In comparison to other Universities of similar caliber, Emory students have quite a prolific set of summer abroad programs to choose from. You can practically go to any part of the world besides Antarctica and still get an immersive experience that will define your ideologies and academic inclinations for years to come. Some programs, however, draw the thirstiest, most diligent and most inquisitive minds.

There might be a certain stigma associated with programs abroad in general; students these days are more enticed by the lures of drinking than they are by the opportunity to truly experience a culture, by traveling, that is different than their own. One such amazing, immersive program (with the aforementioned perk!) is the Italian studies summer program headed by the Director of Italian Studies and Professor of Pedagogy, Judy Raggi Moore.

Judy has directed the summer program for almost 30 years; it is such a memorable experience that her earliest students have sent their own children to be a part of this program. I cannot emphasize how truly transformative this program has been to both my academic, spiritual and cultural aspirations.

I will attempt to give a quick overview of how the Italian summer program progresses in the span of just five weeks — the key word being “attempt.”

Judy was born and raised in Italy, and inside of her resides a desire to show students the real Italy, not just those places popularized by travel guides or blogs. That is not to say that she deigns these places unimportant; we get to go there too! However, that is not the point here. The point is, that from North to Central to South Italy as well as Sicily, we get to visit about 40 gorgeous towns, 100 museums and galleries and 10 cities — all of these include visits to beautiful vineyards, beaches, villas, monasteries, a distillery, an Italian home and farm, a genuine Italian chef and even a volcano.

Believe me when I say, I will absolutely send my children on this program because I’m sure Judy will be conducting it for many more years to come.

Every summer has a different set of courses. When I went in the summer of 2015, we had guest lecturers who are venerated physicians in their own fields and even members of other global health organizations. We had a weeklong symposium in the beautiful city of Matera, where the theme was to discuss the concepts of “Truth, Beauty and Knowledge.” I have never been as inspired in my life as I was when we had lectures inside caves, on top of cliffs overlooking towns, on beaches, in villas, on mountains, in opera houses, in government buildings and when Judy had special permission for us to look at closed-off sections of museums like the Vatican.

And still, I feel like I’m missing some amazing moments here.

There is an academic centrality of human connection and emotion that ties all the different aspects of the program together — you will get to form meaningful ties and memories with people from your expected professional fields either over drinking a glass of local Tuscan wine or engaging in heavy debate about morality and professionalism while tasting local cheeses and olives. The “Medicine and Compassion” course that I took had components that will forever resonate within me.

This program is an incredible space. It is a space to think, formulate, conceive; it is a space to believe, act and write. It is also a space to make lifelong friends with students, professionals and scholars. It is a space that will exhaust, inspire, alleviate and make you dizzy with possibilities. But most of all, it is a space that only Emory can offer you — one that you must take advantage of before you graduate.

For more information about this program, please visit Emory’s CIPA website or the website for the French & Italian Department.