International Community Trips Help NWACC Students Study Abroad | NorthWest Arkansas Community College

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International Community Trips Help NWACC Students Study Abroad

“Bruce and I expanded our own life stories. We gained an admiration for another culture and a better understanding of the Renaissance period. We developed priceless friendships formed through shared experiences,” said retired teacher and northwest Arkansas local, Ann Applegate, of her recent trip to Tuscany, Italy.

In June, Ann and her husband, Bruce, attended the international community trip - Ten Days in Tuscany- for a second year. The trip is one of those offered through the NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) Foundation, a separate non-profit organization that serves as the philanthropic arm of the college.


Siena, Italy

Ann and Bruce on the Ten Days in Tuscany community trip.

This year’s Ten Days in Tuscany consisted of Tuscany’s historic sites, wineries, restaurants and music. Trip excursions included touring the streets of Florence, home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, exploring the hill towns of Pienza, Montalcino, and Bagno Vignoni, and enjoying dinner in the gardens of Certosa di Pontignano.

“We took walking tours of Siena and Florence and visited wineries and castles. We marveled at Pienza with its Renaissance architecture and crafted Pecorino cheese, and explored Bagno Vigno and its medicinal hot springs. Best of all, we started and ended our Tuscan adventure dining on Piazza del Campo, the town square that is the heart of Siena. Seeing the cobalt blue sky of Siena at night is a sight I will treasure forever,” Ann added.


Florence, Italy

PonteVecchio in Florence, Italy.
Photo credit: Victor Chalfant


Riomaggiore, Italy

Riomaggiore, Italy
Photo credit: Victor Chalfant

Ten Days in Tuscany was created by NWACC Music Professor and tour guide Miles Fish with the intention to partner with the NWACC Foundation to raise scholarship funds, making studying abroad an affordable option for all NWACC students. So far, the foundation has raised $10,000 with plans to reach $20,000 next year.

“The potential community partnerships that NWACC is building with trips such as Ten Days in Tuscany represent an investment in our young people and in northwest Arkansas,” said Ann. “For these young people to experience studying abroad, to enlarge their world view, and to learn about other cultures is win-win for students, for NWACC, and for us personally.”

Italy is only one of the international community trips offered to those interested in traveling abroad with a guide and experiencing a new culture. Community trips to Athens, Greece,  Buenos Aires and Patagonia, Argentina, and Bonn and Cologne, Germany are planned for the future.


St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy.
Photo credit: Victor Chalfant

In the summer of 2020, Miles will be hosting the annual community trip to Italy again, but with a new theme - NWACC Artists in Italy. Participants will enjoy 10 days of painting and drawing in stunning locations, such as the beautiful hill town of Pienza, the medieval castle of Quattro Torra and the historic Piazzale Michelangelo square. All community trips planned for 2020 are open for registration. 

The NWACC Foundation has plans to continue to coordinate with NWACC professors to grow the international community trips, and in return, continue to raise scholarship funds so more students can study abroad.

The college’s study abroad programs include Italy (NWACC in Italy), Japan and South Korea and Greece. The NWACC in Italy program began in 2016, and paved the way for the other student programs.


NWACC Students in Siena, Italy

NWACC students and faculty in Siena, Italy.
Photo credit: Victor Chalfant

Miles began crafting the idea of NWACC in Italy a decade ago when he worked at the American Music School in Siena, a month-long American summer school for college musicians. Its main campus was located in Connecticut.

“I thought if Connecticut could have a month-long summer program in Italy, so could Arkansas,” he said. “I wanted the college’s program to be a bona fide study abroad experience, and I wanted it to have an NWACC location abroad and an affiliation with an Italian university.”


NWACC Students in Rome, Italy

NWACC students in Rome, Italy
Photo credit: Miles Fish

Miles’ hard work - planning curriculum, coordinating lodging, meals and excursions, and presenting sales pitches - all paid off when Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson became NWACC president. “I personally pitched the study abroad idea to her, and the rest is Italian history. She not only supported it, but she signed up and joined us in our first summer in Italy in 2016,” he said.

Miles devised a partnership with Università per Stranieri di Siena (University for Foreigners of Siena) to offer students an Italian language course and a course taught by an NWACC professor on the university’s campus. For the past three years, courses have included music, western civilization, photography and journalism.


Università per Stranieri di Siena, Italy

Università per Stranieri di Siena, Italy
Photo credit: Miles Fish

NWACC student and Springdale native, Bradi Matlock, was able to study Italian and photography in Italy this June due to receiving a scholarship. 

“I got to live like an Italian for a month! Being immersed in the culture was incredible… I spent time in one of the most historical places on earth,” Bradi said. “The scholarship helped tremendously! It astounds me that people are so gracious. I am so grateful for those who have donated. I can’t stress enough how relieved I was to have that money in my pocket to support me in Italy.”


NWACC Student in Athens, Greece

NWACC student Gabrielle Lampson studying abroad in Athens, Greece

Miles believes studying or traveling abroad not only impacts one’s life, but offers an opportunity to learn more about humanity, and is determined to make it accessible to everyone.

“I think international travel can be a life changing opportunity. When we travel, we are to some degree changed, enlightened and grateful. Grateful to have been a part of another culture, and grateful to return to our own,” he said. “So, if I can play a part in offering this type of experience to members of the community and in the process, raise money for our student scholarships, then I want to do that.”


See our article on NWACC Foundation's community trips in the Celebrate Arkansas publication.