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John Hall Venice

Raised in Hong Kong and currently at

university in the UK, CAROLINEBARKER

chose a six-week programme with John Hall

Venice (JHV) instead of a typical gap year after graduating

from school. It sounds so good we want to go too!


went to Island School for a brief period of two years, but then I

went to boarding schools in England for six years. I actually didn’t

know about the John Hall Venice course until I came back to Hong

Kong one holiday from school and my parents were raving about it

and asking me if I wanted to go.

Naturally, I said yes: I absolutely adore Italy – I have Italian ancestry

and I love art so it was a no-brainer. Little did I know that I would have

a much better experience than I’d even imagined!

I couldn’t have been luckier when my parents discovered this

course. I learnt so much, not just about art history but also about

Italian culture. Everything was amazing: the people I met, the laughs

we had, seeing the beautiful city of Venice, the unbelievable food

and drink and, of course, the exquisite art and the history behind it.

I’m a bit of an introvert, and getting out of my comfort zone and

conversing with all sorts of people made me realise that when you’re

on the JHV course, you’re no longer at high school and people are

actually friendly! This course was truly life changing for me; I now

feel so much more comfortable in myself. A lot of people travel in

Southeast Asia during their gap year in order to “find themselves”,

but I went to Italy and I found out so much more about myself.

It’s very hard for me to choose a favourite aspect of the course,

but I loved seeing the Basilica di San Marco for the first time, and

having cooking classes with the amazing Contessa Enrica Rocca,

making authentic Venetian food with local ingredients.

I’m currently in my first year at Royal Holloway, University of London,

doing a joint honours degree in French and Spanish. I learnt some

Italian on the JHV course and that has helped me gain confidence

in my linguistic abilities. Also, when doing a language degree, it’s

very important that you’re not reluctant to communicate; and, as I

said earlier, JHV helped me communicate with all sorts of people,

not just people like myself.

All in all, I’d recommend this course to absolutely everybody. You

don’t even need to have an interest in art; you just need to be willing

to learn and see the most beautiful sights you’ll probably ever see

in your life.

JHV celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The annual

programme runs from late January to late March and is aimed

at pre-university students. It’s a nine-week introduction (a week

in London and six weeks in Venice, with an optional additional

week in each of Florence and Rome) to some of the most

thought-provoking achievements in the Western world, from the

classical past to today. The course includes on-site visits and a



series of lectures led by world-class experts in their

fields, and touches on everything from sculpture

and architecture to world cinema, global issues,

cookery, photography and language. This year,

JHV is launching a summer course in New York.