arrived in Rome, our cozy apartments were just a five minute walk from the Vatican. Being in a place so filled with history, incredible artwork and fascinating culture was an unforgettable experience. I hope and plan to go back soon! Also, previous to this trip, I had never left the States before, so having two native Italian speakers who knew their way around was invaluable especially when we got to bigger cities like Madrid and Florence. Dr. Casciani and Dr. Ferri were ready to help us with everything from directions to bits of history to restaurant recommendations. I am extraordinarily grateful to them and to the program!

Amanda Farinelli, a Junior at JCU speaks of her experience in the Bishop Pilla Summer Institute 2013

TAmanda's Picturehe Bishop Pilla Summer Institute Program was a trip filled with incredible cultural adventures, as well as learning experiences. For over a month we were engulfed in the beauty of Italy and we were able to see numerous landmarks and historical buildings that make up the country.

Drs. Casciani and Ferri put an enormous amount of effort and planning into making our trip and it was an unforgettable experience.

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Peter Glaab, John Carroll University, Class of 2015


My name is Peter Glaab and I am currently a junior majoring in Political Science at John Carroll University.  This past summer I traveled to Italy and Spain with John Carroll University’s Bishop Pilla Program’s Summer Institute.

Studying abroad for five weeks has really enhanced my learning experience at John Carroll.  At first, I was extremely nervous about going abroad and spending five weeks with people I had never met, but I was immediately put at ease as soon as we arrived in Italy.  By our first night in L’Aquila, Italy, our group was instantly close and I am still good friends with many of them today.

Taking classes and studying in foreign countries was a truly an amazing experience where I enhanced my knowledge of Italian and Spanish literature and the Italian language.  In addition to our studies, the places we visited in both Italy and Spain were some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  At the end of the five weeks, I was sad to leave Italy and the people I had met, but I knew that this experience was just the beginning of what I now could accomplish because of all that I have learned while abroad.

The subjects we studied, the places we visited, and the people I met during the Summer Institute will continue to be with me throughout my years left at Carroll and onward into my future career.  By the end of the five weeks, I found myself a more knowledgeable and more independent person than I was before I left for the Institute.  Although extremely nervous at first, I would not trade the experiences I had and memories I made while abroad for anything in the world.  I would encourage anyone who is able to, to attend the Bishop Pilla Summer Institute in the future because it truly was one of the greatest experiences of my life and one that I will continue to cherish in my future schooling and career.                   

Anthony Wyatt, student of Belmont Abbey College, talks about his experience with the Bishop Pilla Summer Institute.


The Bishop Pilla Summer Institute was truly the chance of a lifetime. As someone who has done little travel within the US and never left the country before, I experienced more new sights, sounds, foods, and cultures than I could have ever imagined.

From what I have gathered talking to friends and family who have traveled either with a study abroad program or an academic group, our travels were second to none. Not staying in one town or city the entire time gave us the opportunity to expand our knowledge of Italy as a whole and see a completely new country, Spain, as well.

Additionally, thanks to Dr. Casciani’s knowledge as a local in the province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo, our group had the incredible opportunity to experience so much ‘off the beaten path,’ so to speak. We were not hemmed in by tourism guides, but instead were able to see and do things that as tourists we would simply never have known. These unique excursions included a hike to a Hohenstaufen dynasty castle built by Frederick II in the 12th century and perched atop a 4,000 foot plus tall mountain; a pilgrimage to a medieval hermitage, San Bartolomeo ad Legio, carved into the side of a rock face; and the chance to have mass celebrated by Monsignor Giuseppe Molinari, Archbishop Emeritus of L’Aquila.

While in Castlenuovo, Dr. Casciani’s home town, we also were treated nightly to 3 course meals prepared at a local, well-renowned restaurant called La Cabina. The food was exceptional to say the least, and with Dr. Casciani’s guidance we learned about and ate many local favorites and specialties, such as saffron and truffles. All throughout the rest of the trip, while we traveled to Rome, Florence, and Madrid, the group had the opportunity to visit so much together, as well as to do so much on our own.

When not involved in a group activity, I personally loved to set out on my own for some new landmark or food craving. Whether walking the streets of Segovia to find a delicious bar/restaurant serving unique sandwiches and fresh Sangria or plotting a course through Rome to a Jewish Quarter trattoria serving roman-style fried artichokes and ox tongue, my culinary adventures were some I’ll remember the rest of my life. And, had it not been for the helpful insight of Dr. Ferri and Dr. Casciani, I would never have known about certain restaurants and must-have dishes.

All in all, the Bishop Pilla Summer Institute was a memorable experience that gave me the opportunity to learn so much. Through a six week summer course spent studying literature, theology, and gender diversity, as well as Italian, the students got an unparalleled chance to expand our horizons on so many levels. Beyond tourism, beyond “studying abroad,” this program allowed us to truly experience another culture, from its Renaissance roots and its language, to its history, museums, landmarks, and food. I know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that these are truly memories that will last a lifetime.

Constance Marie Dibacco graduated from John Carroll University in 2012 from the Boler School of Business and currently works in Tennessee for TTi.

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She is currently preparing for the LSAT with hopes to attend Law School. Constance writes about her semester with the JCU at Vatican City in the the 2012 Fall Program…

The year 2012 was a huge milestone
in my life.  I graduated from the John Carroll University’s Boler School of Business with a BSBA in Business Management and a concentration in Human Resources, accepted a job with a company called TTi which moved me to Nashville, TN, and during the winter months began preparing for the LSAT and applying to law schools.  At this point, you’re probably confused as to why I even mentioned this or you may be thinking I am completely conceited about my accomplishments.  The fact of the matter is that  I would not be where I am today if I didn’t follow through with the decision you may be debating on making.   Studying Abroad for a semester with the JCU at Vatican City Program made me the adventurous and well rounded person I am today.  I learned so much about myself and the world around me and I encourage you to do the same.   Continue reading